12 October 2013

Discerning Vocation in the Catholic Tradition

Being and doing: Socratic wisdom on sale in the Plaka in Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Affirming Catholicism Ireland

Annual Seminar,

Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

Saturday 12 October 2013

Discerning Vocation in the Catholic Tradition

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. – (I Peter 2: 4-5, 9)


In the past, there has been a conflict between the different and polarised perspectives of priestly ministry – whether we emphasised being or doing.

And the emphasis at each end of the spectrum determined how we discerned vocation and how we trained people for ordained ministry.

One of my favourite T-shirts, which I saw in the Plaka in Athens, says: “To do is to be, Socrates. To be is to do, Plato. Do-be-do-be-do, Sinatra.”

Making our priority in vocation and ministry one that puts its emphasis on being rather than doing, may have been characteristic of the Catholic approach to vocation and its discernment within the Catholic tradition of Anglicans. Emphasis role and function, and therefore doing, might have been more common among Evangelicals.

But I disagree. Emphasising being rather than doing is getting back to discerning what we should be as priests and in terms of our spiritual lives, spiritual priorities, spiritual values, our spirituality. Yet both emphases must be present in discerning vocation and training for ordination, and we must seek to keep them together, not in tension but in creative tension, from Selection Conferences, through the programme here at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and that must continue long after ordination, for as long as people are in ordained ministry, as deacons, priests and bishops.

It is fifty years next February since the former Divinity Hostel moved in these, giving us a half century here of uninterrupted engagement in discerning vocation and training people for the ministry.

Over those fifty years, there has been both continuity and change, and change has demanded and created many new approaches.

No longer do eager undergraduates sit by a cosy fireside in the Divinity Hostel, discussing an eclectic reading list.

No longer are potential ordinands expected to spend their undergraduate years learning Syriac, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek at the feet of Professors such as RM Gwynn, Eric Woodhouse and Jacob Weingreen, preparing for the old GOE, the “Div Test”, a Diploma or an add-on course, or even during for a four-year moderatorship in Hebrew and Philosophy (then known as Mental and Moral Sciences).

Training has changed. The Divinity Hostel became the Church of Ireland Theological College and is now the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. The Diploma was upgraded to a BTh degree, and most students today or on an MTh programme.

Times have change here. But so too has the world, and so too have the expectations and demands of the world and the church changed.

We once expected ordinands to learn theory here. Theological principles about doctrine and liturgy, and Biblical studies and languages formed the core subjects, and they were expected to learn the practice, to engage in praxis, on the ground, partly through placements but more especially during three years of a first curacy.

Sometimes their spiritual formation, growth and development was a consideration that often feel between the cracks in the floorboards, so they left with the same spirituality they had when they were first selected. This led to a cul de sac: there was no possibility of growth when there was no openness to the spirituality of other ordinands.

There were two or three years of theory in prayer and liturgy, but little or no attention was paid to spiritual formation.

But things have changed in the curriculum here. At one time, once you came in here, although in principle you were selected for training, it was more or less accepted that you were going to be ordained … and almost exclusively for a parish where you shared the spiritual exclusivity of the rector.

Throughout those two or three years, little attention was paid to continuing vocational discernment. Your family, friends and neighbours thought you had “gone into the Church” and it was all more-or-less decided from then on.

But vocational discernment must be a continuing process, not just for students, but for deacon, priests and bishops too.

The House of Bishops has identified eleven key characteristics which form the primary filter through which the institute seeks to deliver all we do here:

● Spirituality,
● Theological reflection,
● Pastoral care,
● Vision,
● Leadership,
● Worship and Preaching,
● Worship and Liturgy,
● Communicating the Faith,
● Management and Change,
● Administration,
● Vocation.

And that is reflected here, beginning with Spirituality and ending with Vocation.

How do we reflect the eleven key characteristics in the process of discerning vocation at CITI? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

How do we reflect that here?

Starters and openers are often indications of how things are going to unfold. We know from the start of a play, with the mood created by the lighting, the sets, the props and the curtain openings, whether we are attending a comedy or a tragedy; the music at the beginning of a movie or a television drama, the music, even the titles, should tell you what to expect.

And so it is the same here with beginnings. Each week here begins with a ‘Spirituality’ hour in the chapel on Monday mornings. Within the chapel setting of prayer and worship, this semester [Semester I, 2013-2014] includes presentations on Anglican, Catholic, Celtic and Advent spirituality, for example, and next semester we shall look at Evangelical, Jewish and Old Testament spirituality and the Jesus Prayer. With the full-time students, while the part-time students will engage with topics such as Benedictine, Puritan and Wesleyan Spirituality, the Spirituality of the Psalms and Cinema, and the Spiritual Disciplines.

So, Spiritual Formation for ministry is at the heart of what we are doing here, and that new emphasis on a rounded, balanced and holistic spirituality is symbolised in how we start the week, how we expect students to prioritise and balance a life of work, study and prayer, and how we expect them to continue in a process of discerning their vocations.

Maurice Elliot, in an interview in the Church of Ireland Gazette last week [4 October 2013] spoke of how “We enjoy a superbly rich community prayer life in chapel and worship is as ever grounded in the spirituality of The Book of Common Prayer.”

We emphasise the importance of ordinands noting their own feelings and reactions as they journey together on this course, to note their prayer life, and while maintaining confidences, to feel open and free about sharing their observations.

Spirituality is distinct from “prayer.” I can describe prayer as making myself available to God for some sense of communication or communion, either as individual or as part of a wider group, such as a Sunday morning congregation, as a group of students and staff in chapel, in a prayer group or in a tutorial group.

On the other hand, spirituality is concerned with how my spirit makes this communion. It is concerned with my “disposition” of spirit in our relation with God. For example, I might want to communicate with God by my art – that is a question of prayer style. How I make that communication through my art – for example, do I seek the God in the world around me or use my art to transcend what I see about me? – is a question of spirituality, and as such feeds into the process of vocational discernment.

Styles of Spirituality

Spirituality types, based on the work of Corinne Ware and Urban Holmes

Obviously there is a wealth of spirituality available with which many people have never experimented, either through ignorance or hesitation in trying something that is seen as “different,” belonging exclusively to other traditions. For students are not being prepared for ordination within their own tradition, but for priestly ministry in the whole Church of Ireland, indeed priestly ministry in the whole Church of God.

Developing an understanding and a greater appreciation of my own personal spirituality is essential in helping me to appreciate and accept other people’s spirituality. Too often we can fall victim to the mentality that “what is different” must be “wrong.” We all have a unique relationship with our God, and each person is called to journey with God in a way that is unique and particular to that person.

Unless we seek to develop a spirituality that is appropriate for ordained ministry, unless we are in touch with changes in that personal spirituality, how can we help others to get in touch with their spirituality and to grow and to be aware of the opportunities for growth, for change, and for deepening their own spiritual lives?

But we also need to be aware of the need to develop a spirituality that is appropriate for our new roles in life. The particular spirituality appropriate to a banker or a farmer is not necessarily appropriate to the priest or the person in ordained ministry.

Archbishop Rowan Williams has rightly observed: “There is no one way of being a priest.” Each parish and each context is different and unique, and each person, each person’s story, is different and unique. As part of the process of formation for ordination, the process of discernment and formation, each of us needs to be aware of:

● The need to find time for personal prayer, study, and silence;
● The need to find time for recreation, family and hobbies;
● The need to find time for holidays and retreat (and to know the difference);
● The need to find time for cultural development;
● The need to realise the changes within.

