Monday, 5 December 2011

A coastline that encapsulates the history of Northern England

Darkness envelops the coast at Cullercoats, from Whitley Bay to Tynemouth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

I took a walk beneath the bridges of Newcastle and along the banks of the River Tyne yesterday afternoon, crossing the Gateshead Millenium Bridge linking Newcastle and Gateshead, to see the Baltic and the Sage.

But while much of Newcastle’s fortunes were built in the past on its port and its shipbuilding, I had a feeling of being inland, and in need of a walk on a beach. After lunch, two of us decided to take the Metro from Monument out to the coast.

Looking west from the Gateshead Millennium Bridge towards the Sage (left) and the bridges crossing the Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

There were three options. One spur goes out through Gateshead and Heworth and then to Seaburn, the Stadium of Light, Saint Peter’s and Sunderland. A second spur goes out through Gateshead and Heworth and then through Jarrow and Bede to South Shields.

The names of the stations are reminders that the whole span of English history is contained within this part of the north-east – a history that stretches back through the Jarrow marchers 75 years ago, to the Venerable Bede (672-735), the “Father of English History,” who lived at the Anglo-Saxon Monastery of Wearmouth and Jarrow.

We thought of taking the ferry from South Shields to North Shields. But this is a lengthy Metro journey, lasting 80 minutes, and so we took the third option for reaching the coast – the line that runs through Wallsend. With its Roman fort, baths and museum, this was once Roman Segedunum, was at the end – or the beginning – of Hadrian’s Wall, built in the early second century on the northern edge of the Roman Empire.

At North Shields, we were tempted once again to hop off and take the ferry across to South Shields. But we continued on north along the coast to Tynemouth, where the station was decked out for a crafts market. It was getting dark, and we wondered whether we would see the remains of the cliff-top priory and castle if we got off here. And so we continued on through Cullercoats to Whitley Bay.

Although Whitley Bay (36,544) has become a dormitory town for Newcastle in recent decades, it is still a substantial town in its own right. This stretch of the North Sea coast has a fine stretch of golden sandy beach forming a bay from Saint Mary’s Island in the north to Cullercoats in the south.

Whitley Bay is nine miles to the east of Newcastle, and took less than half an hour to get there on the Metro. The town was a popular holiday resort for people from north-east England and Scotland until the 1980s.

Whitley Bay’s history may not be as impressive as the stories of Wallsend and Jarrow. But this is still an area rich in history, dating back to 1100, when King Henry I granted it to the Priory of Tynemouth.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Whitley passed to John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, who became Duke of Northumberland and who was father-in-law of Lady Jane Grey, “Queen for a Day.” Later holders of the title included George Fitzroy, an illegitimate son of Charles II, and – as a Jacobite title – Philip Wharton, the rake duke who owned Rathfarnham Castle and married Marie-Therese Comerford. But the title, and with it Whitley, eventually passed to the Percy family, who claimed descent from the earlier Earls of Northumberland, so that the present Duke of Northumberland is also the Lord of the Manor and the principal landowner.

A new parish was formed when the old parish of Tynemouth was divided in 1860, and the Duke of Northumberland built Saint Paul’s Church, which was consecrated in 1864. The church is well known as the starting point of the annual Saint Nicholas Festival – tomorrow [6 December] is Saint Nicholas’s Day.

Coalmining began to decline in the area from the late 19th century on, but the economic impact was eased with the growth of Whitley as a seaside holiday resort, helped by the opening of the North Tyne Loop rail in 1882, connecting Newcastle and the villages along this coast. The line followed the route of the present Metro line, and new stations were opened in the centre of Whitley, and in Monkseaton to the north and Cullercoats to the south.

Until the 1890s, the town was known simply as Whitley. But it was often confused with Whitby in Yorkshire. This was confusing for postmen and undertakers, causing mail and coffins to go to the wrong place. After one funeral mishap too many, the residents changed the name of the town. Ever since then, the place has been known as Whitley Bay, and under this name the borough received a royal charter in 1954. In 1972, Whitley Bay became part of North Tyneside within Tyne and Wear.

As a seaside resort, Whitley Bay was once famous for its fairground, known as Spanish City, its ice rink, and boat trips to Saint Mary’s Island with its lighthouse.

Famous local residents have included, WE Johns, author of the Biggles books, the Newcastle United players Steven Taylor and Mike Williamson, and the Animals guitarist Hilton Valentine.

The Watch House on the coast at Cullercoats as night falls on the northern coast and the North Sea (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

From Whitley Bay, we walked the short distance south to Cullercoats (population 9,407), with its semi-circular sandy beach with cliffs and caves. By now darkness had fallen, but we could see the coastline stretching before us as far south as Tynemouth.

In the past, Cullercoats was a separate village, dependent on fishing, local coalmining and the export of salt and coal. When the salt industry declined and coal shipments were moved to better harbours, fishing was left as the mainstay of the local economy, and two piers were built on either side of the harbour to provide shelter for the fishing vessels.

A lifeboat station was built here in response to one sea-going disaster in 1848 but a second disaster hit the place a year later. The Watch House was built above the harbour in 1879 for the Cullercoats Volunteer Life Brigade, but the lifeboat station was still in use until a new one opened eight years ago. Today, the harbour is also home to the Dove Marine Laboratory, a research and teaching laboratory that is part of Newcastle University.

Down on the small beach below the lifeboat station, the Watch House and the laboratory, the tide was out and the beach looked pretty, even in the dark. We spent some time walking in the dark along the soft sand, looking out at the lights of the boats off the coast and the ships in the North Sea.

Climbing back up the steps from the beach, we made our way to the Queen’s Head on Front Street for a quiet, refreshing drink and a game of pool. From there, we walked through Victorian terrace houses to Cullercoats Metro station.

On our way, we passed the site of the Huddleston Arms, later the Bay Hotel but demolished in 2005. In 1881 and 1882, Room 17 in the hotel was home to the American watercolour artist, Winslow Homer, who kept a studio across the road He was the best-known artist in the “Cullercoats Colony” of artists who lived in the town from 1870 to 1920. A new apartment block was built on the site in 2007, but the artist’s colony is remembered in its name – Winslow Court.

The Theatre Royal, in bright lights in Newcastle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Within half an hour, we were back in the centre of Newcastle, with Grey Street and Grainger Town fully decked out in Christmas lights. Many of the buildings in this part of Newcastle were designed by Richard Grainger and this part of Newcastle claims to have more listed buildings than any other British city, apart from London and Bath.

The Theatre Royal plays host to the Royal Shakespeare Company in winter and to Opera North. But if I was danger of being too high-brow as I looked up at its portico, I was brought back to earth when I realised that while this is the Season of Advent it is also the season of the Christmas pantomime.

Oh no it’s not!

Oh yes it is!

Liturgy 9.3: Rites of passage, e.g., Baptisms, Marriages, Funerals

‘Hatch, Match and Dispatch?’ … setting the tone for rites of passage includes many liturgical considerations, including the use of colour and space (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Patrick Comerford

EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 14:00 to 16:00, Thursdays, Hartin Room:

5 December 2011:

Liturgy 9.3:
Rites of passage, e.g., Baptisms, Marriages, Funerals

‘Hatch, Match and Dispatch?’

The three rites of Baptism, Marriage and Funeral are sometimes referred to in a jocular way by clergy as the rites of “Hatch, Match and Dispatch.”

But at times I think this is unfair to the people involved in these rites. These are crisis moments, the most sacred moments in life, and they note merely rites of passage, when people publicly declare the most important stages of life in front of God and in front of the community they most value … even when they are not regular churchgoers.

They are not moments for evangelisation, but they are sacred moments, moments of grace, moments of joy and sorrow, moments that will most surely test your ministry.

People will forgive you a badly-prepared or badly delivered Sermon every now and then; they may not notice or may soon forget when you make what you regard as major mistake in my eyes on an occasional Sunday; and they may forget who baptised their child, forget to thank you for your part at their wedding or at the burial of one of their parents … if all goes well.

