Father Dale's Tidbits in "The Word"
Fr. Dale’s Tidbits June 2019
When does church become The Church?
Recently I was reminded of a time when a church became The Church. It was the summer of 1999. I was in Atlanta and there was a special service recognizing Bishop Onel Sotto, retired Bishop of Venezuela, as assisting Bishop of Atlanta. Following his retirement in Venezuela Bishop Soto had moved to Atlanta and assisted Bishop Anderson in the Diocese of Atlanta. He had been called assisting the bishop in the Diocese of Alabama.
I had first met Bishop Sotto while he was Bishop of Venezuela. The Diocese of Kansas and the Diocese of Venezuela were companion Dioceses. Bishop Sotto occasionally attended diocesan convention as a quest and keynote speaker at the invitation of Bishop Smalley.
The service honoring Bishop Sotto took place at St. Philips Cathedral. Unfamiliar with Atlanta, I gave myself plenty of time in case I got lost. A common occurrence for me in large cities. By “amazing grace” I nearly drove straight to St. Phillips. So, I was extremely early. At least two hours before the service was to begin. The doors were unlocked, but there was nobody in the narthex or nave, so I made myself at home. I walked around the cathedral to absorb the artwork, woodwork, and architecture. Occasionally, a member of the altar guild made an appearance preparing the altar. I don’t think she ever even noticed me wondering around.
After finding the pew (spot) I wanted to sit for the service, I settled down for some quite prayer and contemplative reflection. It was an attractive worship space with a high cathedral ceiling supported by stone pillars, triple stain glass windows above the altar and a rose window overlooking the choir loft and showering the altar with color. It was peaceful and quiet. As people began to arrive my contemplative time was mediated as the cathedral began to fill with the chitter chatter and the meandering of worshipers finding a place to sit and say a prayer before the service.
What became evident is that the church was becoming The Church as the people of God arrived, and my contemplative time was not being interrupted, it was being transformed.
Richard Roher, speaks of the “eternal now” and John Westerhoff, III speaks of the “present past, present now, and the present future.” Throughout the ages, the sense of “eternal now, and “present past, now, and future have been illustrated with symbols, images, icons, and words to define what must be experienced in our relationship with God and the world that surrounds us.
It seems, the Church can only interconnect its contemplative and its communal prayer when freely transformed from one to the other. The Book of Common Prayer is a great example of the interconnection of contemplative and communal prayer transforming from one to the other. The intersection of the two is the “present” and “eternal now.” This intersection is often where we witness and experience the importance for “grace” in communal worship, and the church becomes the Church in worship.
See you in church,
Fr. Dale’s Tidbits,
Recently I was asked, as we approach the Lenten Season, if I could focus on the six questions presented to the candidate, parents or godparents (speaking on behalf of an infant) prior to the baptismal announcement of “I baptize you…”. Lent has always been of preparation for baptism, or as stated in the first Book of Common Prayer (1549) “be washed.”
My thinking is the best way to explore these six baptismal covenant questions asked by the officiant during the service is first to explore the evolution of the covenant questions taking a vow in the hope of maturing into a way of life that reflects the outward visible sign of the inward spiritual nature of the Sacrament of Baptism we make with God.
With the coming of Lent in mind, Ash Wednesday offers all the baptized and candidates for baptism to commit ourselves to God in devotion of our Lord’s passion and resurrection. We begin this Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday, acknowledging our own walk in the steps that have lead Christians on a lifelong pilgrimage of life into death into life.
The liturgy and prayers of Ash Wednesday provides a time of self-reflection through prayer and fasting for the renewal of our Baptismal covenant and preparation of those seeking Baptism. This is not a recent revision in our Prayer Book. We are reminded on Ash Wednesday that “the first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism” (1979, BCP).
In 1549, the congregation would have heard the minister read; “BRETHREN, in the prymitive churche there was a godlye disciplyne, that at the begynnyng of lente suche persones as were notorious synners, were put to open penaunce, and punished in this worlde, that theyr soules myght bee saved in the day of the lord. And that other admonished by theyr example, might he more afrayed to offende. In the steede [stead] whereof until the saide disciplyne maye bee restored agayne; (whiche thynge is muche to bee wyshed,) it is thoughte good…”
There are a few passing thoughts as I read through the above two introductions into Lent, divided by 430 years, pronounced on Ash Wednesday. There is a sentiment that although they may be divided by centuries they are not detached. Two thoughts seem to wander through my mind as I reflect upon these introductions to Lent. First, I vision on this Day of Devotion it was attended by the whole (or nearly whole) community. I also suspect there was only one service that last most, if not all day as people made their “open penitence. Much different from today’s choices of three service that barely add up a “low Sunday” attendance. Second, in our devotions today, asking for forgiveness from God and our neighbor, and the offering of penitence is condensed into a 30 second prayer of confession followed by a 10 second pronouncement of absolution.