And we need to know – as one bishop succinctly put it to me – the difference between: “The Law of Supply and Demand” and “The Law of Demand and Supply.”

Supply and Demand, Being and Doing

The traditional expectations of ministry include: Prayer, Study, and Work. But too often those in ordained ministry find that people expect us to do – to be able to do everything, to do everything, and to do it when they expect it, whether or not those expectations relate to what we have been ordained for.

If you fail to prepare and plan for your spiritual life in ministry, as priests, if you don’t plan nurture it, grow it, and rejoice in its unfolding and development, you will too easily forget what we are ordained to supply and encourage others to demand it, and instead end up responding to the demands of others and supplying those demands.

Sotirios Christou, an Anglican priest in Cambridge, in his book, The priest and the people of God: A royal priesthood, neatly summarises three images of priestly formation.

First, he describes the Trinitarian images of priestly formation as involving:

1, The Image of Grace;
2, The Image of Knowing Christ;
3, The Image of Knowing the Spirit;
4, the Image of Trinitarian Qualities;
5, the Image of Reconciliation; and
6, the Image of Prayer.

Secondly, he points out the traditional images of priestly formation, involve these (and they are words that are heard at the ordination to the priesthood):

1, Steward;
2, Watchman;
3, Messenger;
4, Shepherd;
5, Mother/Father.

And thirdly, Father Christou lists eleven Biblical images central to priestly formation:

1, Pioneer of Faith;
2, Builder;
3, Navigator;
4, Freedom Fighter;
5, Evangelist;
6, Holiness;
7, Worshipper;
8, Offering sacrifices;
9, Suffering;
10, Servant; and
11, Prophet.

Being and doing: back to my favourite T-shirt in Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

You can see the emphasis on being rather than doing. Which brings us back to that T-shirt I saw in Athens: “To do is to be, Socrates. To be is to do, Plato. Do-be-do-be-do, Sinatra.” Emphasising being rather than doing at times allows us to get back to discerning what we should be as deacons, priests andbishops, in terms of our spiritual lives, spiritual priorities, spiritual values, our spirituality.

Christopher Cocksworth (right, former Principal of Ridley Hall and Bishop of Coventry since 2008) and Rosalind Brown (below, Canon of Durham Cathedral), in their book, Being a Priest Today: Exploring priestly identity, provide some useful categories for thinking about the root, shape and fruit of the “Priestly Life.”

Firstly, the Root of Priestly Life is found in:

1, Being Called;
2, Being for the Other;
3, Being for God.

Secondly, the Shape of Priestly Life is found in:

4, Being for Worship;
5, Being for the Word;
6, Being for Prayer.

Thirdly, the Fruit of Priestly Life is found in:

7, Being for Holiness;
8, Being for Reconciliation;
9, Being for Blessing;
10, Being Sent.

That emphasis on prayer, worship, holiness and blessing was also at the heart of Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s understanding of priesthood and spirituality. In his seminal book, The Christian Priest, he summarised the definition of the priest as:

1, Teacher, Preacher, the person of Theology;
2, The minister of reconciliation;
3, The person of prayer;
4, The person of the Eucharist; and:
5, The Absolver.

And so, these characteristics for priestly ministry, however you list them, however you prioritise them eventually begin to converge. And part of the new approach here is to seek and discern vocation throughout the three years that students are here, two-years as full-time residential student and one year as intern deacons, before proceeding to ordination as priests.

It is a continuing process that begins rather than finds completion at Selection Conference and setting out on the Foundation Course.

Speaking at the celebrations to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the foundation of Affirming Catholicism, Bishop David Stancliffe, said:

“The essential Catholic faith is this: God in Christ first shares our life; then he transforms it. This pattern of engagement and transformation is what he hands on to his Church to bring about: it’s what we are called to do and how we are called to be. The transformation of our lives, the church and all creation is good news, and … proclaim it joyfully and confidently.”

God does not give any of us a vocation simply to suit ourselves or to be purely self-fulfilling. The nature of a vocation is that it looks outward to the Church and to the world; a true vocation will serve others as well as serving ourselves.

And in that sense, this is what we are trying to do here. The challenge only begins here. The process of vocational discernment that begins here, must continue throughout ministry, among deacons, priests and bishops too, as we seek to follow God’s leadings, not for our own sake but for the sake of Christ who is calling the world through the Church into the Kingdom of God.

Supporting and supplemental reading:

Alan Abernathy, Fulfilment and Frustration – Ministry in Today’s Church (Dublin: Columba Press, 2002).
Anthony Bloom, School for prayer (London: Libra, 1972).
Sotirios Christou, The Priest & the People of God (Cambridge: Phoenix Books, 2003).
Christopher Cocksworth and Rosalind Brown, Being a Priest Today (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2nd edition, 2006).
Andrew Davison, Christian Vocation in General (Oxford: St Stephen’s House, 2009).
T. Edwards, Spiritual director, spiritual companion: guide to tending the soul (New York: Paulist Press, 2001).
George Guiver (ed), Priests in a People’s Church (London: SPCK, 2001).
Mary Loudon Revelations: The Clergy Questioned (London: Penguin, 1995).
Michael Ramsey, The Christian Priest Today (London: SPCK, 1992 edition).
Alastair Redfern, Ministry and Priesthood (London: Darton, Longman and Rodd, 1999).
Philip Sheldrake (ed), The new SCM Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (London: SCM Press, 2005).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. He was speaking at the Annual Seminar of Affirming Catholicism Ireland in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute on 12 October 2013.

Church History (Readers 2012-2014) 5: the formation
of Anglican Churches and the Anglican Communion

Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury since the 13th century, also gives its name to the Lambeth Conference (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford,

Reader Course Day Conference,

Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

12 October 2013

11.30 to 12.30: Church History

The formation of the Anglican Churches in these islands and the development of the Anglican Communion

The compass rose, the symbol of the Anglican Communion, signifying its worldwide membership and decentralised organisation. It is surmounted by a bishop’s mitre, in the centre is the cross of Saint George, and the Greek motto is Ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς, The truth will set you free (John 8: 32). It was designed by Canon Edward Nason West of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York

The present state of the Anglican Communion:

The Anglican Communion is a communion of churches spread across all the inhabited continents, bound together through a number of instruments.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the first of the four “Instruments of Communion” or instruments of unity in the Anglican Communion

Traditionally there have been four instruments of unity, now known as the “Instruments of Communion”:

● The Archbishop of Canterbury, who calls and convenes the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ meetings. He is often referred to as a “focus of unity.”
● The Lambeth Conference, first called in 1867 and now meeting every 10 years – the last meeting was in Canterbury in 2008.
● The Anglican Consultative Council, formed in 1968. Its last meeting, ACC-15, was in Christchurch, New Zealand, from 27 October to 7 November 2012. The Church of Ireland members are the Revd Dr Maurice Elliott (Director of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute) and Mr Wilfred Baker (Cork).
● The Primates’ Meeting, which takes place every two or three years. The last four meetings were in Dromantine, near Newry (2006), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (February 2007), Alexandria, Egypt (February 2009), and the Emmaus Retreat Centre in Swords, Co Dublin (January 2011).