But they will never, ever forget, and perhaps never forgive you if you get it wrong at a baptism, wedding or funeral.

For that reason alone, but also because we all realise how sacred these moments are, most new curates, and even most new rectors fret for the first years when it comes to Baptisms, Marriages and Funerals.

We fret so much that we often concentrate or energies on the minute details, and forget that it all takes part within the context of the worship and the liturgy of the Church, and that we ought not be the centre of attention. We are the facilitators, the enablers, the “liturgical midwives,” but we should never be the centre of attention, or do anything that makes us so.

1, Baptism:


In recent weeks, we have looked at the origins and early understandings of Baptism. But do you feel liturgically literate when it comes to taking part in a baptism?

Like our other services, the Church of Ireland has revised the service of Baptism in recent years. And these revisions, like all others, have been informed by the insights of the modern liturgical movement.

For example, as long ago as 1968, the Anglican bishops agreed at the Lambeth Conference that “confirmation is not a rite of admission to Communion.”

The International Anglican Liturgical Consultation said as long ago as 1985 in Boston that “since baptism is the sacramental sign of full incorporation into the church, all baptised persons [should] be admitted to communion …”

Some of the understandings incorporated into the writing of Holy Baptism Two (The Book of Common Prayer, the Church of Ireland, 2004) include:

● there should be one baptism for all ages;
● Baptism should be the main service when it takes place, and not tagged on as an added extra, a sideshow or an appendix to the main service;
● Baptism comes as a response to the Word of God.

What do you think is the theological underpinning of these insights?

The Baptismal font in Ferns Cathedral, Co Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

These insights are reflected in the outline of the Baptismal Rite:

1, The presentation (p. 371):

Candidates are presented;
Questions are put to Parents and Godparents of those who cannot answer for themselves;

2, The Decision (p. 372):

(Testimony);
Questions to candidates’ sponsors; questions to the congregation;
The signing with the Cross (here or after the Baptism);
(Hymn);

3, The Baptism (p. 373):

Water poured into the font;
The Thanksgiving Prayer over the Water,
including prayer of blessing and sanctification (see pp 363-364);
Questions about the Christian faith to the candidate or sponsors;
Interrogatory Apostles’ Creed;
The Baptism (dipping or pouring, but not sprinkling, see p. 174; this does not exclude immersion);
The signing of the Cross (if this has not already taken place);
Welcome;
The Peace.

The Baptistery and baptismal font in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Some observations and questions:

Note how the Baptismal Rite follows the sermon (see p. 376).
Who should be sponsors?
What are the responsibilities of godparents?
What about “private baptisms”, or family requests for a different time?

Be aware too of the need to make connection between Baptism and the other rites that are part of Christian Initiation (see p. 346 ff), including Receiving into the Congregation (p. 377 ff), Confirmation (p. 382 ff), the Renewal of Baptismal Vows (p. 398 ff) and Thanksgiving after the Birth of a Child (p. 402 ff).

2, Marriage:

A wedding in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge … how is the theology of matrimony reflected in the marriage rites? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The traditional Anglican understanding of matrimony is that Holy Matrimony is the blessing of a union between a man and woman, acknowledging the presence and grace of God in the life of the couple. The form is manifested as the vows.

Despite popular belief and imagination, the blessing and exchanging of the rings is only customary, and neither is necessary for the rite of matrimony to be valid.

In marriage, the husband and wife seek God’s blessing, and through the mediation of the priest, the prayer is answered.

The couple are thus generally regarded as the ministers of the sacrament or the rite through their voluntary exchange of vows. And for this reason they should face each other during the marriage, and not the officiating minister.

However, in the traditional Anglican understanding, the sacrament or rite must be celebrated before an ordained priest (or, in exceptional circumstances, a deacon), who witnesses and mediates the prayers. The priest or deacon has been described by Michael Perham as the “chief witness” or “the master of ceremonies,” and only takes over, so to speak, when the couple are married, in order to pronounce God’s blessing on the couple.

For those who count seven sacraments, then matrimony was the last of the seven to be added to the list.

Its origins can be found in the civil necessity that arose in the Middle Ages to regularise intimate relationships and to legitimise children.

As Bishop Harold Miller points out, the Church of Ireland has always recognised the total validity of civil marriage services, as marriage is essentially an ordering of society. But it is also a “holy mystery” and a sign of the “mystical union … betwixt Christ and his Church...” (The Book of Common Prayer (1960), p. 266; The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 406).

In these islands, the “Form of Solemnisation of Matrimony” remained almost entirely unchanged in these islands from 1662 until the 1980s.

The Wedding at Cana ... a modern icon

The introduction to the marriage service in that older form says quite quaintly that marriage is “for the increase of mankind … and for the due ordering of families and households; … for the hallowing of the union betwixt man and woman, and for the avoidance of sin; [and] … for the mutual society, help and comfort, that the one ought to have for the other, both in prosperity and adversity.” (The Book of Common Prayer (1960), p. 266; The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 406).

However, things changed with the introduction of the Alternative Service Book (Church of England, 1980, pp 283-304). However, the Alternative Prayer Book (Church of Ireland, 1984) did not include a revised marriage service, and this only came about with the publication of the “White Booklet” in 1987 and the Alternative Occasional Services in 1993.

We know teach that marriage is about love, comfort, “living together in plenty and in need, in sorrow and joy,” that it is about knowing each other in love “with delight and tenderness,” about a bodily union that strengthens the union of hearts and lives,” and – only later its – about “the children they may have” (Book of Common Prayer 2004, p. 417). So the flesh, love, comfort, delight, tenderness, bodily union, are all stressed before we even mention children, and there is no mention in this second form (pp 416-430) of the “increase of mankind,” the “due ordering of families and households” or the “avoidance of sin.”

A little more adult and mature an approach, I should suggest; certainly a reflection of how society has changed, and a realisation that not every couple can have or choose to have children.

But the wording of the services continue to agree that the Church teaches that marriage should be monogamous, life-long and between one man and one woman.

In the section on Marriage Services (pp 405-438), The Book of Common Prayer (Church of Ireland, 2004) includes two marriage services, a traditional rite from The Book of Common Prayer 1926 (see Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 406-413), with an option for “Holy Communion at the Time of Marriage” (pp 414-415), and a revised, contemporary rite (pp 416-427), with extensive notes on many of the legal requirements (see p. 413, and pp 428-430). In addition, there is “A Form of Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage” (pp 431-438), again with a number of notes and guidelines on how this service is to be used.

There are legal requirements that are going to concern you, and they vary between jurisdictions and may change even before you are priested. There are also canonical requirements that you need to be aware of too.

For example, when it comes to a couple where one or both have been previously married and divorced, the clergy involved must, under the provisions of legislation passed by General Synod in 1996, apply to the diocesan bishop first of all for permission, and listen carefully to the advice the bishop gives in reply.

If the ceremony goes ahead, the couple are required to go through a service of preparation, which has been devised by the Liturgical Advisory Committee but is not in The Book of Common Prayer (2004), although it is included by Bishop Miller in The Desire of our Soul (see pp 250-253).

From a pastoral point of view you will also need to learn how to prepare a couple properly and appropriately for both the wedding ceremony itself and for future married life.

All these you will learn as you go on. But of course they also impinge on how you behave at a wedding itself.

And it is important to know why you are doing something, so that by understanding what you are doing you are doing it properly. If the couple are not married according to rites and customs of the Church of Ireland, there may be serious consequences for your actions.

But this morning we are looking at the marriage rite itself, from the point of how you prepare yourself for it, what you do within your understanding of the liturgy and common prayer of the Church, and how you relate in that to the life of the Church and to those for whom you provide this office – and they are not just the couple being married!

