July 10, 2015

The Nature of the Feast

In the old legend, the Grail provided its knight-guardians a eucharistic feast that all of them found to be the food that each liked best, according to his taste. With the growing number of eucharistic prayers and lectionaries now on offer, with more to come, I think we Episcopalians are in danger of reversing this process. We seem to be hasting to replace the simple serving of 'common prayer' with a groaning board of options with little stability from parish to parish or week to week.

I am by no means arguing for a return to the 1928 standard (one eucharistic prayer and one lectionary), but would urge that we not go too far in the other direction. A small set of liturgies and lectionaries, spiced with variety in hymnody, music, ceremonial, and preaching, which we have long enjoyed, seems a more wholesome diet, conducive to nourish faith and community, across time and space.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


thomas bushnell, bsg said...

Dare I say, the energy here is driven by the boredom of worship leaders, and an increasing number of clergy who have never worshiped in a parish that did not constantly churn, and so they think it's their job to turn the churn-crank.

All that energy could be spent on crafting better preaching, learning theology and bible with depth, and getting out there and doing something in the world.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I think you dare be correct! Not only boredom, however, but an exaggerated confidence in one's own creativity. This may likely also be an unintended consequence of the Versus Populum position, in which the celebrant experiences herself as the center of attention -- and hence feels the need to be impressive or expressive.

This is a desire rarely realized.

And it isn't just celebrants. I was bemused to see the General Convention liturgies (acknowledging that such massive undertakings are rarely examples of liturgical excellence, though often quite good music and preaching) to have resembled a Reality TV show "Deacons Gone Wild." I missed three of the days, but on the ones I attended the Deacon who led what were called "The Prayers of the People" composed and delivered them as the "Prayers of the Deacon," with literally no recognition of the guidelines for the content of these prayers. Most of them resembled a level of prose on the order of a greeting card, and the silences following each clause were literally silent as I'm sure few found a way to form their prayer along the lines of thanksgiving for blueberries and rainbows. On one day the prayers took the form of a litany of repentance, again, with no recognition of the rubrical categories for the PotP. In all cases, the Deacon also delivered the concluding prayer, which was generally not in Collect form, as best as I can recall. One of the deacons even went so far as to deliver the Peace -- leaving the Celebrant half-way towards the front of the platform looking confused.

But the hymns were rousing, and the administration efficient, and the preaching quite good. But there needs to be a new course for Deacons if this is the way things are trending!