In addition, roles in maintaining Anglican unity are played by:

● The Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council, increasingly being referred to as the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. This is a 14-member group (15, if the Archbishop of Canterbury is present). Seven members are elected by the ACC; five are members of the Primates’ Standing Committee; and the elected Chair and Vice-Chair of the ACC. Its defined function is to assist the Churches of the Anglican Communion in advancing the work of their mission worldwide.
● The secretary of the Anglican Communion Office, at present Canon Ken Kearon from the Church of Ireland.
● The Mothers’ Union.
● The mission agencies, although they have no instrument of unity that holds them together.

The debates aimed at dealing with diversity and tension within the Anglican Communion and on the Anglican Covenant now include discussions about the instruments of communion or unity and the discipline needed to hold together the Anglican Communion and to deal with any breaches of the Covenant should it ever be fully ratified.

Of course, there are major questions about the continuing place within the Anglican Communion of those provinces or dioceses that fail to, or refuse to, sign up for the covenant.

What is the Anglican Communion?

The Anglican Communion, which describes itself as the Anglican/Episcopal family, consists of about 80 million Christians who are members of 44 different churches. It is the third largest communion or international denomination of Christians, following Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Anglican Communion is made up of 34 provinces, four United Churches, and six other churches, spread across the globe.

These include four churches in the Indian sub-continent in which Anglicans merged with other denominations to form new, united churches (Bangladesh, North India, Pakistan and South India). There are four national churches (Spain, Portugal, Sri Lanka and Bermuda), that are still so small that they, along with the small Anglican presence on the Falkland Islands, accept the Archbishop of Canterbury as their Metropolitan.

Ten Anglican churches in the Caribbean, Central and Latin America have special links to the Episcopal Church in the US (TEC). For example, numerically speaking, the Diocese of Haiti is the largest diocese in TEC.

The newest Anglican province is the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Hong Kong and Macao, with three dioceses (Hong Kong Island, Eastern Kowloon, Western Kowloon), and one missionary area (Macao).

Many of the dioceses in these churches are small compared with the dioceses of the Church of Ireland. Others are vast: the Diocese in Europe alone, which is part of the Church of England, stretches from Morocco in North Africa to Vladivostok in Siberian East Asia; the Bishop of Europe, Dr Geoffrey Rowell, who preached in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, a year ago [9 December 2012].

There have been Anglican churches on Continental Europe since the early 17th century, but the Diocese of Europe dates from the establishment of the Diocese of Gibraltar in 1842, and its territorial embrace overlaps with a number of other Anglican churches and dioceses:

Saint George’s Anglican Church in a quiet corner of Salamanca in Madrid (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

● The Convocation of American Churches in Europe, which is part of TEC and has its own bishop, has a cathedral in Paris and churches and missions in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland.
● The Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church
● The Lusitanian Church (Portugal).

The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East is spread across three continents, from Libya in North Africa, to Cyprus in the Mediterranean, to the Gulf States and Iran, to Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa.

As Mark Chapman says in The Anglican Covenant (p 2):

“Anyone who travels across the world will soon realise that in some ways Anglicanism is a bit like Microsoft or any other global brand – in that it covers most of the inhabited world, and is the third largest Christian denomination after Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, with perhaps 80 million members. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, may not be quite as well-known as Bill Gates, but I would guess that his beard and his eyebrows command a pretty high degree of international recognition.”

The Anglican Church in Bucharest ... a variety of languages reflecting the origins of the Anglican community in the Romanian capital (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A variety of languages is in use throughout the churches of the Anglican Communion, both in the liturgy and in the common, spoken language of the people. At meetings of the Parochial Church Council in the Church of the Resurrection in Bucharest, I have heard prayers in both English and Romanian, the walls of the church are decorated with icons with inscriptions in English, Greek, Romanian and Church Slavonic. Until April this year, the chaplain was the Revd Patrick Irwin, from a well-known Irish clerical missionary family.

The linguistic riches of the Anglican Communion include:

Portuguese in Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique and the new Diocese of Angola;
Spanish in Spain, Mexico, much of Central and Latin America, and also in the Philippines and in many parts of the United States;
French in Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo;
● A mixture of Arabic and English in Sudan, Egypt and throughout the Middle East.
● A variety of languages in the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, including Greek, Turkish, French, Arabic, Ethiopic, and languages from the Indian sub-continent and the Philippines.
● There are Anglican dioceses where the first language of the liturgy and language used in synods and church administration are Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Swahili, &c. Indeed, English is a minority language in the Anglican Communion.

The origins of the Anglican Communion

Mark Chapman says that in the days of the British Empire there was an obvious connection between Anglicanism and England … But while many of the member churches in the Anglican Communion claim a direct link with the Church of England, and see this as an important element in what defines them as Anglican, it is not always so, and has not always been so.

There are four Anglican churches on these islands:

● The Church of England,
● The Church of Ireland,
● The Scottish Episcopal Church; and
● The Church in Wales.

These four churches have distinctively different origins. The Church of Ireland, the Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church point out that the origins of Christianity in their countries predate the mission in England of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, who was sent from Rome in the year 597.

The Church of Ireland claims to be the successor to the ancient Celtic and Anglo-Norman churches. In the late mediaeval period, the churches in the dioceses in the ancient Viking cities of Ireland, including Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Limerick, sometimes continued to look to Canterbury for their episcopal orders and succession.

The reformation in Scotland was followed by turmoil over whether the reformed church should be episcopal or Presbyterian in its style of church government. After the Episcopal Church was disestablished in 1689, it suffered under penal laws in force from 1746-1792. This church developed its own (high) liturgy; it had strong links with the dissenting, high church Nonjurors of the Church of England, and did not adopt the 39 Articles until the end of the 18th century.

Historically, there have been strong links not only between the Church of Ireland and the Church of England, but there have also been strong links between the Church of Ireland and the Scottish Episcopal Church.

At the restoration of Charles II, and the restoration of the episcopal model of church in the Church of Ireland in 1660, four of the eight remaining bishops of the Church of Ireland were of Scottish birth, or of immediate Scottish ancestry. Later, when it came to framing its own Ecclesiastical Canons, the Episcopal Church of Scotland looked not only to the 1603 Canons of the Church of England, and the 1636 Canons of the Church of Scotland, but also to the 1634 Canons of the Church of Ireland.

Just as it would be wrong to define the distinctive characteristics of the Church of Ireland or the Scottish Episcopal Church within the strictures of our links with the Church of England – in so far as it is missing a lot of the subtleties and salient facts – so too the Anglican Churches around the world cannot be defined as Anglican solely because of their links, directly or indirectly, to the Church of England.

Some of those churches trace their episcopal succession, their liturgies, their ways of doing theology, their stories, to the Episcopal Church of Scotland, including the Episcopal Church in the US (TEC), which in turn introduced Anglicanism to many parts of Latin America, to Korea, to Japan and to many parts of China.

Anglican origins and Irish missionaries

Charles Inglis from Glencolumbcille, Co Donegal … the first Anglican bishop in Canada

Some of the churches in the Anglican Communion trace their historical origins, at least in part, back to the Church of Ireland:

Canada: The first Anglican bishop in Canada was Charles Inglis from Glencolumbcille, Co Donegal; Toronto has often been called the “Belfast of Ontario.”

South Africa: The first Anglican celebration of the Holy Communion in South Africa was by a priest of the Church of Ireland, and church historians see this event as marking the origins of the present-day Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACNA).

Many other Anglican churches, including those in Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, owe their growth and present numbers to Irish missionaries. Irish missionaries were pioneers in establishing an Anglican presence in parts of Persia/Iran, India, China, &c.