The outline of the service is:

1, The Entry (p 416 ff):

(Greeting of the Bridal or Marriage Party);
(Hymn or Music);
Greeting;
The Introduction: Introduction;
The Collect.

2, Proclaiming and Receiving the Word (p. 418):

Reading(s);
Sermon;

3, The Marriage (p. 419 ff):

Questions to the congregation;
Words to the couple;
The Consent;
The Vows;
Giving and receiving of a ring;
The Declaration, including the joining of hands;
The Blessing of the Couple;
Affirmation by the People;
The Acclamations;
(The Registration of the Marriage);
(A Psalm or Hymn).

4, The Prayers (p. 423 ff):

Intercessions;
(Silence);
(Prayer by the couple);
The Peace;
(Hymn);
The Lord’s Prayer;
(The Grace or the Blessing).

Exchanging the στέφανα or wedding crowns as the Gospel story of the Wedding at Cana is read … not part of the Church of Ireland tradition

What is missing?

Is there a place for giving away the bride? Or for saying: “You may now kiss the bride”?

Who chooses the readings and the hymns?

How suitable are the Wedding March (Mendelssohn) – written for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

How suitable is the Bridal Chorus (Wagner) – sung after the wedding in the opera Lohengrin by the women of the wedding party as they accompany the heroine Elsa to the bridal chamber?

Ave Maria (Bach and Gounod or Schubert)?

Which customs and traditions do you accept?

Separate sides of the church for the families of the bride and groom?

The bride being walked up the nave (aisle) by her father?

The bride’s white dress?

The “giving away”?

Signing the register in the vestry?

When are these meaningful?

When do they perpetuate the myth that the church sanctions patriarchy?

When do they become “liturgical” and sideline the liturgy itself?

What about the way the pledge to “obey” has been dropped?

Who should lead the prayers and intercessions?

Would you be embarrassed by the prayer giving thanks for the gift of sexual love (see p. 426)?

Michael Perham says that at a marriage, more than at one other service, it is right to let the participants have a say in the form that it takes, “and the wise minister will not make too many rules about what will or will not be allowed to be said, sung, or done.”

Should there be a sermon (see p. 418)?

The sermon gives the minister the opportunity to say something about marriage and about the Gospel in a less formal way than the words of the liturgy provide.

But we need to take care not to repeat what has already been said, and not to end up repeating what has been said at every previous wedding we have been involved in.

When and where do you allow photographs?

Should there be a celebration of Holy Communion (see p. 428, note 5)?

Do you accept an invitation to the reception and to say grace?

Some dioceses, particularly in the US Episcopal Churches, allow for the blessing of same-gender marriages. How do you respond to this?

Services of Prayer and Dedication:

In many parts of the Anglican Communion, there is a provision to bless civil marriages. This rests on the understanding that a couple cannot be married twice.

Some Anglican provinces allow the marriage of divorced people, others do not, still others require the permission of the diocesan bishop.

We often think of Services of Prayer and Dedication as option for people who have already been married and divorced, and for whom a church wedding may pose problems or difficulties.

But there are other reasons for choosing this option:

A couple who have been married in a civil ceremony, which is a legal requirement in many other countries, may then want a Church occasion in Ireland.

A couple who not legally resident in terms of marriage legislation, but would still like what they will see as a “church wedding” in Ireland for family, romantic or sentimental reasons.

Although we ask God’s blessing on the new marriage, notice how this ceremony is not called a “blessing” and should not be referred to as such. It is really a form of prayer and dedication.

Nor is it a wedding, so there is a stipulation (p. 438) that no rings should be given or received during it – even if it happens that the woman who has already been married wants to arrive in a veil and white dress, and with sisters or friends she may call “bridesmaids.” This ceremony does not repeat what has already happened, and in the pastoral preparation beforehand this should be explained clearly.

3, Funerals

If it be your will ... (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Eventually you are going to accumulate a collection of unusual stories about Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals. To make the connection between Weddings and Funerals, I heard once of a elderly rector who came out to meet the bride as she arrived at the church, and led her up the aisle, reading the words: “Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live …”

But I also heard the distressing story of a rector who would meet the funerals of the landed gentry at the lych gate entering the churchyard; the middle class coffins were met at the steps before the church door; and he waited at the top of the chancel steps for the coffins of working class parishioners to be brought into his church.

But every funeral is different, every funeral is important for everyone involved, and everyone involved is important.

Who do you think “owns” a funeral?

It is not a sacrament, when you consider Baptism, nor is it sacramental in the way that a wedding is. Nor is it merely yet another rite.

But where and when it takes place, and how it is conducted is more than providing the pastoral care of the church at a moment of crisis.

A church and churchyard on Achill Island, Co Mayo (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A Christian funeral has several purposes, which are difficult to achieve in hour in a church or in 20 minutes at a crematorium.

A Christian funeral seeks to bring a community together:

● to honour a life;
● to commend the dead to God;
● to give space for grief and yet to move people on;
● to express the love and compassion of God to the bereaved;
● to proclaim the Gospel message of Christ’s death and resurrection;
● to warn of the inevitability of death and to encourage them in walk in this with an eye to eternity;
● to take leave of the body and to say farewell;
● to dispose of the body reverently.

How are these objectives fulfilled in the Funeral Services in The Book of Common Prayer (2004)?

A grave in Kerameikós, Athens … what is customary and what is liturgical at a funeral? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The structures of the funeral service are like this (see p. 481):

A, The Funeral Service:

1, Gathering in God’s Name, p. 482):

Receiving the coffin at the door;
Sentences of Scripture;
Greeting;
Introduction;
Prayer;
(Hymn).

2, Prayers of Penitence (p. 483):

The Penitential Kyries;
(Absolution).

3, The Collect (p. 484):

(Silence);
The Collect.

4, Proclaiming and Receiving the Word (p. 484):

(Old Testament or New Testament reading);
Psalm;
New Testament reading (always a Gospel reading when there is Holy Communion).
The Sermon.
The Apostles’ Creed or Te Deum Part 2 (but the Nicene Creed when there is Holy Communion).

5, The Prayers (p. 486):

Thanksgiving for the life of the departed;
Prayer for those who mourn;
Prayer for readiness to live in the light of eternity.

Other prayers including the Lord’s Prayer.

6, The Farewell in Christ (p. 487):

Silence by the coffin;
The Easter Anthems;
‘Leaving’ Prayers.

7, The Committal (p. 488):

Sentence of Scripture;
The Committal;
Prayers when the body has been lowered into the grave, or at a cremation;
Sentence of Scripture (Revelation 14: 13);
(The Lord’s Prayer).

8, The Dismissal (p. 489):

The Dismissal;
The Grace or a blessing.

B, The Funeral Service with Holy Communion;

1, Gathering in God’s Name;
2, Prayers of Penitence;
3, The Collect;
4, Proclaiming and Receiving the Word;
5, The Prayers;
6, The Peace;
7, The Great Thanksgiving;
8, The Breaking of the Bread;
9, The Communion;
10, The Farewell in Christ;
11, The Committal;
12, The Dismissal.

Note the resources and prayers that are also offered (pp 491-497).

A sculpted gravestone in Kerameikós, Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

One of the most difficult situations you may face is the Funeral Service for a Child (pp 504-513).

Other resources and options include a Form for Use in the Home, Funeral Home or Crematorium (pp 514-516).

Like weddings, there are customs and traditions associated with funerals that are not necessarily part of the funeral service:

● members of the family carrying the coffin;
● throwing earth clods into the grave on top of the coffin;
● draping the coffin in a purple pall;
● sprinkling the coffin with the water of baptism.

