Committee examines Anglican identity

By on May 1, 2003

The national church’s faith, worship and ministry committee wants to know if there is such a thing as common worship or prayer across the Anglican Church of Canada; if there is, what it looks like and if there is not, why not.Eileen Scully, consultant for ministry and worship, said that in its efforts to determine what exactly is Anglican identity in Canada, the committee has sent out a questionnaire to provincial houses of bishops (the church is divided into four ecclesiastical provinces), liturgical officers and focus groups asking about their different worship practices. The preamble to the questionnaire says the group only wants one set of answers from each diocese but hopes that the bishops will consult broadly with others before responding. The answers are due back by June 30.”It’s beyond the Book of Alternative Services (BAS), Book of Common Prayer (BCP) controversy,” Ms. Scully said, referring to the church’s two prayer books. The bishop, she explained, is the chief liturgical officer in a diocese and must in theory approve all new liturgical texts.”We’re asking, among other things, what their attitude is in terms of the degree of latitude when licensing the use of new texts,” she said.Ms. Scully planned to do a series of presentations at each provincial house of bishops meeting. Her first was at the meeting of the province of British Columbia from Mar. 27-29 in Victoria.By the beginning of April, many bishops had not yet completed the survey nor had their presentation from Ms. Scully.However, Bishop Barry Jenks, bishop of the diocese of British Columbia, said he sent a survey to all his parishes in advance of Ms. Scully’s visit, asking about the number of services, use of BAS or BCP, baptismal preparation and funeral practices.”There is not a lot of variety within this diocese,” Bishop Jenks said in an interview. “There is regular use of the BAS, but I discovered it is used in different ways. One area of concern among clergy was that people haven’t read the introductory essays (in the BAS) and are not attentive to rubrics (short commentaries and rules).”[pullquote]He added that the introduction of new music into services -“and I don’t necessarily mean modern music” – was identified by clergy as a cause of tension. “There is resistance to new forms of music,” he said.In his own diocesan survey, he said there was “quite a lot of discussion about the relationship of our worship to Canadian culture. There was a sense in which the form and the words that we use – is it really related to where people are at in Canadian life? Is our worship separate and remote from the actual life that people are living?”There are also questions about worship space: the range of styles in parishes, use of modified spaces, and barriers encountered in re-shaping worship areas. The committee also wants to know about worship arts, visual “treasures,” and the use of liturgical dance and drama.The survey also hopes to ferret out the names of parishes involved in ecumenical worship on a regular basis. The final question asks, “what in your view is the most pressing question regarding our church’s worship that ought to be reflected upon in future liturgical consultations which may occur?”

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