Indigenous Anglican churches

In addition, some churches in the Anglican Communion are indigenous churches that grew up in their own special circumstances, and looked not to the Church of England, but to the US or even to Ireland for episcopal succession:

Mexico: The Anglican Church of Mexico originated indigenously in 1810, and sought orders from the Episcopal Church in the US.

Spain: The Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church arose through the work of a former Roman Catholic priest. At first, it was under the pastoral care of the Bishop of Mexico, but it received its episcopal orders from the Bishop of Meath in 1894, and was not fully integrated into the Anglican Communion until 1980. Is it Anglican? Is it indigenous? Is it a daughter church of the Church of Ireland?

Portugal: the Lusitanian Church (the Portuguese Episcopal Church) was formed by dissident Roman Catholic priests who formed congregations and adapted the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

India: The Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar in India, although not a full member of the Anglican Communion, is in full communion with all the member churches, and sends its bishops to the Lambeth Conferences. Yet its origins are to be found in the Syrian Orthodox Church in India.

These churches in the Anglican Communion display diversity in language, culture, origins, and ethnicity. So to be Anglican is not to share a common English heritage, culture, or liturgy, nor is to look to the See of Canterbury as the source of Episcopal government.

It would be wrong to equate Anglican with some form of ecclesial “Englishness.”

It would be wrong to assume that the Anglican Communion finds its identity through links with the Church of England.

Some questions:

● What do we mean by Anglican?
● What do we mean by the Anglican Communion?
● Where did those terms “Anglican” and “Anglican Communion” originate?
● How did the first Anglican churches outside these islands spring up?

The origins of a global Anglicanism:

Initially, it may be said, Anglicanism of the English variety followed not only the colonial flag, but also trade and commerce, and the penal system. But it soon started to spread too due to the endeavours of the missionary societies, including the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK, 1698), the (United) Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG, 1701; later USPG – Anglicans in World Mission, and, since last November simply Us), and the Church Mission(ary) Society (CMS, 1799).

North America: The Eucharist was first celebrated according to Anglican rites in North America in present-day Canada at Frobisher Bay in 1578. In what is today the US, the first celebration of the Eucharist according to Anglican rites was at Jamestown in Virginia in 1607.

Latin America: The roots of the Anglican Church in Latin America were being planted with the arrival of English colonists on the Miskita coast in Central America from 1740. Expatriate Anglican chaplaincies were established in 1810 in Brazil, where the church today is Portuguese-speaking.

Europe: Soon there was also a diffuse and diverse Anglican presence on the European Continent. Anglican chaplaincies were established in ports in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe in the 17th century, and further afield as the Levant and East India Companies flourished. From the time William Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1630s, Anglicans abroad, in the colonies or in the centres of trade, were theoretically under the jurisdiction of the Bishops of London, not of the Archbishops of Canterbury.

In the 17th century, there was an Anglican presence in such diverse places in Europe as the Dutch ports, including Amsterdam; in Zakynthos and Piraeus (both now in Greece but then part of the Venetian and Ottoman empires), where the presence of the Levant Company meant there were Anglican services and Anglican burials; and in Paris, where there was also a Nonjuror Anglican presence at the Jacobite court in exile, those serving it including the former Chancellor of Connor, the Irish theologian, Charles Leslie.

Anglicans in North America

Bishop George Berkeley … an early missionary from the Church of Ireland

With the foundation of SPCK in 1698 and SPG in 1701, both under the patronage of the bishops of both the Church of England and the Church of Ireland, a new missionary era opened up for Anglicans. In North America, the early SPG missionaries included Bishop George Berkeley, who went to Bermuda.

In the 18th century, SPG and later CMS were active in missionary work in Canada. The first regular church services in Canada began in 1710 at Port Royal, and the first Anglican church built in present-day Canada was Saint Paul’s, Halifax, built in 1750.

By now there was strong pressure for bishops to serve the church in the colonies. Anyone wanting to work as an Anglican priest in the colonies had to be ordained in England by the Bishop of London. Except in Scotland, where the penal laws enforced diocesan and episcopal reorganisation on the nonjuring Episcopal Church, a royal charter was needed to create new Anglican dioceses, and new bishops had to be consecrated under a royal mandate. Among those who were early advocates of providing bishops for the colonies in America was the Co Donegal missionary, Charles Inglis.

The American Revolution meant the expulsion of many loyalist Anglicans, including Inglis, to neighbouring Canada. But it left Episcopalians in the new US without bishops.

In 1783, the clergy of Connecticut elected Samuel Seabury (1729-1796) as their bishop and sent him to London for consecration. But legal constraints prohibited the bishops of the Church of England from consecrating him – there was no diocese created by royal charter, no royal mandate to consecrate him, and he could be regarded as either a foreigner or a traitor.

Seabury turned to the nonjuring bishops of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, who consecrated him in 1784. He returned to America, promising to adapt the distinctive Scottish Communion in his office, and providing a line of episcopal succession that owes its origins not to the Church of England, but to Scotland.

By now, the church in the US was being slowly organised, and the convention in Philadelphia in 1785 and the election of a presiding bishop in 1789 mark not, as Charles Long asserts, the formation of “the first Anglican Province independent of the Church of England,” but the formation of the first Anglican Province outside British jurisdiction.

Eventually, in 1786, an act was passed allowing the Archbishop of Canterbury to consecrate bishops who were not crown subjects. In the following year, two more Americans were consecrated at Lambeth Palace. That year also saw the consecration of the Irish-born Charles Inglis as Bishop of Nova Scotia. An Act passed in 1819 allowed the ordination in the Church of England of clergy to serve outside the Church of England, provided they were going to minister in the colonies. The act speaks of them of being “ordained for the cure of souls in his Majesty’s foreign possessions.” An Act of 1841 allowed the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to consecrate bishops to work “in any foreign country” without requiring the oath of allegiance.

Anglican expansion beyond Europe and North America

So, what about Anglican expansion outside Europe and North America?

In West Africa, Anglican mission work began on the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) in 1752.

South Africa: The oldest Anglican province in Africa is the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. Although Roman Catholic missionaries had arrived with the early Portuguese explorers, and the Dutch Reformed Church was present since the 17th century, the first Anglican presence in Cape Town is recorded in 1806.

But Bishop Harry de Vere White, who chronicled the labours of Irish SPG missionaries, traces the origins of the ACSA to the arrival of the first SPG missionary in South Africa, the Revd William Wright from Cork. Wright arrived at the Cape on 21 March 1821, and White sees Wright’s first celebration of the Holy Communion according to Anglican rites at Cape Town as “the beginning of the Province of South[ern] Africa.”

In India, SPCK worked in areas where there were British traders but no British colonies. There, unsure about the legal status of the Church of England clergy, SPCK initially employed Lutheran clergy from Denmark. In 1814, a bishop was consecrated for Calcutta, but his jurisdiction included most of Asia and much of Africa too, with Australia as an archdeaconry in his diocese.

Australia: The Anglican Church came to Australia in 1788 with the “First Fleet,” primarily convicts and military personnel. Free settlers soon followed, and Australia received its first Anglican bishop in 1836.

The Anglican Churches in south-east Asia date back to a chaplaincy formed in West Malaysia in 1805.

Two Anglican bishops were consecrated for the West Indies in 1824.