The Raising of Lazarus, Juan de Flandes, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Some questions:

Who chooses the hymns and readings?
What prayers should you use when you arrive at a house or in hospital to find the person has just died?
What prayers do we say at an evening removal before a morning funeral (see p. 498 ff)?
Are we providing two funeral services?
What if the person who died had no apparent faith?
What if the person who died had faith, but none of their friends or family members has?
Should the funeral service take place in the home? In the undertakers’ chapel?
What makes a crematorium chapel different?
Who chooses the readings and the hymns?
What about secular readings, poems, songs?
Is a eulogy or address appropriate? And, if so, when?
Do you have another funeral service when it comes to the burial of ashes returned from the crematorium? (see p. 501.)
Are you aware of the differences in funeral customs in different parts of Ireland?
What about memorial services?
What about general memorial services in November?
What do you do when it comes to a miscarriage or stillbirth? (see p. 512.)

4, Other rites

Earlier today, we looked at the theology and rites of ordination; and issues in debates about ordination, including gender (for the Ordinal, see pp 517-590).

But you will also need to be familiar with the Confirmation services, even if you are never elected a bishop, for you will be involved in preparing candidates for Confirmation, and be involved in many ways in Confirmation services.

Some of the other liturgical resources provided in The Book of Common Prayer include the Service of Ash Wednesday (p. 338), Harvest resources, Ember and Rogation prayers, and Ministry to those who are Sick (pp 440 ff).

Reading:

Michael Perham, New Handbook of Pastoral Liturgy (London: SPCK, 2000).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay was prepared as supplemental reading to accompany a lecture and seminar on 5 December 2011 in the Module EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.

Liturgy 9.2: Seminar: Spirituality of ministry; readings on the minister as person, private, public and holy

The ordination the Revd Terry Alcock to the priesthood in Saint James’s Church, Castledermot, Co Kildare … at ordination, priests are told they “are to lead God’s people in prayer and worship” (Photograph: Garret Casey, 2009)

Patrick Comerford

EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 14:00 to 16:00, Mondays, Hartin Room:

5 December 2011

9.2:
Seminar: Spirituality of ministry; readings on the minister as person, private, public and holy.

Selected readings:

Christopher Cocksworth and Rosalind Brown, Being a priest today (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2nd ed, 2006), Chapter 7 (pp 129-153). Published in the US as: Rosalind Brown, and Christopher Cocksworth, On being a priest today (Cambridge MA: Cowley 2002).

The Right Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth has been Bishop of Coventry since 2008 and is a former Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge (2001-2008).

Canon Roslaind Brown is a renowned hymn writer and Canon Librarian of Durham Cathedral, with responsibility for the public face of the cathedral’s life including visitors, education, the Library, pastoral care and relationships with the wider community.

Malcolm Grundy, What they don’t teach you at theological college (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003), Chapter 16 (pp 162-172), ‘Spirituality and a Rule of Life.’

Canon Malcolm Grundy has been Archdeacon of Craven in the Diocese of Bradford (1994-2005) and Director of the Foundation for Church Leadership (2005-2009).

Sister Barbara June (Kirby) SLG, ‘Simple Gifts: Priesthood in a Praying Community,’ (Chapter 5), pp 62-71 in George Guiver et al, Priests in a People’s Church (London: SPCK, 2001).

The Revd Sister Barbara June (Kirby) is a member of the Community of the Sisters of the Love of God in Fairacres, Oxford, and has been an NSM curate in Saint John’s, Cowley.

Michael Ramsey, The Christian Priest Today (London: SPCK, new ed., 1992), Chapter 9, ‘The Ordination Gospel’ (pp 61-67).

Archbishop Michael Ramsey (1904-1988) was the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury (1961-1974). After a curacy in Liverpool, he became a lecturer to ordination candidates at the Bishop’s Hostel, Lincoln, when he published The Gospel and the Catholic Church (1936). His parish postings included Saint Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge, before he became a canon of Durham Cathedral and Van Mildert Professor of Divinity at Durham. He then became the Regius Professor of Divinity in Cambridge (1950), Bishop of Durham (1952), Archbishop of York (1956) and Archbishop of Canterbury (1961).

This book started life in 1972 as a series of sermons to ordinands by Archbishop Ramsey. These 15 succinct essays, updated in 1985, provide timeless theology and practical advice that are just as relevant today

Introduction:

Prayer is both an individual and a collective action, and even when we pray individually, we are praying for ourselves and we are praying on behalf of others. The Caroline Divine, Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), wrote in his Latin Devotions that “he who prays for others, labours for himself.”

In prayer, we need to be mindful of the needs of others, and in ordained ministry we have a responsibility to help and to teach others to pray. To do this, we need to develop our own prayer lives, so that praying does not become a neglected activity and a forgotten part of our lives.

Fixing a pattern for regular prayer could include using the office (Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer), valuing silence, being regular at the Eucharist, and praying as you read Scripture, and not just studying it.

But what about being priests at prayer?

Being priests at prayer

In his Letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul tells the Church in Philippi: “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you …” (Philippians 1: 3-4).

In preparing for ordination, most ordinands realise that prayer – their own prayer life, praying for others and being a person of prayer – is a major expectation in our vocation and ministry.

My experience is that whatever else people want of us, as priests or clergy, they want us to pray for them and to pray with them. However, Rosalind Brown and Christopher Cocksworth say that “almost without exception” prayer is the one area that clergy admit to feeling they are failing to meet their own expectations and hopes, quite apart from the expectations of those we minister among.

Too often, as clergy, we end up with feelings of failure and guilt, feelings of being unable to pray as we wish to. Many clergy know what it is to wonder whether their parishioners or members of the congregations would lose all trust for and respect in them if they only knew the paucity of their prayer life.

The other side of these feelings of guilt and failure, is the feeling that comes when we are spending time in prayer and keep getting the nagging feeling that the time would be better spent “doing” something more productive.

The call to a life of prayer

Prayer is at the heart of our ordained ministry.

At your ordination, you will be reminded in the words of the ordinal that as deacons you are called to “strengthen the faithful” and to “lead the people in intercession” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 555), and that as priests you “are to lead God’s people in prayer and worship, to intercede for them … ” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 565).

Bishops too are to “pray for all those committed to their charge … and to lead the offering of prayer and praise” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 576, 577).

All of us in ordained ministry – deacons, priests and bishops – are asked at our ordination by the bishop: “Will you be diligent in prayer …?” The response is: “With the help of God, I will” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 556, 566, 578).

Archbishop Rowan Williams writes of “three-ness” of prayer for those who have been ordained: “If you have the charge of priesthood laid upon you, then the Sunday liturgy, the Daily Office and private prayer are simply there, and there is no way around them, even if you should want one. They are part of the bargain, and they grow on us as we increasingly sense in them something of the sovereignty of God. In this way, they become both a commitment and a joy, even if there are times when we would rather be doing something else. The ‘three-ness is not a matter of law or rules, but a part of the essence of being Christian.” (Rowan Williams, A Ray of Darkness: Sermons and Reflections).

Finding the strength to pray

At the opening of the prayers at the ordination service, the candidates for ordination are reminded that “none of us can bear the weight of this ministry in our own strength …” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 557, 567, 578).

So, where do we go to seek and draw the strength to pray? Despite those prayers at ordination, we do not suddenly become paragons of prayer when we are ordained. Indeed, whether or not you have disciplined prayer life, you know by now that you do not pray and cannot pray on your own strength.

In that weakness, I find it reassuring when the Apostle Paul reminds me: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8: 26-27).

The ordination charges to be diligent in prayer, to intercede for the people, to lead the people in prayer and worship, and to teach them by word and example are possible to fulfil only because of the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

The priority of prayer

Archbishop Michael Ramsey once said that “the prayer of the priest is … supremely important as the source of his ability to train the people in the way of prayer.”

A daily rhythm of prayer creates a growth that may remain imperceptible to us individually. But others know whether we are people of prayer. We do not have to tell them.

Prayer should be and must be at the heart of our ordained ministry. Being a priest is not simply an occupation, but is a vocation, a calling. And our prayer is not one more function or part of the job description. We are called to be people of prayer, people for whom prayer is not just something we do. Rather, prayer must be the environment in which we live because we live in God.

