Sunday Morning Prayer in Parishes?

I usually receive an email a week or so from a reader or from someone who happened upon the blog concerning proper protocol for the Daily Office. Not infrequently, those who write are in parishes that can no longer financially sustain full-time clergy. As a result, Morning Prayer has once again become a regular Sunday service despite the best intentions of both prayer book and parish.  With the unintentional suppression of Morning Prayer with the advent of the ’79 BCP, though, not all of the lay leaders in this situation have a lived tradition to fall back upon, and the clergy who do assist them may not either.

Are there enough readers in this situation or enough interest in this topic to warrant setting up a Morning Prayer Q&A page?

If so, what sort of content would be most helpful to those in this position? What questions need to be answered?

20 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Prayer in Parishes?

  1. An Anxious Anglican

    What a great idea! Content on the lectionary and its use, using the collects, discretionary calls on content (skipping the invitatory, selecting canticles) would be helpful. I would be happy to share lessons learned (the hard way!), too.

  2. Vicki McGrath

    Hi Derek,

    In our parish we have continued to have Morning Prayer on sundays whenever there is a fifth Sunday in the month (as long as the fifth Sunday is not a major feast day)and for several weeks in the summer when I am on vacation and our deacon or a lay reader leads the office. As a result, we have a congregation who still knows how to sing anglican chant – at least on some of the canticles. so if you get this page up and running, I’d be glad to add my two cents about what we do.


  3. Hoosierpalian

    I have been to Morning Prayer at Immanuel, Glencoe in the Diocese of Maryland, and they do a beautiful job. Also you might check into the practice at Emmanuel in downtown Baltimore, which has Morning Prayer as the main service except the first Sunday, on which the Eucharist is celebrated

  4. Jason Wells

    In the early days (late 19th C) of the mission I now serve, a priest came only on the third Sunday of the month and the other Sundays were “Morning Prayer and Sermon” led by a somehow-licesened “Lay Vicar.”

    I wonder if the rubrics on page 406 and 407 would be useful here. There are two rubrics for the Holy Eucharist with “no Communion” and “in the absence of a priest.” It is strictly a liturgy of the Word, but can be led entirely by a lay reader (Worship Leader?).

    The rite begins with the Penitential Rite and continues as normal through the Prayers of the People. There is a hymn and offering collected and the service concludes with Lord’s Prayer and Grace or Peace.

    As odd as I think it sounds to have “The Holy Eucharist” without consecrating and distributing Communion, it is provided in our rubrics under that title. Additionally, adapting the Eucharist would provide a pattern of Sunday worship familiar to congregations and lay leaders.

    (Incidentally, I think this is the pattern for the Roman “Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest.”)

  5. wyclif

    What about the abscense of the Litany in these services, will anyone address that issue?

  6. Derek Olsen

    Ok—it sounds like there may be sufficient interest. I’ll start working on this as time allows. (That’s always the trick these days…)

    Vicki+, your two cents would be much appreciated as usual.

    Hoosierpalian–I had no idea that was Emmanuel’s schedule. I’ll have to look into that. I think M might have supplied there once but don’t remember exactly; I’ll have to ask her.

    Jason, that’s a hard call, isn’t it? Funny you should mention the Roman option, it made me recall this post from a few days ago at PrayTell that described the difficulty of getting Roman parishioners in Utah to wrap their heads around the Liturgy of the Hours. My ELCA upbringing was much like you describe—except for the 1st Sunday it was a truncated Eucharist. But as Anglicans, why wouldn’t we use Morning Prayer for a lay-led service?

    Wyclif, I don’t think we’d gotten to talking about elements in the services, so I wouldn’t automatically assume that no one’s doing the Great Litany. I’m a big fan of it myself. We’re not English, though, and neither the 1928 nor the 1979 Books of Common Prayer require the Litany on Sundays (or Wednesdays or Fridays).

  7. Hoosierpalian

    I’m trying to remember where I read this, but wasn’t the standard pre-1928 Sunday service in the United States the Great Litany, Morning Prayer with a sermon and the Ante-Communion?

  8. heather lee

    I have been a Lay Reader, what we call it on this side of The Pond. I have quite a bit of experience with leading Morning Prayer on Sunday mornings, especially when we sent our priest, a non-stipendiary, to Louisiana after Katrina.

    I think this would be an amazing resource, especially since my experience at seminary isn’t reinforcing an appreciation for MP, which can be as satisfying as a Eucharist.

    Let me know if I can be of any help (around my seminary schedule, of course.)

  9. David

    Some thoughts and suggestions-
    It seems to me- having served more than one parish where morning prayer was the principal service- that the first thing is to decide you really are going to do morning prayer- and not some odd hybrid. Do the opening material (sentences, bidding and confessino) and then by some marker- make a new beginning- stand and have another voice begin, “O Lord open thou..” or better, sing it.

    On Sundays- use the sunday lectionary- and the long psalm citation (its not two options, its precisely for this situation- the short one is for the Mass, the longer for an Office). As I understand it, you need to do an OT, so its OT and one of the two NT possibilities. The biggest question is where the sermon goes- and I’d argue for doing the office as it stands- two readings and canticles, creed, prayers (, suffrages A unless you’ve done the Te Deum,three collects Benedicamus and closing sentence- a hymn and then the sermon, an anthem for the offertory (gifts not presented, that is essentially a eucharistic action) and then closing prayers which allow a little creativity.
    Actually, despite where I serve now and my role in the SCP- I’ll admit to not disliking a good choral matins- if you’ve been to the early mass, its like getting evensong early..