Anglicanism was spreading rapidly, in an unplanned and uncontrolled way, following commerce, colonialism, trade and the penal system, and the travels of explorers and adventurers. It was outside the grasp of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and outside the limitations of any legislation passed by parliament in Westminster.

In 1841, the Colonial Bishoprics’ Fund was created, and speeded up the expansion of the colonial episcopate. The first bishop for Southern Africa was appointed in 1847, the first bishop for south-east Asia was consecrated in 1855.

The tomb of Bishop George Augustus Selwyn in Lichfield Cathedral ... his introduction of synodical government in his diocese influenced church governance many parts of the Anglican Communion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In many colonies, the Anglican churches were seeking or finding their own measure of autonomy: in 1844, Bishop George Augustus Selwyn of New Zealand called an informal synod; New Zealand was granted a measure of self-government in 1852, and in 1857 the Church of New Zealand received its own constitution.

Bishop Samuel Crowther, the first black African Anglican bishop … from a window in the CMS offices in Oxford

By 1864, Anglicanism had its first black African bishop with the consecration of Samuel Adjai Crowther (1806-1891) as Bishop for Nigeria. Three years later, in 1867, there were nearly 50 bishops in the British colonies, and 35 dioceses in the USA.

A new communion?

Anglicanism was no longer a collection of churches offering to serve people from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. It was no longer even confined to areas under British rule. Even in the Church of England and the Church of Ireland, there were early questions too of who we were in communion with.

In Ireland and in England at the end of the 17th century, our churches were happy to welcome the Huguenots. They were welcomed, found a place within the church, and allowed to continue their ministries, provided all future ordinations were carried out by bishops.

In the early 18th century, Archbishop William Wake (1657-1737) of Canterbury corresponded on Christian unity and his hopes for inter-communion of some form with Continental theologians such as:

● the German Moravian bishop and theologian Daniel Ernst Jablonski (1660-1741), who tried but failed to bring about a union of German Lutherans and Calvinists;
● the Swiss Calvinist theologian, Jean-Alphonse Turrettini (1671-1737) of Geneva;
● the French Gallicans, including Piers de Girardin and Louis Ellies Dupin (1657-1719), who also had a vision of uniting the Orthodox and Western churches.

The Nonjurors had a scheme for their form of Anglicanism to be recognised by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, seeing the Eastern Orthodox Church as natural partners for forming a wider church family.

The first missionary endeavours beyond the colonial boundaries saw Anglicans in SPCK happy to employ Danish and German Lutherans, provided they used the liturgy of The Book of Common Prayer. In the early 19th century, Anglicans were happy to collaborate with the Lutherans in establishing a bishopric in Jerusalem.

If the English language or some links with British sovereignty did not define “Anglicanism,” then adherence to The Book of Common Prayer or the 39 Articles did not provide that definition either.

The Scottish liturgy, which was considerably “higher” than the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, influenced and shaped the liturgy of the Episcopal Church in the US (TEC); for a long time, the 39 Articles were not part of the tradition of the Scottish Episcopal Church until 1811, and when they were adopted by the Episcopal Church in the US, they were modified to delete all references to the English sovereign.

The term ‘Anglican’

The terms Anglican and Anglicanism derive etymologically from the Latin anglicanus, meaning English. It is a term that predates the Reformation, that had mediaeval usage. So far, the earliest use of the term I can find is in Ireland, as early as 1172, almost half a century before it is used in England.

In the 12th century, separate and various Irish Rites were being used liturgically throughout the island. But these were abolished, at the Synod of Cashel in 1172, when the Roman Rite juxta quod Anglicana observat Ecclesia, or the rite “as observed by the Anglican Church,” was finally substituted.

In the 13th century, the Magna Carta in 1215 refers to Anglicana ecclesia, the English Church.

The same phrase is used again at the time of the Reformation – in 1534 in the act confirming the royal supremacy, and in 1562 in John Jewel’s defence of the English Reformation, Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, however, the term “Anglican” begins to refer more specifically to a distinct theological position. The Dublin-born political philosopher Edmund Burke refers to “Catholicks, Anglicans or Calvinists,” and the historian Thomas Babington Macaulay to Anglican doctrine. The French form anglicanisme occurs, it seems, for the first time in 1817, presumably by analogy with gallicanisme, and John Henry Newman uses the phrase “Anglicanism” from 1838 on.

The term “Anglican Communion” is only first used in 1851, and eventually is used as a defining term at the first Lambeth Conference in 1867.

Origins in disputes

Lambeth Palace, seen from Westminster on the opposite bank of the River Thames … the venue of the first Lambeth Conference in 1867 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The origins of that Anglican Communion as we have come to know it can be found in two legal battles and a doctrinal dispute that rocked the Anglican churches in the 1850s and 1860s. The first of these legal battles became known as the Eton College Case. In 1857, the courts ruled that the established Church of England could not exist in those colonies where there was a local legislature.

A year earlier, the Bishop of Cape Town, Robert Gray, called a diocesan synod in 1856 – a synod that preceded by 12 years the first diocesan synod in the Church of England, which was held in the Diocese of Lichfield in 1868.

Some years after his synod in Cape Town, Gray – by now accepted as Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan – attempted to depose the Bishop of Natal, John Colenso, for heresy in 1863. Colenso appealed to the Privy Council in London, which ruled in March 1865 that Gray and his synod could only exercise authority over those who voluntarily accepted it. It also held that the letters patent issued to the bishop were invalid because the Cape Colony had its own legislature.

By the time the judgment was issued, Gray had tried Colenso on the grounds that Colenso had sworn canonical obedience to him as metropolitan, thus voluntarily accepting his jurisdiction. The rulings from Gray and the Privy Council left a complete mess. The letters patent were invalid, bishops had been appointed by patents issued in London and yet there was no established church for them to serve in because the colony had its own legislature.

It was a difficult mess from which the churches in the colonies would find it even more difficult to disentangle themselves.

The crisis over the deposition of Colenso and the problems it left inspired the Irish-born Bishop of Ontario, 40-year-old John Travers Lewis (1825-1901), and the Provincial Synod of the Anglican Church in Canada in 1865 to issue a formal request to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Longley, asking him to call a General Council of the Anglican Communion “in every land.”

Some English bishops doubted the wisdom or even the legality of calling such a conference. But the idea was supported at a meeting of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury in May 1866. But Longley conferred with other bishops beyond the boundaries of the Church of England and the Church of Ireland, beyond the colonial boundaries too: among those he consulted was the American Episcopalian Bishop of Illinois, Henry John Whitehouse (1803-1874).

It was clear, as the invitations were being sent out, that the proposed meeting could neither enact canons nor make any decision that was binding on the Church. Nevertheless, the invitations went out to “the bishops in visible communion with the United Church of England and Ireland” to a meeting under the Presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Lambeth Palace. The invitations were sent to 150 bishops: 67 attended, although the Archbishop of York, petulant if not hostile from the first refused.

And so, the first Lambeth Conference met from 24-27 September 1867 and the Anglican Communion was formally established because of a dispute involving a church that traces its origins to an Irish missionary, and because of the response to that dispute by an Irish-born bishop in Canada, John Travers Lewis. Lewis was born in Garrycloyne Castle, Co Cork, and had been a curate in Newtown Butler, Co Fermanagh, before going as a missionary in 1849 to Canada, where he ended his days as Archbishop of Ontario.

