Baptism and Eucharist … celebrations of Creation and worship in communion with the Trinity (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
The Church of Ireland Theological Institute
4 July 2015
An Introduction to the Liturgy
Lay Ministry trainees, Dublin and Glendalough
Programme for the Day:
10 a.m. Session 1: Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Service of the Word, Informal Services
11 a.m. Coffee break
11.30 a.m. Session 2: The Eucharist/Holy Communion; other services, including Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Funerals
10 a.m. Session 1: Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Service of the Word, Informal Services
Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
is governed and sanctified:
Hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Collect we pray tomorrow [5 July 2015, the Fifth Sunday after Trinity], is for use throughout next week. It prays for the whole Church and for all faithful people, in our vocation and ministry, that we may serve God in holiness and truth.
This morning we are talking about the whole Church, not simply the ministry of those who are ordained, but of all faithful people, and this prayer values the vocation and ministry of all, and affirms that ministry as serving God in holiness and truth.
But first, may I begin with 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?
Part 1: Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer
Our basic resource and workbook for these workshops is: The Book of Common Prayer (The Church of Ireland, 2004).
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 Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, 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, 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 there 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)?
Part 2: Service of the Word, Informal Services
The one service that many of you will be 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 the fall-back 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 fall-back 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.
In small groups, 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?
Go into small groups and discuss 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?
11.30 a.m. Session 2: The Eucharist/Holy Communion; other services, including Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Funerals.
Raymond Chapman, Hear Our Prayer: Gospel-based intercessions for Sundays, Holy Days and Festivals, Years A, B, & C (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003).
Frank Colquhoun (ed), Parish Prayers (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1967, 2005 ed).
Frank Colquhoun (ed), Contemporary Parish Prayers (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 195, 2005 ed).
Frank Colquhoun (ed), New Parish Prayers (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1982, 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).
(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These notes were used at a half-day workshop, ‘An introduction to the liturgy,’ with Lay Ministry trainees in the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough on 4 July 2015.