The poet John Donne (1572-1631), who was once Dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, wrote: “[Prayer] may be mental, for we may think prayers. It may be real, for we may speak prayers. It may be actual, for we may do prayers … So then to do the office of your vocation sincerely is to pray.”

But how do we work at making and maintaining prayer as the priority it should be in our ministry?

Everyday prayer

The Irish hymn writer James Montgomery (1771-1854), in a well-known hymn (Church Hymnal 625), wrote:

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
unuttered or expressed,
the motion of a hidden fire
that trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
the falling of a tear,
the upward glancing of an eye,
when none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
that infant lips can try;
prayer the sublimest strains that reach
the Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
the Christian’s native air,
our watchword at the gates of death,
we enter heaven with prayer
.

In this hymn, Montgomery suggests that prayer is our natural environment, not something that we do under duress at certain times, because it is a task or burden, or because it is one the obligations imposed on us as a condition for ordination.

Prayer is the intimacy of our life in God. Prayer is being “lost in wonder, love and praise.” Prayer is the short glance in God’s direction. Prayer is the awe and wonder felt at a beautiful sunset. Prayer is the pain or the pleasure as we listen to news. Prayer is the cry of help when there are no words to express those feelings and no words to describe that need. Prayer is the silence of being in God’s company in sorrow and in joy. Prayer knows nothing too high to be too majestic or too low to be too mean for bringing before God. Prayer, like breathing, is the underlying rhythm and pulse of life.

Or as Michael Quoist says in one of the books recommended in our ‘Spirituality’ hour this morning: “Everyday life is the raw material of prayer” (Prayers of Life, 1966).

But how do we work to overcome those difficulties that sometimes stop prayer from being the soul’s desire, that stop prayer from coming from our heart as easily as the simplest form of speech, that stop prayer from being as natural as breath?

Difficulties in prayer

When we are full of joy, prayer may come easily in terms of words and actions. But when we are broken-hearted, bruised, tired or confused, we may find that all we can do is present ourselves, physically, in our place of prayer without finding words.

Some of the weaknesses in prayer that each of us is familiar with include not having enough time, and being distracted constantly by other thoughts in our minds or other events taking place around us. When we find difficulties in prayer are crowding around us, and the words cease, the thoughts wander, and we want to escape from the place of prayer, it is worth remembering that at times our presence alone is sufficient prayer.

Saint Theophan the Recluse: an inspiring and great Russian teachers on prayer

Among the inspiring and great teachers on prayer is Saint Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894). A persistent theme in his writing was the task of developing an interior life of continuous prayer, learning to “pray without ceasing,” as the Apostle Paul teaches (I Thessalonians 5: 17).

He wrote: “Prayer is the test of everything; prayer is also the source of everything; prayer is the driving force of everything; prayer is also the director of everything. If prayer is right, everything is right. For prayer will not allow anything to go wrong.”

Priestly ministry calls on us to live on the boundary between earth and heaven, to be at home in both worlds, to be able to speak of each in and to the other.

But how do we ensure that we have an interior life of continuous prayer that is the driving force for everything in ministerial life?

Prayer at the heart of ministry

Some advice that may help people in ordained ministry who find that their commitment to prayer is becoming difficult would include the following: do not worry, slow down, be disciplined, keep priorities in focus, do not get too upset or worried about techniques of prayer, do not try to be perfect.

Do not worry?

You know the saying, “It could happen to a bishop.” Bishop Alan Abernathy has conceded: “I must say that I still find prayer very difficult. There are days when I cannot pray. There are days when I do not want to pray. There are days when I wonder if am living a lie” (Fulfilment & Frustration, p. 120).

When you face difficulties, remember that you are not alone. Everyone in ministry has these feelings at different times. Indeed, everyone has these difficulties.

Slow down?

Kenneth Leech has written: “There is no need to rush around feverishly looking for a prayer life: we need to slow down and look deeply within. What is the point of complaining that God is absent if it is we who are absent from God, and from ourselves, by our lack of awareness … At heart, prayer is a process of self-giving and of being set free from isolation. To pray is to enter into a relationship with God and to be transformed by him” (Kenneth Leech, True Prayer).

Be disciplined?

In the canon law of the Church of England, Canon C26 reminds all clergy – bishops, priests and deacons – of our call to and duty of daily prayer: “Every bishop, priest, and deacon is under obligation, not being let by sickness or some other urgent cause, to say daily the Morning and Evening Prayer, either privately or openly; and to celebrate the Holy Communion, or be present thereat, on all Sundays and other principal Feast Days. He is also to be diligent in daily prayer and intercession, in examination of his conscience, and in the study of the Holy Scriptures and such other studies as pertain to his ministerial duties.”

This is not a canonical requirement for us in the Church of Ireland. But it is a good and useful, tested discipline.

Keep priorities in focus?

You will be under pressure to do, rather than be. Being a priest is much more important than doing the things that people think we should do as priests. We are ordained to be ministers of word and sacrament and to be people of service and prayer. But you will constantly under pressure to do things – under pressure from parishioners, from other clergy, even from your bishop do so many things that you were not ordained for. At times, that pressure may be so great that you are finding there are unacceptable pressures on your prayer life and the time you give to prayer.

That pressure was recognised over 60 years ago by Evelyn Underhill when she wrote: “We are drifting towards a religion which … keeps its eye on humanity rather than Deity, which lays all the stress on service, and hardly any of the stress on awe: and that is a type of religion which in practice does not wear well. It does little for the soul in those awful moments when the pain and mystery of life are most deeply felt. It does not provide a place for that profound experience which Tauller called ‘suffering in God’. It does not lead to sanctity, and sanctity after all is the religious goal.” (Evelyn Underhill, Concerning the Inner Life with The House of the Soul, p. 4).

Do not get upset about techniques of prayer?

Almost 100 years ago, the great pioneering spiritual director, Somerset Ward (1881-1962), warned: “It is a common reason for failure in prayer, that we are more aware of the subject of our prayer rather than its object; we are apt to think more of what we shall pray for than of how we shall pray” (Somerset Ward, To Jerusalem, p. 111).

There may be times when the words of the Daily Office, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, pass you by and you cannot find words for prayer. But your presence is prayer itself. There may be times when the words and actions of the Eucharist or Holy Communion pass you by. But you can be assured that you are caught up in the timeless prayer of the Church, present with all the saints, and the angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven.

Do not try to be perfect?

Because of the images and expectations that people will project onto you, it becomes easy to forget that we are called not be priests who are perfect, in perfect places and parishes. No. We are called to be priests and people of prayer as we are, in the lives we live today. Learning to deal with and to dismiss unnecessary guilt is an important discipline in the priestly life.

Do you remember how Eli upbraided Hannah for her apparently unseemly behaviour as she prayed in the Temple? He accused her of being drunk and making a spectacle of herself. But she replied bluntly: “I have been pouring out my soul to the Lord,” or, as the Jerusalem Bible translates that verse: “I have been speaking to God from the depth of my grief and resentment” (I Samuel 1: 16).

We do not need to feel holy as we pray, or to worry whether others will regard us holy as we pray. God meets us where we are, not where we think we should be, where we are pretending to be, or where others think we should be.

Conclusions

You may find devising a rule of prayer is helpful. You may, perhaps, want to consult a spiritual director about this. But I repeat, in the words of Saint Theophan the Recluse: “Remember, all of this is a guide. The heart of the matter is: Stand with reverence before God, with the mind in the heart, and strive toward Him with longing.”

Whatever you do, do not worry, slow down, be disciplined, keep priorities in focus, do not get too upset or worried about techniques of prayer, do not try to be perfect.

