Readjust Expectations

Apparently I didn’t read the list of contributors at Pray Tell close enough; the latest post is a screed against Rite I by none other than Richard Giles, liturgical designer of the Philly Cathedral.


Here’s the comment I left there that I think gets at the heart of the situation:

The case that the author is trying to make is that when the ‘79 BCP came out, there were certain people who refused to accept those reforms. Those people were then placated with an early service where, in the author’s opinion, they could pretend the reforms had not happened and did not exist. These 7:30/8 AM Eucharists thus became the “Institutionalized Dissent” where the Episcopal Church mistakenly allowed the recalcitrant to maintain their delusions.

That’s the argument I see being put forward. But there’s a serious flaw with it, and it’s this—the BCP is 30 years old. The Reforms have happened and the reforms have been deeply embedded in the culture of the Episcopal Church. The ‘79 BCP has succeeded so well that it has almost inadvertently stamped out the venerable Anglican practice of Choral Morning Prayer that could (and perhaps should) happen in concert with the Principal Eucharist.

I’m 35. I know *nothing* except the new environment. To put a finer point on it, I grew up Lutheran with the LBW (Green Book) that itself taught the same reforms as the ‘79 BCP and the Novus Ordo. When I moved to the Episcopal Church 10 years ago it was strictly into a ‘79 BCP environment. And yet I find that I and many others my age have a love for Rite I. For those of us who grew up in the most media manipulated culture ever, we’re looking for something with integrity and authenticity. If I can find that–and a healthy dose of poetry–in the language of Rite I, why is that a problem?

What I see in many of the Roman fans of the NLM and the usus antiquor is the same. The Reform is already in their bones! They’ve never known a time where the mass wasn’t in the vernacular! They are not the same opponents you faced in the post-conciliar years and if you treat them as such you will fail by dint of your own refusal to listen and understand what it is that they are hungering for.

It’s not the early eighties any more. People who take issues with certain ways that the ’79 BCP and Novus Ordo are implemented are not simply knee-jerk reactionaries who want the old ways back. This new generation of which I am a part are looking back at the older rites and materials from an entirely new perspective and that is what many of our critics fail to grasp.

22 thoughts on “Readjust Expectations

  1. BillyD

    It made me quite cross. I left a comment – let’s see if it’s temperate enough to pass moderation.

    What a nasty example of paternalism.

  2. Paul Goings


    Like you seem to be, I’m rather taken aback by Fr Giles’ scorched-earth approach to liturgical “renewal.” To his credit, however, it’s something that he’s very open about in his books. And he was a good friend to us at S. Clement’s, and even celebrated Mass for us on occasion, without gritting his teeth even once!

    But his innovations at the Cathedral Church of Our Most Holy Saviour were a pastoral disaster. He constantly complained to Fr Reid how the students he met would occasionally tell him that they went to S. Clement’s, despite having to cross the river, because, if they were going to go to a church, it should look and feel like a church.

    The strangest experience I had there was a seminar on the Daily Office conducted by Dr Bradshaw of Notre Dame. We concluded with mid-day prayer, at which we learned that the cathedral’s usual office book was the Presbyterian breviary!

    Or perhaps not… There was that Easter Vigil where Dr Bennison had to preside over the Mass with his arm covered up to the elbow in the Sacred Chrism.

    As I said on N.L.M., I tend to see “Pray Tell” as the last stand of the liturgical progressives, or, more accurately, those who believe that progress is best achieved by denigrating and forbidding everything that went before.

    And please call me Paul.

  3. Christopher

    A rather presumptious piece of piffle. This was galling: “From being an opportunity for giving something extra, the 8 o’clock became an occasion for avoiding the demands of what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ.” So those who prefer an early service and Rite I at that are somehow avoiding being members of the Body? Really?

  4. Christopher

    In case my comments are filtered out at Pray Tell:

    This piece shows the same lack of pastoral insight that I find at Novus Motus Liturgicus. There are two simple solutions to this problem that will maintain what is a developing canonical approach to our prayers: Use Rite I occasionally in services other than the early service and/or have the central prayers placed in contemporary English and authorized for use. This piece, however, practically villifies a rich part of our liturgical-theological heritage and those who are strengthened for renewal by it. It makes judgments about their living out their vocations as laypersons in daily life and is ironically incredibly clericalist in two ways: 1) suggesting that real lay life is about doing things in church after Holy Communion, 2) presumes that clergy should go about making changes with no consideration of God’s people. Common prayer, and yes, that includes Rite I, prevents this sort of clergy-centered tendency to tyranny to changes in our liturgical lives together. It’s our book and prayers also.

  5. Matt Gunter

    There is nothing of Fr. Giles’ caricature evident at our 8:00, Rite I lirtugy at St. Barnabas, where the people do indeed touch each other, the sermon is preached, we sing at the offertory, people hang around for a considerable time for fellowship afterward, and sign up serve in outreach. His cheap shot about archaic Tudo boxes makes me wonder in what contmporary box of his own making Fr. Giles keeps his notions of god safely tucked away.

  6. David Donnell

    Good golly, I haven’t read anything quite that presumptuous and snotty since the early 1980s, when it seemed to be the norm among the “experts” (or those, anyway, who were busy telling us all what was wrong with us).

    From all such experts (and particularly those whose “specialism” is the design of liturgical space) good Lord, deliver us!