Appendix 1:

Member Churches of the Anglican Communion:

A world map showing the Provinces of the Anglican Communion (blue), as well as the Churches in full communion with the Anglican Communion: the Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Lutheran Churches of the Porvoo Communion (green), and the Old Catholic Churches in the Utrecht Union (red)

Africa (11):

The Anglican Church of Burundi; the Church of the Province of Central Africa; Province de l’Eglise Anglicane du Congo; the Anglican Church of Kenya; the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion); l’Eglise Episcopal au Rwanda; the Anglican Church of Southern Africa; the Episcopal Church of the Sudan; the Anglican Church of Tanzania; the Church of the Province of Uganda; the Church of the Province of West Africa.

Africa, Asia and Europe (1):

The dioceses of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East: the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti (blue); the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf (red); the Diocese of Egypt (orange); the Diocese of Iran (green)

The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Asia (12):

The Church of Bangladesh; Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui; the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean; the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Anglican Communion in Japan); the Anglican Church of Korea; the Church of the Province of Myanmar (Burma); the Church of North India (United); the Church of Pakistan (United); the Episcopal Church in the Philippines; the Church of the Province of South-East Asia; the Church of South India (United); the Church of Ceylon (Sri Lanka; Extra-Provincial to the Archbishop of Canterbury).

Australasia and Oceania (4):

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; the Anglican Church of Australia; the Church of the Province of Melanesia; the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea.

Central and Latin America (8):

Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil; Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America; la Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico; Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America; the Church in the Province of the West Indies; Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba; Bermuda (E-P to Canterbury); Falkland Islands (E-P to Canterbury).

North America (2):

The Anglican Church of Canada; The Episcopal Church (TEC, formerly ECUSA).

In addition, the Anglican Church of North America is demanding recognition within the Anglican Communion.

Europe (6):

The Church of England; the Church of Ireland; the Scottish Episcopal Church; the Church in Wales; the Lusitanian Church (E-P to Canterbury); the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain (E-P to Canterbury).

Additional reading:

The reports and resolutions of the Lambeth Conferences.

The Anglican Covenant.

For a full text of the Anglican Covenant see: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/final/text.cfm

P. Avis, The Anglican understanding of the Church (London: SPCK, 2000).
P. Avis, The Identity of Anglicanism: essentials of Anglican ecclesiology (London: T&T Clark/Continuum, 2007).
I. Bunting (ed), Celebrating the Anglican Way (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1996).
MD Chapman, Anglicanism: a very short introduction (Oxford: OUP, 2006).
M. Chapman (ed), The Anglican Covenant (London: Mowbray, 2008).
M.D. Chapman, The Hope of Things to Come, Anglicanism and the Future (London: Mowbray, 2010).
MD Chapman, Anglican Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2012).
C. Chartres (ed), Why I am still an Anglican (London: Continuum, 2006).
D. Dormor et al (eds.), Anglicanism: The answer to modernism (London: Continuum, 2003).
GR Evans, JR Wright (eds), The Anglican Tradition (London: SPCK, 1991).
R. Hannaford (ed), The Future of Anglicanism (Leominster: Gracewing, 1996).
C. Helfling, C. Shattuck (eds), The Oxford Guide to the Book of Common Prayer (Oxford: OUP, 2006).
R. Holloway (ed), The Anglican Tradition (London: Mowbray, 1984).
CH Long (ed), Who are the Anglicans? (Cincinnati: Forward, 1988).
A. McGrath, The SPCK Handbook of Anglican Theologians (London: SPCK, 1998).
S. Neill, Anglicanism (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1958 and later eds).
S. Platten (ed), Anglicanism and the Western Christian Tradition (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003).
J. Rosenthal (ed), The Essential Guide to The Anglican Communion (Harrisburg: Morehouse, 1998).
C. Sugden, V. Samuel (eds.), Anglican Life and Witness (SPCK, 1997).
S. Sykes, The Integrity of Anglicanism (London: Mowbray, 1978).
S. Sykes, Unashamed Anglicanism (London: DLT, 1995).
S. Sykes, J. Booty (eds), The Study of Anglicanism (London: SPCK, 1988).
The Virginia Report: The Report of the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission (Harrisburg: Morehouse, 1999).
JCW Wand, Anglicanism in History and Today (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1963).
Samuel Wells, What Anglicans Believe, An Introduction (Norwich: Canterbury, 2011).
SR White, Authority and Anglicanism (London: SCM, 1996).
The Windsor Report 2004: The Lambeth Commission on Communion (London: Anglican Communion Office, 2004).
A. Wingate et al (eds), Anglicanism: A Global Communion (London: Mowbray, 1998).
WJ Wolf, JE Booty, OC Thomas, The Spirit of Anglicanism (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1979).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These notes were prepared for a lecture at the Reader Day Course Conference on 12 October 2013.

Liturgy (Readers) 5: A practical workshop

Baptism and Eucharist … celebrations of Creation and worship in communion with the Trinity (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford,

Reader Course Day Conference,

Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

12 October 2013

10 to 11 a.m.: Liturgy: A practical workshop


Some opening questions about fears and anxieties:

What if I am left on my own?

What can I do at a funeral?

What are the boundaries when it comes to what I can do?

Where do I found resources for prayer and prayers?

What do I do if I dry up?

What if I lose my place?

Does the rector have to do everything?

How do I relate all this to my own spiritual life and life of prayer?


Our basic resource and workbook for this workshop is The Book of Common Prayer (The Church of Ireland, 2004).

1: Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer

Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (see the Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 83-116) are the daily offices of the Church.

They derive from the monastic offices, especially the cycle of daily prayer in the Benedictine tradition, and were adapted by Cranmer and the Anglican reformers and their successors, bringing daily prayer out of the cloisters and into the daily life of parishes in the villages, towns and cities.

It was their intention not that these offices should be the main Sunday service in our parishes, but that they should be said daily throughout the year (see The Book of Common Prayer 2004, p 84).

As prayer designed for the whole church, for the whole people, it is appropriate that it should be led by lay people. Historically, it is worth recalling that most of the monks in a Benedictine monastery were not priests.

There are some parts of the service that are reserved for ordained priests – namely, pronouncing the words of absolution (see pp 86, 102 ) and the blessing (see p 116).

But there is no provision for a blessing in the original form, (see p 100), and in the new format a blessing is only an option (see p 116).

How familiar are you with Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer?

Are these offices used daily in your parishes, as The Book of Common Prayer expects?


How is Morning Prayer used in your parish as the principal service on Sundays?


How do you set the tone of the day?


Become familiar with the options, and notice the different places where the Psalm is used in Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.


How do you find the Psalms, the Readings and the Collects?


Are you familiar with how the Canticles are chosen?

Are you aware of the hymn versions of the Canticles in the Irish Church Hymnal?

How do you write intercessions?


Are their parts of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer you should memorise?


Are you familiar with the shortened forms of Daily Prayer for Weekdays (see pp 136-137), the simple structure for Daily Prayer (p 138) and the Weekday intercessions for Monday to Saturday (pp 139-144)?

Have you ever drawn on the resources headed “Some Prayers and Thanksgivings” (pp 145-153)?

Service of the Word, Informal Services

The one service that many of you are being asked to lead is the Service of the Word (p 165, followed by notes running to three pages, pp 166-168).

At first, this looks like one of the simplest services to organise. But it is probably the most difficult.

Too often, we merely adapt the shape to the way we have always organised Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer, which defeats the purpose of introducing this service.