Additional reading

Abernathy, Alan, Fulfilment & Frustration: Ministry in today’s Church (Dublin: Columba, 2002).
Bloom, Anthony, Practical Prayer (Ben Lomond CA: Conciliar Press, 1989).
Bloom, Anthony, and LeFebvre, Georges, Courage to Pray (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1973).
Christou, Sotirios, The Priest & the People of God (Cambridge, Burlington Press, 2003).
Leech, Kenneth, True Prayer (London: Sheldon Press, 1980).
Quoist, Michael, Prayers of Life (Dublin: Gill and Sons, 1963).
Redfern, Alistair, Ministry and Priesthood (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1999).
Underhill, Evelyn, Concerning the Inner Life with The House of the Soul (London: Methuen, 1947).
Ward, R. Somerset, To Jerusalem (ed. Susan Howatch, London: Mowbray, 1994).
Williams, Rowan, A Ray of Darkness: Sermons and Reflections (Cambridge MA: Cowley, 1995).

Additional posting:

Liturgy 9.3: Rites of passage, e.g., Baptisms, Marriages, Funerals.

Next week:

10: Visit to Synagogue and Museum.

Reminder: Essays.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is based on notes prepared for a contribution to a seminar on 5 December 2011 in the Module EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.

Liturgy 9.1: The whole people of God, ordination, gender and ministry

The whole people of God symbolised in the figures on the West Front of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Patrick Comerford

EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 14:00 to 16:00, Mondays, Hartin Room:

Liturgy 9.1: 5 December 2011

This week:

9.1:
The ‘theology of the whole people of God’; the theology and rites of ordination; gender and ministry.

9.2: Seminar: Spirituality of ministry; readings on the minister as person, private, public and holy.

9.1: Theology of the whole people of God; the theology and rites of ordination; gender and ministry.

This afternoon, we are going to look at ordained ministry within the context of the ministry of the whole people of God, and then look at the rites of ordination, and some contemporary questions about ordination, including gender and sexuality.

Introductory readings:

The saints coming before the Lamb on the Throne (from the Ghent Altarpiece) ... there are varieties of services, but the same Lord

I Corinthians 12: 4-31:

4 Διαιρέσεις δὲ χαρισμάτων εἰσίν, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα: 5 καὶ διαιρέσεις διακονιῶν εἰσιν, καὶ ὁ αὐτὸς κύριος: 6 καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεός, ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. 7 ἑκάστῳ δὲ δίδοται ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον. 8 ᾧ μὲν γὰρ διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος δίδοται λόγος σοφίας, ἄλλῳ δὲ λόγος γνώσεως κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, 9 ἑτέρῳ πίστις ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ πνεύματι, ἄλλῳ δὲ χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων ἐν τῷ ἑνὶ πνεύματι, 10 ἄλλῳ δὲ ἐνεργήματα δυνάμεων, ἄλλῳ [δὲ] προφητεία, ἄλλῳ [δὲ] διακρίσεις πνευμάτων, ἑτέρῳ γένη γλωσσῶν, ἄλλῳ δὲ ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν: 11 πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ἐνεργεῖ τὸ ἓν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, διαιροῦν ἰδίᾳ ἑκάστῳ καθὼς βούλεται.

12 Καθάπερ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα ἕν ἐστιν καὶ μέλη πολλὰ ἔχει, πάντα δὲ τὰ μέλη τοῦ σώματος πολλὰ ὄντα ἕν ἐστιν σῶμα, οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστός: 13 καὶ γὰρ ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι ἡμεῖς πάντες εἰς ἓν σῶμα ἐβαπτίσθημεν, εἴτε Ἰουδαῖοι εἴτε Ελληνες, εἴτε δοῦλοι εἴτε ἐλεύθεροι, καὶ πάντες ἓν πνεῦμα ἐποτίσθημεν.

14 καὶ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα οὐκ ἔστιν ἓν μέλος ἀλλὰ πολλά. 15 ἐὰν εἴπῃ ὁ πούς, Οτι οὐκ εἰμὶ χείρ, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος: 16 καὶ ἐὰν εἴπῃ τὸ οὖς, Οτι οὐκ εἰμὶ ὀφθαλμός, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος: 17 εἰ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα ὀφθαλμός, ποῦ ἡ ἀκοή; εἰ ὅλον ἀκοή, ποῦ ἡ ὄσφρησις; 18 νυνὶ δὲ ὁ θεὸς ἔθετο τὰ μέλη, ἓν ἕκαστον αὐτῶν, ἐν τῷ σώματι καθὼς ἠθέλησεν. 19 εἰ δὲ ἦν τὰ πάντα ἓν μέλος, ποῦ τὸ σῶμα; 20 νῦν δὲ πολλὰ μὲν μέλη, ἓν δὲ σῶμα. 21 οὐ δύναται δὲ ὁ ὀφθαλμὸς εἰπεῖν τῇ χειρί, Χρείαν σου οὐκ ἔχω, ἢ πάλιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῖς ποσίν, Χρείαν ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔχω: 22 ἀλλὰ πολλῷ μᾶλλον τὰ δοκοῦντα μέλη τοῦ σώματος ἀσθενέστερα ὑπάρχειν ἀναγκαῖά ἐστιν, 23 καὶ ἃ δοκοῦμεν ἀτιμότερα εἶναι τοῦ σώματος, τούτοις τιμὴν περισσοτέραν περιτίθεμεν, καὶ τὰ ἀσχήμονα ἡμῶν εὐσχημοσύνην περισσοτέραν ἔχει, 24 τὰ δὲ εὐσχήμονα ἡμῶν οὐ χρείαν ἔχει. ἀλλὰ ὁ θεὸς συνεκέρασεν τὸ σῶμα, τῷ ὑστερουμένῳ περισσοτέραν δοὺς τιμήν, 25 ἵνα μὴ ᾖ σχίσμα ἐν τῷ σώματι, ἀλλὰ τὸ αὐτὸ ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων μεριμνῶσιν τὰ μέλη. 26 καὶ εἴτε πάσχει ἓν μέλος, συμπάσχει πάντα τὰ μέλη: εἴτε δοξάζεται [ἓν] μέλος, συγχαίρει πάντα τὰ μέλη.

27 Ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε σῶμα Χριστοῦ καὶ μέλη ἐκ μέρους. 28 καὶ οὓς μὲν ἔθετο ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρῶτον ἀποστόλους, δεύτερον προφήτας, τρίτον διδασκάλους, ἔπειτα δυνάμεις, ἔπειτα χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων, ἀντιλήμψεις, κυβερνήσεις, γένη γλωσσῶν. 29 μὴ πάντες ἀπόστολοι; μὴ πάντες προφῆται; μὴ πάντες διδάσκαλοι; μὴ πάντες δυνάμεις; 30 μὴ πάντες χαρίσματα ἔχουσιν ἰαμάτων; μὴ πάντες γλώσσαις λαλοῦσιν; μὴ πάντες διερμηνεύουσιν; 31 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα. Καὶ ἔτι καθ' ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Ephesians 4: 11-13:

11 καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους, 12 πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων εἰς ἔργον διακονίας, εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 13 μέχρι καταντήσωμεν οἱ πάντες εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα τῆς πίστεως καὶ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον, εἰς μέτρον ἡλικίας τοῦ πληρώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

Metropolitan John Zizioulas ... seminal work on the theology of the whole People of God

(1) The ‘theology of the whole people of God’

Among the whole People of God, we all have gifts, gifts that are at the service of the Body of Christ.

The Greek Orthodox theologian, Metropolitan John Zizioulas, more than any other has influenced both Catholic and Protestant understandings of the Church in recent decades, and has dynamically contributed to, and is reflected in, the thinking of many theologians on this topic, including Jürgen Moltmann, David Bosch and George Guiver.

In his exploration of the post-modern ecumenical missionary paradigm in Transforming Mission, David Bosch examines Mission as:

● the church-with-others;
Missio Dei;
● mediating Salvation;
● the Quest for Justice;
● Evangelism;
● Contextualisation;
● Liberation;
● Inculturation;
● Common Witness;
● Ministry by the Whole People of God;
● Witness to People of Other Living Faiths;
● Theology;
● Action in Hope.

