Thursday, 8 December 2016

Liturgy 2016-2017 (Full Time) 10.2:
Seminar, Spirituality of ministry;
readings on the minister as
person, private, public and holy

The Revd Nigel Pierpoint and the Revd Kevin Conroy make their declarations to the Archbishop of Dublin prior to their ordination as priests in Christ Church Cathedral earlier this year … at their ordination, priests are told they ‘are to lead God’s people in prayer and worship’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m., Mondays, Hartin Room:

11.30 a.m., Thursday 8 December 2016

10.2:
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 the ‘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 his books: ‘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).

Reminder: Essays.

End-of-module visit: Irish Islamic Cultural Centre, Clonskaeagh (15 December 2016).

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is based on notes prepared for a contribution to a seminar on 8 December 2016 in the Module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.

Liturgy 2016-2017 (Full Time) 10.1: Rites of
passage, including Marriages and 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)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m., Mondays, Hartin Room:

8 December 2016

This morning:

10.1:
Rites of passage, e.g., Marriages, Funerals.

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

Liturgy 10.1: 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?

AWN Pugin’s font, now in the north aisle of Saint Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, is octagonal and carved with the symbols of the evangelists (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

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 Baptismal Font in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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’?

What about 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),
● 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 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 now 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’ (The 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 The 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 afternoon 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 Episcopal Church in the USA, 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)

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 an 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 an 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)

Two of the most difficult situations you may face are the Funeral Service for a Child (pp 504-513), and the funeral of someone who has completed suicide.

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;
● bringing up personal mementoes of the dead person;
● throwing clods of earth 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

At another stage, I hope we shall look 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).

Next:

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

Reminder: Essays.

End-of-module visit: Irish Islamic Cultural Centre, Clonskaeagh (15 December 2016).

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture on 8 December 2016 was part of the Module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.

Praying in Advent with USPG,
(12): 8 December 2016

‘Pray that more of us, in and out of the church, would take up the cause of campaigning for women’s rights and take practical action to support women in need’

Patrick Comerford

This is the second week of Advent. Throughout this time of preparation for Christ’s coming at Christmas, I am praying each morning and using for my reflections the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).


USPG is also marking the time around the beginning of Advent, from 25 November to 10 December, as ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.’

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Thursday 8 December 2016:


Pray that more of us, in and out of the church, would take up the cause of campaigning for women’s rights and take practical action to support women in need.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

Isaiah 41: 13-20; Psalm 145: 1, 8-13; Matthew 11: 11-15.

The Collect of the Day:

Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Continued tomorrow