What would Ash Wednesday be if the Church still required an “open penance, await punishment in this world acceptable to save our souls so we might be saved. Is it possible that Ash Wednesday could be approached to even further bridge the divide of centuries? I think it is possible!
With Ash Wednesday imminent let us take a moment to compare and contrast the first question of our Baptismal Covenant from the perspective of the American Church.
1789 Book of Common Prayer (first American Prayer Book): DOST thou, in the name of this Child, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow, nor be led by them?
Answer. I renounce them all; and, by God's help, will endeavor not to follow, no be led by them.
1928 Book of Common Prayer: DOST thou renounce the devil and all his works, the
vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow, nor be led by them?
Answer. I renounce them all; and, by God’s help, will endeavour not to follow, nor be led by them.
1979 Book of Common Prayer
Question Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer I renounce them.
Surprisingly this first question and response remained unchanged through several revisions to the BCP over 139 years here in the American BCP.
This first question and response calls us to a belief and understanding that God’s grace is the most important thing, not our imperfect repentance and weak faith in renouncing the spirit of evil, self-centerness, pride, and ambitions which keep us from the love of God and our neighbor (Questions on the Way: A catechism based on the BCP, by Beverly D. Tucker & William H Swatos, Jr., 74)
In The Word for March, we will continue to compare and contrast the evolution of the BCP reflecting on the question prior to the announcement of Baptism. Until then, I might suggest a Lenten practice of reading and meditating on the last five questions and responses beginning on page 304 of the BCP.
Keep your family, Lord, with your never-failing mercy, that relying solely on the help of your heavenly grace, you may be upheld by your God’s protection; and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with you now and always.
See you in Church,
Prayers of Augustine
Mission and Ministry Villanova University
St. Augustine on Prayer
According to St. Augustine, we need not pray for what we need because God already knows what we need before we even ask. Instead, we ought to pray, he suggests, to increase our desire for God, and so that we might be able to receive what He is preparing to give us.
"The deeper our faith, the stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive the gift, which is very great indeed. .... The more fervent the desire, the more worthy will be its fruits. When the Apostle tells us: Pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:16), he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him alone who is able to give it."
Fr. Dale’s Tidbits,
This is the third summer of Ordinary Time (the long green season of the Church) where I have made changes to our service to introduce different liturgy into our services. The past two years the liturgy came from the approved supplemental worship booklet “Enriching Our Worship” as a means to enrich our liturgical prayers, and to listen to diverse ways the Spirit speaks to the Church and its people.
The first summer we used Eucharistic Prayer 3 from this supplemental worship booklet. The second summer (last year) we worshiped using Eucharistic Prayer 2. And this year we swerved from the supplemental back to the Book of Common Prayer using Morning Prayer, in place of the Liturgy of the Word, with Holy Communion from Eucharist Prayer A.
The instruction, or rubrics that permits combining Morning Prayer with Holy Eucharist can be found on pages 74 and 141 in the Book of Common Prayer.
Many have enjoyed the diversity of our liturgy, some not so much. I understand this, change is often difficult, unfamiliar words are cumbersome, as we rip over verbs and nouns in the ways we speak and pray about our interaction and relationship with God.
For many the familiar liturgy allows us to recite the prayers without the need of an open prayer book or worship booklet in hand. It doesn’t mean we do away with the prayer book, the prayer book provides the chance meeting of words and prayers we may not have noticed before, or taken time to prayerfully reflect upon this word or that word, this prayer or that prayer even if others around us progress on with the service. Maybe God has called others to rest in the meaning of a prayer or word. Resting in a word or prayer can be startling and comforting at the same time. It can be these moments of awakening that conform the heart and mind, or even reform how we see and respond to God’s Word and Christ’s examples.
For many Morning Prayer awakens fond memories of the Church, for others it is an introduction to something new and different. But, it is not new at all. Many, if not most, of the same prayers we are using this summer as our Liturgy of the Word are the same prayers from the first Book of Common Prayer produced in 1549, four hundred and sixty-seven years ago. The format of Morning Prayer has changed and the Elizabethan language has changed, but the poetic rhythm of the prayer has been maintained.
So, whether you appreciate and miss the poetic rhythm of Morning Prayer, or find Morning Prayer an excuse to stay home because there is no Eucharist, this summer offers both the harmonizing of rich and traditional prayers of one with the traditional observance of the Great Thanksgiving of the Eucharistic Meal.
This summer, as you find yourself and/or family visiting family or traveling for leisure, don’t forget to take your prayer book with you. There are daily devotions for morning, noon, and evening prayers for your continued walk with God beginning on page 137 of the prayer book. You may even encounter reassurance in one of the many prayers in the prayer book toward the back in the “Prayers and Thanksgiving” section beginning on page 810.
And, please don’t forget. Things are going to be busy at St. Andrew’s this summer, so when you are not on the road visiting family and friends, you can become a ‘Crazy Christian’ right here at St. Andrew’s.
See you in church,