When we do not take account of the Ministry by the Whole People of God, how are we failing in our ministry, and in the liturgy of the Church?

Too often, I fear, when we involve people in the Liturgy of the Church, we – and they – often see it as lay people giving the rector a “dig-out.” We dispense roles for them to play, roles that are often token roles. We write the intercessions for them; we “let” them do a reading, we ask them to organise the children’s story and songs; we sometimes “allow” them to assist with distributing the Holy Communion. And, sometimes, when we try to find meaningful roles for them in the Liturgy, we dress them up in cassock, surplice, and blue scarf, and try to clericalise them.

It may be a move forward from confining them to sitting, standing, kneeling, singing hymns and saying “Amen.” But it’s a long way from recognising that the Liturgy is – as its name constantly reminds us – the work of the whole People of God.

They are not helping us out. It is their work. We are there to ensure it happens. But without them, quite frankly, it does not happen.

There are no private Masses, there are no private Baptisms. Each Baptism and each Eucharist is a sacramental incorporation into the Body of Christ. It is a plural, collective moment. And the role of all clergy – bishops, priests and deacons – is to act as “liturgical midwives” for the Whole People of God.

We are there to help them, not the other way around. We are there to help and to do our best to ensure that the whole People of God are in communion with God and with one another, worship God, come into the presence of God in Word and Sacrament, and are sent out into the world as the People of God commissioned and empowered for God’s mission in the world.

Pentecost (El Greco) … ‘the same Spirit … allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses’

Metropolitan John Zizioulas, in particular, points out in his Being as Communion that a careful study of I Corinthians 12 shows that for the Apostle Paul the Body of Christ is composed of the charismata of the Spirit, which pertain to the charisma or membership of the body.

Drawing on Scriptural and Patristic studies, he speaks of the People of God as an order of the Church that is constituted by virtue of the rite of initiation (Baptism-Chrismation).

The People of God is an order of the Church, gathered with the bishop, priests and deacons, and the sine qua non condition for the Eucharistic community to exist and to express the unity of the Church.

The Eucharist is offered to God in the name of the Church, and brings the whole Body of Christ up to the throne of God. There is no ministry in the Church other than Christ’s ministry

The early Church prohibited any ordination that was not to a specific community (Canon 6, Council of Chalcedon). Without a community there can be no ministry to exercise. The community possesses and transmits the charismatic life.

There is no such thing as a “non-ordained” member of the Church. Christian initiation, in Baptism and Confirmation (Chrismation) is essentially an ordination and it helps us to find an understanding of what ordination means. The baptised person becomes not simply a Christian, but a member of a particular ordo in the Christian community.

And so, for Metropolitan John Zizioulas, the specific ministries of the Church are:

1, The Laity;
2, The deacons;
3, The presbyters;
4, The bishop

Their ministries, properly exercised, relate the Church to the World.

No ordained person exercises his or her ordo in himself or herself, but in the community.

One of my favourite comedy sketches has Marty Feldman and Tim Brook-Taylor on a train. Marty Feldman is fully robed episcopally, in a cope and mitre and carrying a crozier. One of the passengers in the carriage, Tim Brooke-Taylor, challenges him, and asks where his diocese is.



An exasperated Marty Feldman eventually claims he is the bishop of this train, a bishop of no fixed abode, the Cheltenham Express, before storming out on his own.

At least Marty Feldman tried to get them singing a hymn, and took up a collection. But there is no ministry and there is no liturgy without the whole People of God.

Laos means the whole people of God, the word liturgy means essentially the work of the people, and so all our liturgical language is phrased in terms of the worship and work of the whole People of God:

“We being many are one body,
for we all share in the one bread.”

– (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 218).

Here we are as a people who have been gathered together, liturgically, to present ourselves before God, and to receive Christ in Word and Sacrament.

We are not present as a collection of individual people who have been baptised and who happen to be in the same place at the same time. We are gathered together as the Church, the Body of Christ, to hear the Word of God, to ask for judgment and mercy and to receives them, to sing and it pray to God as part of the communion of God, to be in Communion with God and with one another, to say Amen to the Body of Christ, present in sacrament and in the gathered Church, and to be blessed and sent out in peace to love and serve the Lord.

When we come together, we are brought into the unbroken time of God. One Sunday’s liturgy is not really separated from the next Sunday’s liturgy by six weekdays. Secular time does not divide what the Spirit holds together.

We share the one bread and one cup know that God comes to humanity in Christ; that God has anointed Christ with humanity and he has crowned humanity with Christ. Humanity is with God, and God is with humanity.

Just as the whole glory of God was poured into the single body of Christ, that same glory of Christ is very slowly poured into us, the unlikely body of those gathered in the Liturgy. But just as the head has been raised, so the whole people will be raised, and the community of faith gathered in the Liturgy is already the anticipation and the pledge of the resurrection.

The Adoration of the Lamb on the Throne ... the main panel in the Ghent Altarpiece

In this season of Advent, in particular, we can say with true, faithful emphasis: “We look for his coming in great glory.” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 221).

And when he comes, all humanity will arrive with him.

“Holy, holy, holy.”

We are being called into a great company. Just how huge this company is, is something to occupy us for time without limit.

The whole world is invited to be part of this great assembly ... both to watch and take delight in the world but also to take part in his work

The whole world is invited to be part of this great assembly and both to watch and to take delight in the world, but also to take part in God’s work. Before us, the Lord reconciles the apparently irreconcilable, and brings all things into communion so that they become willing, ready for each other and – finally also – beautiful.

In Christ, each of us is joined to every other. The Church is the companionship of God making itself tangible and corporal in the here and now.

We become his holy people. We now take part in this prayer, and so we are able to pass the whole world back to God who will redeem it and renew it for us. This is the reason why we say:

“And so with all your people,
with angels and archangels,
and with all the company of heaven,
we proclaim his great and glorious name ...”

– (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 209; c.f. pp 214, 217).

The three forms of Holy Communion in Holy Communion 2 conclude with the Post-Communion Prayer that ends with the words:

“Send us out in the power of your Spirit
to live and work to your praise and glory. Amen.”

– (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 221).

A cathedral liturgical procession ... the whole People of God, commissioned for ministry, streams out into the world in every direction

As the liturgical procession moves down and out, we then, as the People of God, stream away in all directions, into every corner of the world. We are a people on the move, a pilgrim people, in many ways still becoming what we are to be, being led by our Lord, being led to God.

We come from Christ and we return to him. He sends us out to take his service into the world. And he calls us back. We are always on the way out and on the way back. Our service and witness is only good as long as we regularly come back and are refreshed and renewed.

As I go out, I take the whole service of Christ with me, hopefully, wherever I go, as a valued and valuable part of the whole company of saints, bound to one another and to the one Father in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit holds us together across all distances: space and time can never divide us.

“Send us out in the power of your Spirit
to live and work to your praise and glory. Amen.”

– (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 221).

The dismissal is our commission for mission. We are sent out together in mission, a mission to live and work to God’s praise and glory, Amen. We are the envoys and the apostles of Jesus Christ. We must speak to all in the person of Christ, we must exercise his mercy, judging for ourselves where to speak gentle words and where to speak hard words.

The calling and vocation to lay ministry is not an appendix to the doctrine of the Church. It is an organic, integral insight into the Church’s understanding and explanation of itself.

Stanley Spencer, The Resurrection, Cookham (1923-1927) ... The calling and vocation to lay ministry is not an appendix to the doctrine of the Church

Baptism is the ordination to ministry of the Whole People of God and it gives equal dignity to all members of the Church, both clerical and lay. Here laos is the primary and defining concept. The People of God are called to be the Church together in its mission and ministry.

