Crowd-Sourced Bewilderment

I’m well aware there’s a range of opinions on things like Lent Madness. Some say it trivializes the saints, others argue that it’s a means for educating people. Entirely apart from that, I found the comments on Lent Madness posts to be an interesting channel for getting in touch with the ways that “ordinary” laypeople think about sanctity in the Episcopal Church.

Much of what I discovered was disheartening, mind you, but it was informative…

I’m having a similar experience being part of the Rubrics and BCP Revision Suggestion Facebook groups. (And huge thanks and shout-outs to Frs. Chris and Bob et al. who keep those running!)

They are both interesting channels for getting in touch with what people are thinking about a variety of things related to the prayer book.

Here are the three most interesting things I’ve discovered recently…

  1. [This actually comes from a widely distributed Scott Gunn post] There’s a lot more love expressed for Prayer D than I expected. I find this interesting because I hear Prayer D actually used so infrequently. As far as I know, Prayer D is chiefly used on Major Feasts, but not on “regular” Sundays. Am I off-base here? See—this is precisely why I think a bulletin collection project would be useful…
  2. One of the biggest fights I’ve seen recently was around the use of Latin titles for the Canticles. Such a relatively minor thing, especially given the general decline in public Morning Prayer since the ’79, but provoking so much passion! It was fascinating to me how quickly some wanted to turn this into a discussion of social class. Again—I truly believe that most liturgy/prayer book fights are proxy fights over identity.
  3. There’s a difference between being King Of The World and being beholden to a vast diverse community. Many of the suggestions on the Revision page come across as “King of the World” requests: here’s what I’d do to make the book the way I like it. And there’s definitely a place for that. We need to hear what people are thinking. But there’s a big difference between what individuals want and what communities need. I think I could come up with a pretty awesome King Of The World list of changes to the BCP—but I’m under no illusions that that book would be good, useful, or edifying for the Episcopal Church as a whole! The very concept of revision seems to bring out the innovator in all of us, and gets people excited for change that may or may not happen, change that should or should not happen…

What are your thoughts or questions or findings?


7 thoughts on “Crowd-Sourced Bewilderment

  1. The Rev. Bret Hays

    This year and last, I’ve used Prayer D for the last few weeks before Advent. During the petitions that are incorporated into that prayer, the congregation is invited to come up, light a candle, and place it in a wide, low dish of sand in front of the nave altar and offer any prayer they like, silently or aloud. I’m more of a traditionalist than most members of my congregation, but this has proven to be a very popular addition to our liturgical life.

  2. Adelaide B Kent

    Prayer D gets a bad rap because it is looked at as long. In fact it can be used at a half-hour weekday service with no difficulty. I know this from experience!
    I love prayer D; not only is it beautiful but it connects us with early Christians in a more potent way than the other prayers.

  3. The Rev. Joseph Farnes

    One thing I’ve noticed is that there is greater desire to have more variety in the prayers in the prayer book, more mix-and-match, more local options for creating entire liturgies in the local parish, and this leads me to two thoughts:

    1- How much would such desire for local control end up leaving each parish’s spirituality up to the local rector / priest-in-charge? If clergy find the joke “The ultimate authority in the Episcopal Church is the previous rector!” all-too-true, then how much more difficult might it be when the previous rector had few constraints on what they could / couldn’t / wouldn’t do. And as a cleric, I know the shortcomings of my own spirituality; the Prayer Book pulls me back into community and connection with the wider church’s depth and breadth. I notice when I start to repeat certain themes in my preaching, so if I were writing Eucharistic liturgies I might return to just a few handful of themes, words, and ideas instead of embracing the comprehensiveness of the “reformed and catholic tradition.”

    2- Simplicity has its place, as the buffet of options can be confusing to navigate and the patterns of our worship can get lost when there is a choice to be made for everything. If the liturgy is the work of the people, when we make it hard to pull our noses out of a bulletin (often scanning for our “next lines” in the worship service) then we are making it harder for the people to do their critical work of praying as individuals-in-community. There is no end to the words we might use to pray to God, but, to use the phrasing of the Gospel of John, if all of them were written down, not even the world could contain all the books (and prayer books and supplements) that would be written.

  4. George

    I am writing a MA thesis about the US Episcopal BCP from an ecumenical point of view.

    My opinion is that, throughout the Christianity, there are two types of liturgy: organic and non-organic. And I think the Episcopal Church should dare have more organic than non-organic stuff. But for this, we need a reevaluation of the relationship between Scripture and Tradition.

    I am sure that from the 80+ traditional anaphoras that we have throughout the Christian world, it is possible to incorporate some in the BCP, without alteration.

  5. Michelle Ziegler

    My parish occasionally uses Eucharistic Prayer D on Sundays. The priest usually has a reason for the change but I really haven’t paid attention to the reason. I like prayer D.

    It seems to me that people want the church they perceived when they were children (and didn’t know most of what went on) or when their own children were very young. In both cases, their attachment to the way it was done then has emotional ties that go far beyond just the liturgy itself.

  6. Deborah Campion

    re the ways that “ordinary” laypeople think about sanctity being disheartening. as one of the referenced O.L., I dont want responsibility for your heartiness or lack of. I see, say, feel what i see say and feel, not exactly what anybody else sees says or feels (I like to think) and I am disheartened when my stuff is defined as related to whether or not I’m ordained.
    I’m a second wave feminist living in a red state and retired on a fixed income, have diabetes and never go into a Walmart for anything, water my fruit trees with harvested rainwater and greywater. Any one of those facts may affect my affect my relations with saints, individually or the whole community of ’em

  7. Derek Olsen Post author

    Deborah, I’m not disparaging ordinary laypeople. Rather, I’m trying to take the pulse of what average Sunday morning church-goers experience and think. I’m a layperson too. The distinction I’m drawing here is not ordination status but amount and depth of theological training.

    I know what I think about sanctity because I’ve been studying it deeply for a couple of decades both in my published academic work and in my service to the church. If anything, I know far more about Christian theologies and concepts of saints and sanctity than the majority of priests because I’ve had the opportunity to focus time, energy, and reading on it while they have had to do sermons and pastoral visits and all.

    Clergy, if they’re lucky, may have had a two or three semesters in seminary where they were able to think and learning specifically about this topic. But they’re the ones who will be teaching the laity in their congregations about it whether formally or informally.

    My interest in what the “ordinary layperson” believes about saints isn’t about putting down their (our) lay status, but assessing what and how well they and their priests have or have not formed them about with regard to this topic.

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