Too often we take the outline (p 165) as a rigid structure, rather than as scaffolding, and then wonder why the edifice crumbles around us.

Too often we start off with the best of intentions, but fail to take heed of the advice and guidance offered in those three pages of notes.

Too often we want you a new service, a new approach to worship, but fail to do anything about the setting, including the seating and the part of the church we use.

Too often, we fail to see it as a Service of the Word, and give more emphasis to other sections than the Word itself.

Too often, we fail to set the tone, to think about why we are using this service rather than any other, and then wonder why it does not work, why it falls flat, or why it becomes stale through constant use in the same old familiar way.

In your parish, who structures a Service of the Word ... the rector, the person leading it, a group of people?

It is totally appropriate, for example, in a parish where a Service of the Word is fallback option every time there is a fifth Sunday in the month, for someone in lay ministry to take responsibility for organising that service, even though they do not have to lead it.

You could theme those Services of the Word: not just around children, which is the normal fallback position, but: around the elderly; around the beatitudes, affirming those who live out the Beatitudes in your parish, who make peace, who mourn, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who demand mercy, &c; focus on unemployment or the current financial, economic and political crisis in our country; Lent or Advent; the five points of mission in the Anglican Communion; and so on.

Let us look at the notes on pp 166-168 and see what they say about what we can do?


Are there other ways to adapt and use this service?

Bishop Harold Miller, for example, suggests it can be used as the Liturgy of the Word before the Liturgy of the Sacrament at the Holy Communion or the Eucharist.


Other, short services you may consider using include Compline (pp 154-161), A Late Evening Office (pp 162-164) and the Litany (pp 170-178).

Could we discuss appropriate venues and appropriate occasions for using some of these services?


What is appropriate for using in one of the following situations:

● A school assembly
● A group of mourners gathered in hospital after the death of someone you have been visiting as a pastoral carer on behalf of the parish
● A prayer session with the Mothers’ Union after a speaker has failed to turn up.

Let me say a word about having everything prepared beforehand and having everything in one file rather than a pile of books scattered around your feet and at the base of the prayer desk.

What image does this create for people trying to catch a glimpse of the holy?

Can you imagine how easy it is to forget which colour ribbon you used to mark a particular page or reading?

The Eucharist/Holy Communion

The Eucharist ... does the rector have to do everything?

In most of our parishes, the rector usually does almost everything at the Eucharist. The choir may lead the signing, there may be a rota for the readings and for the intercessions – although they too are often written for people by the rector – and the churchwardens present the collection.

But the rector does not have to do everything. On the contrary, the people should be doing almost everything. Indeed the word liturgy means the work of the people: the work comes from the Greek λειτουργία or λῃτουργία, which in turn comes from the Greek words λαός (the people) and ἔργο (to do or to work).

Why does the priest as the President at the liturgy, so often do all the work of the people?

What does the President do at the Eucharist?

The President presides at the whole event. But how is that shown? The Presidency is related to the whole event, and is not merely about or restricted to saying “sacred words” at one “sacred moment.”

The opening greeting, “The Lord be with you …” gathers together the Assembly. Beforehand, we are scattered people, who are coming together. And so it is essentially a Christian greeting that gathers us together as a congregation, and this is not the same as and should not be reduced to a mere “Good Morning.”

But the liturgical greeting also establishes the dialogue, between God and the people, and between the president at the liturgy and the people, it establishes the horizontal dimension to our worship and our liturgy.

It establishes who is presiding, who is responsible for the worship of the church. It tells us that this is the person who is going to:

● Guide the community
● Release the gifts of the community
● Oversee what is happening.

That presidency is expressed, audibly and visibly, by the President conducting the following parts of the service:

1, The Greeting.
2, The Collect of the Day
3, The Absolution
4, The Peace
5, The Eucharistic Prayer
6, The Blessing.

But this leaves plenty of scope, plenty of room for others to participate. And not just to play bit parts but to show that we are co-celebrants (not concelebrants), and the Liturgy is truly the work of the people.

For example, the Old Testament and Epistle readings ought to be read by lay people, the intercessions are supposed to be the prayers of the people, the offering is supposed to be the offering of the people.

Why, so often, do the clergy insist on assuming all these roles?

The readings may be the only message people hear on a Sunday morning. And so reading them is an important, vital ministry of the laity. It is not good enough to be handed them on a scrap of paper five minutes before we begin on a Sunday morning.

How would your parish organist react to receiving the hymn numbers a few minutes beforehand?

You need time to think, time to rehearse, time to read out loud, time to cope with difficult pronunciations and to get a feeling for emphases, time to reflect and pray.

If you do not know what the reading is about, how can those present hear what it is about?

Who writes the intercessions?

The rector?

Or the people leading the intercessions?

Who listens to the prayers the people want to pray and need to pray?

When it comes to the Offertory, the offering is not about the collection of money being brought up to the rector for a blessing. The Offertory first and foremost symbolises that we, the people, offer ourselves, our bodies, our lives, our whole being, to God, as a royal sacrifice.

Bread and wine symbolise this in a very profound way. They are gifts of food and drink that God has given us, but only become food and drink because of the work of human hands. What God offers to us, we now offer to God, and in return God becomes present among in Christ, in word and sacrament.

The bread and wine ought to be placed on the altar, already prepared, before the Liturgy begins. The altar could be prepared at the offertory by lay people, even children, especially children. The gifts ought to be brought up by lay people, from among the body of the people. That is an authentic and visible sacramental expression of lay ministry.

Do the gifts have to be restricted to bread and wine alone?


The gifts of God for the people of God!

When it comes to the distribution of the sacrament, it may be very appropriate for the presiding priest to (a) be ministered to by someone else and/or (b) sit in the president’s chair.

It is wholly appropriate for lay people present to assist at or to take responsibility for the ablutions

After the blessing, it is once again appropriate for a lay person who has been involved in the ministry at the liturgy to pronounce the dismissal.


How much preparation do you need for this aspects to or dimensions of lay ministry in the Liturgy?

How much can you take part in?


Other services, including Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Funerals.

Parish clergy often talk dismissively of our role at Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals as a role of “Hatch match and dispatch.”

But I think that is too dismissive, and too unfair to people who seldom come to church except on these occasions.

These are moments of crisis for these people, sacred moments for God, and, moments of mission for the Church.

Always remember, never forget, that people will always remember and never forget when you behave inappropriately, lazily or without preparation on these occasions. If you do it right, they may never remember what you say or do, just simply that you were there. But get it wrong, and they will remember for ever.

And so, on these occasions, make sure you are prepared, over and over again. You may get plenty of time to prepare a couple for a baptism of their child or for their marriage. Unlike having perhaps a week or two, maybe more, to prepare for a parish service or a sermon, you may have no time at all to prepare for the death of a parishioner. You may get no time at all to prepare for a funeral.

So, always have the preparation in mind if these are tasks being committed to you in your parish.

Be mentally prepared in your memory – down to the point of remembering how to dress properly.

You may have to prepare a couple for the baptism of their child, or for their marriage.

You will be surprised the relationships you come across.

You will have to put aside your personal views about single parenthood, remarriage after divorce, and your propensity to rush to judgment not only about the people who are being buried, but the family circumstances of those who mourn.

It is for good reason that these are called pastoral offices.

You may have to take responsibility for receiving a coffin into your parish church on the evening before a funeral, or for doing a committal at a graveside or in a crematorium.