  10. Derek Olsen

    Thanks for the offer, Heather!

    Fr. David, I see no conflict between a public MP and Eucharist even given your catholic credentials—in my fantasy parish Morning Prayer would be the early service with the Solemn High Mass following… :-)

  11. James

    St. John’s in Detroit has said Said Morning Prayer every Sunday Morning at 7:30 AM and Holy Communion at 8 AM. There is a Choral Holy Communion at 10 AM, but on the 2nd and 5th Sundays of the month there is a Choral Morning Prayer with Holy Communion. If you go the their website you can find the schedules of music and the setting for all services.

    All weekday services are said low masses from the American Missal.

    St. John’s is a ’28 Prayerbrook parish, but it is one of the most beautiful Anglo-Catholic parishes I have been to.

  12. Oriscus

    There should be considerable interest.

    This ought also to be a way forward for small parishes, given the lack of qualified clergy in many places, to proceed with being a distinctive way of being church in the world.

    One quibble.

    “[U]nintentional suppression of Morning Prayer” my ass. I

    Really, now. Come on.

    MP was suppressed because it had long supplanted the Eucharist as the principal service of a Sunday, at least since the 17th Century, and the priest-loansharks were calling in their markers in the context of modernism…

    MP went the way of the Roman “heard” Mass. For the same reasons.

    The Daily Office as such was lost because it wasn’t considered important for “the people.” Geez – the Romans have only *just barely* – after what, 35 years? – gotten ’round to providing chant resources for public observance of Vespers of LotH.
    Yeah Holy Momma thinks it’s important.

    For Episcopalians:
    Go Rite I
    Get a H1940 and an Anglican Chant Psalter (not the current one). Go to an antiquarian bookstore, or Ebay, and find a copy of one of Hutchins’ Chant and Service Books. Start there.

    Do what seems right, given what you see there.
    Imagine the things you can do with a laser printer.

  13. The Revd Dr John Bunyan

    The historic S.John the Baptist’s, Canberra in our national capital has 1662 Choral Matins twice a month, 1662 Choral Communion on the other Sundays (plus 1662 HC at 7 am, “contemporary” Eucharists at 8 and 9.30, and a monthly 1662 Evensong). Though a pensioner, I go down to Canberra once a month to attend the Matins (170 miles by train, 230 by air) ! Looking at the services listed in the Church Times, & the London Times & The Irish Times on a Sat., I find plenty of 1662 services including Matins at a good number of the cathedrals and some of the parish churches. The US BCP, I think, allows it to take the place of the Ante Communion – and as Rector of a strong Sydney working class parish for 22 years, on 2 Sundays a month we had 1662 Choral Matins followed by the 1662 Communion beginning with the Offertory and Sursum Corda, -1662 Choral Communion on the other Sundays and Evensong sung weekly. Parishioners voted the former combination their favourite service.
    Far more people attended church in Australia at least, when Matins was the main morning service ; most Anglicans here are not communicants, and providing ONLY the Holy Communion on Sundays (the main service of course) has been a major factor in the disappearance of many from church, not only the non-confirmed but people on the fringe and people who are not ready for the serious commitment of Confirmation. The same is true of England as a some bishops and scholars have noted. (I might add that the 1662 BCP remains the official standard of worship in the Church of Australia, though the two alternative books are used more widely, and in my own extremely fundamentalist, puritan Sydney Diocese, liturgy of any Anglican kind has disappeared from many parish churches !) One of three small books, each 56pp, that I am completing for the 350th anniversary of the 1662 BCP in 2012 is devoted to a defence of Morning Prayer, and another one is a guide to officiating at 1662 Matins and Evensong and celebrating basically 1662 Holy Communion, so I guess I am a bit one-eyed on this subject – and having visited the US over many years, and appreciating the best of the Episcopal Church, I am sorry that the use of Morning Prayer has declined in your Church.

  14. Bob Wickizer

    Former Silicon Valley physicist-turned Episcopal priest now serving a parish in Oklahoma.

    Some of the smaller parishes in this state lack full time clergy for regular Sunday Eucharist. I would say there is a great need out here for instructions, training and resources for lay-officiating at MP and EP.

  15. dustyokie77

    I’m from one of those smaller places, not even a parish but an Episcopal congregation none the less. We have been having Morning Prayer all but one Sunday a month when we have a Deacon’s Eucharist. We have had no priestly supervision since 1993.

    We would like to know if we are performing MP, EP and other lay led services properly. Would an Episcopalian visiting us from a large parish be comfortable or would some poor practices or oversights on our part distract from their worship experience.

    We have relied almost entirely on the BCP rubrics to educate ourselves, asking questions of visiting clergy from time to time. Any practical help would be appreciated.

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  17. John Bunyan

    Further to my comments above, for the 350th anniversary of the 1662 BCP, I am at the moment completing BCP @ 2012 – 3 small books (56 pages each), one for the celebrant of the Holy Communion and officiant at Matins and Evensong (“Celebrating BCP”), “Prayer Book Patterns and Principles”, and not least, “Morning Prayer Matters” !

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