  7. Derek the Ænglican

    But that’s the thing, David—Giles *was* one of those people from the early eighties. He’s still at it and still convinced that Rite I is just about to die out in the next couple of minutes. Despite what the thirty and twenty-somethings are saying…

  8. Michelle

    He doesn’t describe the 8 o’clock service at my church either. Our early service is known more as the quiet service – no choir but otherwise basically the same as the 10:30 service. Our 8 o’clock service is growing at the expense of 10:30. The smoke and bells service is always our !0:30 service. The kids always have any of their stuff at our 10:30 service too. We have our “adult forum” at 9:15 in between services and its about half from each service from what I can tell. Our 8 o’clock folks are maybe not as active as 10:30 in church organizations but still pretty active. In fact our current senior warden is a stalwart of the early service.

    I know you find this strange but we do Rite I at both services during lent and do Rite II the rest of the year at both services. We switch to Rite I in lent because its more penitential and because the language makes people pay more attention. We like it and it gives both services exposure to both rites.

  9. Vicki McGrath

    Like most everyone else who has replied so far, Dean Giles’ snide commentary certainly doesn’t speak for the 8 am congregation at All Saints’, Millington, NJ. We use Rite I for most of the year, but Rite II during Christmas and Easter seasons. Everyone comes out of their pews to pass the peace with each other; they get the same announcements and requests to volunteer/serve as the 10 am – and they do willingly; in fact the chair of our homeless shelter outreach is an 8 o’clocker. And when the congregation is particularly small they gladly stand around the altar with me for the Eucharistic prayer, communion, blessing and dismissal. And on the flip side, the 10 am congregation uses Rite I during Lent, starting with the Great Litany – both to mark the change of season and to reflect the pentitential nature of the season. Perhaps that is Dean Giles’ problem: a disdain for self-examination and amendment of life that is especially supported by Rite I. On the other hand, I find much of what passes for contemporary liturgical renewal to be sadly lacking in poetry and in theological imagination. It’s as though we’ve fallen into a new sort of literalism. A prime example of this for me is the New Century Hymnal of the UCC (and used by a parish in our diocese). it so twists the language of familiar hymns around (in trying to be inclusive) that it makes the singer or the community the object of the text, and not God.

  10. Michelle

    We also start Lent with the Great Litany at 10:30 coupled with the switch to Rite I it makes the new season really stand out.

    Derek, part of what you are writing about generational differences I see a lot of too in my parish. My parish has a large percentage RC converts but they are mostly stuck in the pre-Vatican II view of the Catholic church. When they object to something as being too Catholic its almost always to a Catholic tradition or practice that I have no knowledge of, being completely post-Vatican II. I’m becoming much more aware all the time that I’m the leading edge of the post-Vatican II generation. I was born within a year after the end of Vatican II. I’m trying to find out now if I was the first baby in the family to be baptized in English. My mother doesn’t remember!

  11. bls

    Our Rite I 8 o’clock is also the fastest-growing service at the moment. Ironically, the “liturgical-renewal” gang from the last regime added a hymn to the service, following along with one of Giles’ suggestions of things that might help “kill it off” – and people seem to like it quite a lot. There are coffee hours, too. And these aren’t just people from the 1928 era, either – all sorts and conditions attend.

    Which goes to show, maybe, that the Spirit bloweth (and take that, Richard Giles) where it will, no matter what those with “agendae” think is the next great idea….

  12. Michelle

    I have to say that the fake Tudor English of Rite I really bugs me. Its not authentic. They just added Tudor endings to lots of words to make them sound old. Its in a language that never existed.

  13. bls

    They just added Tudor endings to lots of words to make them sound old.

    Rite I isn’t to blame, though:

    1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
    2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, Mt. 17.20 ; 21.21 · Mk. 11.23 and have not charity, I am nothing.
    3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
    4 ¶ Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
    5 doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
    6 rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
    7 beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
    8 ¶ Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
    9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
    10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
    11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
    12 For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
    13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

  14. bls

    (Anyway, there’s nothing wrong, I don’t think, with inventing liturgical language. I think we should do that, in fact; they do it in the theater and in literature all the time – and what is the liturgy except drama?)

  15. Christopher

    Of course it’s not Tudor English, neither is 1928. If you compare 1549 with 1662 and so forth you will notice changes in language, some due to updates in speech and others due to theological differences. The point is, however, that our classic Canon, Prayer I, is of christological import and bears a thoroughly English stamp theologically from St Anselm through Cranmer through the Carolines and Scots to us. We should not let go of the prayers we have inherited even if they needs be updated to more contemporary English.

  16. Paul Goings

    One interesting thing that I have already noticed about the Pray Tell ‘blog is that the authors of the ‘blog posts generally do not interact with the commenters. On the N.L.M. ‘blog, the authors are generally disposed to do so, and with enthusiasm. On Pray Tell, it would appear that we are to receive the various pontifications with docile submission, and not question out betters. And I think that this is one of the reasons that the progressives will ultimately lose the liturgy wars.

  17. Derek the Ænglican


    Anglicans have a long and storied history of making up old-sounding words for our liturgy. And the rest of the English-speaking world bought it with the deliberate archaisms of the King James Bible…


    Precisely! Some of the younger folk are engaging, but not some of the older. They’ve mistaken and misunderstood what makes a blog work—egalitarian interaction. Fr. Unterseher responded on his, while Fr. Giles is nowhere to be found.

    I can understand some of it—it comes from the whole “I can’t believe you’d ask that question, it should have been dealt with in the second year of your doctoral work, oh wait…” realization. But then—that’s part of what a blog is for: to educate the people who never will come into your lecture hall…

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