Hopefully you will be involved in assisting at many, many baptisms. But they are not always cute and comfortable occasions. There are baptisms of adults, there are baptisms of children with real medical problems that are causing true anxiety for the parents. There are difficult relationships that cause problems at baptisms ... and at marriages and at funerals too.

Hospital visits may also be your responsibility. Consider then that you may be asked to be, you may want to be, involved in the consequent baptism, marriage or funeral.


● Baptisms: p 345 ff (especially p 357 ff).
● Confirmation, p 382 ff.
● Renewal of Baptismal vows, p 398 ff.
● Marriage (especially pp. 416 ff).
● Ministry to those who are sick (pp 440 ff; Anointing with Oil, pp 448-449; Prayers, pp 450-453; preparation for death, pp 454-456; A celebration of wholeness and healing, pp 457-464).
● Funeral Services (pp 466 ff, especially pp 480 ff; see the notes on p 480; A Form for the Burial of Ashes after Cremation, p 501; The Funeral Service for a Child, p 504; Prayers, p 510; and a Form of use in the Home, Funeral Home or Mortuary, p 514).

[Concluding questions and discussion]


Raymond Chapman, Hear Our Prayer: Gospel-based intercession for Sundays, Holy Days and Festivals, Years A, B, & C (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003).
Frank Colquhoun (ed), Parish Prayers (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2005 ed).
Frank Colquhoun (ed), Contemporary Parish Prayers (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2005 ed).
Frank Colquhoun (ed), New Parish Prayers (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2005 ed).
Common Worship: Times and Seasons (London: Church House Publishing, 2006).
Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Liturgies for Daily Life (London: SPCK, 2004).
Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Liturgies for High Days (London: SPCK, 2006).
Brian Mayne (ed), Celebrating the Word: Complete Services of the Word for use with Common Worship and the Church of Ireland Book of Common Prayer (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2004).
Harold Miller, The Desire of our Soul (Dublin: Columba, 2004).
Janet Morley, All Desires Known (London: SPCK, 1988/1992).
Janet Morley (ed), Bread for Tomorrow, Praying with the world’s poor (London: SPCK/Christian Aid, 1992).
New Patterns for Worship (London: Church House Publishing, 2002).
Opening Prayers: Scripture-related collects for Years A, B and C from the Sacramentary (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 1992).
Lisa Withrow, Occasions of Prayers (London: SPCK, 1999).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These notes were used at practical workshop with students the Reader Day Course Conference on 12 October 2013.

Luke 18: 1-18, seeking mercy and
justice rather than legal redress

Patrick Comerford

Luke 18: 1-8

1 Ἔλεγεν δὲ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς πρὸς τὸ δεῖν πάντοτε προσεύχεσθαι αὐτοὺς καὶ μὴ ἐγκακεῖν, 2 λέγων, Κριτής τις ἦν ἔν τινι πόλει τὸν θεὸν μὴ φοβούμενος καὶ ἄνθρωπον μὴ ἐντρεπόμενος. 3 χήρα δὲ ἦν ἐν τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ καὶ ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτὸν λέγουσα, Ἐκδίκησόν με ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀντιδίκου μου. 4 καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν ἐπὶ χρόνον, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα εἶπεν ἐν ἑαυτῷ, Εἰ καὶ τὸν θεὸν οὐ φοβοῦμαι οὐδὲ ἄνθρωπον ἐντρέπομαι, 5 διά γε τὸ παρέχειν μοι κόπον τὴν χήραν ταύτην ἐκδικήσω αὐτήν, ἵνα μὴ εἰς τέλος ἐρχομένη ὑπωπιάζῃ με. 6 Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος, Ἀκούσατε τί ὁ κριτὴς τῆς ἀδικίας λέγει: 7 ὁ δὲ θεὸς οὐ μὴ ποιήσῃ τὴν ἐκδίκησιν τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν αὐτοῦ τῶν βοώντων αὐτῷ ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτός, καὶ μακροθυμεῖ ἐπ' αὐτοῖς; 8 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ποιήσει τὴν ἐκδίκησιν αὐτῶν ἐν τάχει. πλὴν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐλθὼν ἆρα εὑρήσει τὴν πίστιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς;

1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming”.’ 6 And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

The widow and the unjust judge

As a tutorial group, we have yet to reach consensus on how we use our time for Bible study and small-group worship. So, this morning I have prepared a short Bible study on this parable, which is the Gospel reading (Luke 18: 1-8) in the Revised Common Lectionary for tomorrow week, Sunday 20 October 2013, the Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity.

It is a well-known parable. But, while we often know it as the “Parable of the Unjust Judge,” perhaps it should be known as the “Parable of the Persistent Widow,” for we are told to take her and not him as an example of how to pray, as opposed to example of how to prey.

And yet, let us take some time first to look at the judge.

Are we asked to think that God behaves like an unjust or capricious judge?

But this appears to be a judge who exercises his office without fear or favour?

Is justice about that?

Is justice about seeing that the law is enforced?

Or is it about seeing that justice is done, and is seen to be done?

How many judges implement the law without dispensing justice?

How many judges implement the law without dispensing mercy?

Is this not what happened in Nazi Germany and in apartheid South Africa?

How many judges in Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa merely applied the law?

Could a Jewish widow expect justice from a judge in Nazi Germany?

Could a black widow expect mercy from a judge in apartheid South Africa?

The woman in our parable is not asking for what is her legal right. She is not asking for her neighbour to be punished. But she may be asking for something she is not entitled to: justice.

When people say they cannot accept a judgmental God, is that because their image of a judge is of a distant figure who applies the full rigour of the law, rather than an accessible figure who dispenses justice and mercy?

These contrasting images of God are found too in the Old Testament reading (Jeremiah 31: 27-34) in the Revised Common Lectionary for that Sunday; it concludes:

No longer shall they teach one another, or say to one another,
‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,
for I will forgive their iniquity,
and remember their sin no more.
– (Jeremiah 31: 34)

Who is “the least of them” in that reading?

Certainly, a widow would fall into that category at the time of Christ. She would have no man to argue her case for her, and so would go unheard. All other cases – commercial, civil and criminal – would take precedence over her request to be heard.

Who is the widow in this story?

The first part of our Old Testament reading might allow us to draw parallels between this widow and the chosen people who have turned their back on God: a people whose covenantal relationship with God has died, and a woman whose covenantal relationship, her marriage, has come to an end with death.

Without love, there is no covenant. Without love there is no true religion, and no true marriage.

Could we talk tomorrow week about a true relationship with God being marked by love – God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for others?

If that love is the foundation of our Christianity, then justice becomes more important than law, and mercy more important than rules, and God the Judge becomes a loving rather than a tyrannical image.

Collect of the Day:

Merciful Lord,
Grant to your faithful people pardon and peace,
that we may be cleansed from all our sins
and serve you with a quiet mind;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. These notes were prepared for a Bible study in a tutorial group with part-time MTh students during a residential weekend on Saturday 12 October 2013.

Speaking at ACI conference
on clerical formation

The Church of Ireland notes in The Irish Times this morning [12 October 2013] includes the following:

Today (Saturday) … in the CITI, Affirming Catholicism Ireland will host a conference on Clerical Formation in the Catholic Tradition with contributions from the Dean of Belfast, the Very Revd John Mann, Canon Michael Kennedy and Canon Patrick Comerford.