The laos is the model within which all other ministries are defined and practised, not as a function in relationship to an institution, but in relation to God’s saving and creative activity in the world into which the whole people of God are called.

If God’s mission is to reveal his love for the whole world, and if the Church is a function of that mission, then the ministry of the laity is crucial.

The Church must own the vocation to be lay as part of a total ecclesiology, but also without a high degree of definition by the institutional church. This does not mean that they are unchurchly, but they enter into life where the visible and organised church offers little or no help. Being a lay Christian is a calling, perhaps the most serious calling of all, because the lay person’s prime responsibility is to find ways of living positively for God in the real world.

In the past, the Church has emphasised those lay ministries that are capable of being organised, controlled or accredited by the institution. In doing this, the Church fails to acknowledge, recognise and nurture the ministry of the People of God in the world. It belongs to the laos to build up the Kingdom of God in unchurchly ways. The church must set them free to do this, inspiring and nurturing them in this task without directing or controlling it. The dispersion of the laity is the prime means by which the Church enters the world.

Additional reading:

David Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts on Theology of Mission (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1991).

Sotirios Christou, The Priest & the People of God, A Royal Priesthood (Cambridge: Phoenix Books, 2003).

George Guiver (ed), Priests in a People’s Church (London: SPCK, 2001).

Jurgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit (New York: Harper and Row, 1977; London: SCM Press, 1992).

John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1985).

(2) The theology and rites of ordination:

Archbishop Michael Jackson (left) and Dean Dermot Dunne (right) with six deacons at their ordination in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, earlier this year: Revd Sarah Marry, Revd John Godfrey, Revd Jim Wallace, Revd Nicola Halford, Revd Yvonne Ginnelly and Revd Martin O’Connor

In the Church of Ireland, we declare both in the Preamble and Declaration [see The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 776-777], and in the Ordinal [see pp 518, 551, 563] that we maintain the historic, apostolic orders of bishop, priest and deacon in the Church, as we have received them … and that we intend to maintain these orders “inviolate.”

The new ordinal, which was not introduced in the Church of Ireland until this century, was heavily influenced by the work of the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation, which included Dean Brian Mayne and Bishop Harold Miller.

To Equip the Saints ... the Berkeley statement of the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation in 2001

In its report, To Equip the Saints (2001), the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation charted a number of key principles:

1, The Ministry of the Whole People of God:

“Through the Holy Spirit, God baptises us into the life and ministry of Christ and forms us into the laos, the people of God … This is the ecclesia, the Church, the new community called into being by God.”

In other words, Baptism is the starting point of ministry. Every person who is in Christ has a ministry, and it is within this context of this wider ministry of the whole Church that the specific ministries of bishop, priest and deacon find their place. The report continues:

“understanding baptism as the foundation of the life and ministry of the Church … leads us to see the ordained ministers as integral members of the Body of Christ, called by God and discerned by the body to be signs and animators of Christ’s self-giving life and ministry to which all people are called by God and for which we are empowered by the Spirit.”

2, The distinctive ministries of deacon, priest and bishop:

Ordination services for these orders should not take place at the same time, as this confuses their role.

How do we move away from seeing the diaconate only as preparation for priesthood?

How and when do we allow bishops to return to their priestly ministry?

Where do we place and affirm the ministry of the laity?

3, In addition, the findings raise questions about sequential and direct ordination.

These are appropriate and apposite questions, as all three ministries are exercised within the context of the full ministry of the whole People of God, the community of the Baptised. Salvation is not merely an individual matter; it is about the whole people of God. And so too with the liturgy.

The Ordinal and the theology of ordination:

Priests are called to be servants and shepherds among the people, to proclaim the Word of God, to call to repentance and to pronounce absolution, to baptise, to catechise, to preside at the Holy Communion, to lead God’s people in prayer, to intercede for them, bless them, to teach and encourage them, to minister to the sick, to prepare the dying for their death, caring for people “and joining with them in a common witness, that the world may come to know God’s glory and love.” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 565.)

Or, as the Ordinal traditionally said, we are “to be messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 532.)

It’s never about me; it’s always about us, about us and them.

And we are reminded about that at the end of the ordination service, with the final charge from the bishop:

“Remember always with thanksgiving
that the treasure now entrusted to you is Christ’s own flock,
bought through the shedding of his blood on the cross.
The Church and the congregation among whom you will minister
are one with him; they are his body.
Go forth to serve them with joy,
build them up with faith,
and do all in your power to bring them to loving obedience to Christ.”

– (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 573).

Compare this with the traditional warning that was included with this charge in the Ordinal: “And if it shall happen the same Church, or any member thereof, to take any hurt or hindrance by reason of your negligence, ye know the greatness of the fault, and also the horrible punishment that will ensue” (see The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 532).

Outline of the Ordination Services (2), The Book of Common Prayer (2004):

Let us look at the Ordinal [see The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 517-590].

I suppose it is appropriate that these are the last liturgies in the Book of Common Prayer, for they are at the service of all other ministries and all our other liturgy.

1, The Gathering of God’s People:

Entry (hymn, canticle or psalm);
Greeting;
Introduction.

Presentation of candidate(s);
Question to candidate(s) about call to ministry.

Silence;
Collect.

2, Proclaiming and Receiving the Word:

First Reading;
Psalm;
Second Reading;
(Canticle, hymn or anthem);
Gospel.

Sermon.

Nicene Creed.

3, The Rite of Ordination:

(At the ordination of bishops, the Presentation);
The Charge;
The Declarations;
The Affirmation of the People.

A call to prayer;
An Ordination Litany;
Silence;
Hymn invoking the Holy Spirit (Veni Creator for priests and bishops);
Ordination prayer, with the laying on of hands.

(Vesting);
The Giving of the Bible;
The welcome, greeting or presentation to the people;

The Peace.

4, Celebrating at the Lord’s Table:

5, Going out as God’s People:

The Great Silence;
(Hymn);
Post-Communion Prayers;
(At the ordination of bishops, giving of the pastoral staff);
Dismissal;
The newly-ordained depart for ministry.

[Discussion]

Additional reading:

Christopher Cocksworth and Rosalind Brown, Being a Priest Today, Exploring priestly identity ( Nowich Canterbury Press, 2002, 2nd ed 2006).

Sotirios Christou, The Priest & the People of God, A Royal Priesthood (Cambridge: Phoenix Books, 2003).

Malcolm Grundy, What they don’t teach you at theological college (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003).

George Guiver (ed), Priests in a People’s Church (London: SPCK, 2001).

Eric James (ed), Stewards of the Mysteries of God (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1979).

Daniel J. O’Leary, New Hearts for New Models, a Spirituality for Priests (Dublin: Columba, 1997).

Michael Ramsey, The Christian Priest Today (London: SPCK, 1992 ed).

Alastair Redfern, Ministry and Priesthood (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1999).

Samuel Wells and Sarah Coakley, Priestly Presence in Contemporary Culture (London: Continuum, 2008).

(3) Gender and ministry

A protest calling for the ordination of women as bishops in the Church of England

If Baptism/Confirmation are foundational for ministry in the Church, who may/may not be ordained as deacon, priest or bishop?

[Discussion:]

Additional reading:

Lavinia Byrne, Woman at the Altar (London: Mowbray, 1994).

Elizabeth Canham, Pilgrimage to Priesthood (London: SPCK, 1983).

Susan Dowell and Jane Williams, Bread, Wine and Women (London: Virago, 1994).

Monica Furlong (ed), Feminine in the Church (London: SPCK, 1984).

Margaret Webster, A New Strength, a New Song, The Journey to Women’s Priesthood (London: Mowbray, 1994).

Next:

9.2: Seminar: Spirituality of ministry; readings on the minister as person, private, public and holy.

Selected readings

Next week:

10: Visit to Synagogue and Museum.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is based on notes prepared for a lecture on 5 December 2011 in the Module EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.