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Liturgical formation of new priests

07 September 2012


Write, if you have any answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or would like to add to the answers below.

Whose responsibility is it to ensure that newly ordained priests can read (if not sing) church services clearly, correctly, and audibly, and carry out the manual actions at holy communion?

It has always been the intention of theological colleges and similar pre-ordination courses to prepare ordinands adequately for ministry, in which conduct of public worship will be paramount.

For this purpose, there has been an established tradition of respon­sibility to provide training in voice production and singing, often with help from visiting lecturers to give tuition. This important and neces­sary responsibility should be main­tained at all costs, in order that the newly ordained will have com­petence and confidence in the skill of public reading and speaking, and, if possible, in singing appropriate parts of the Church's service with tuneful voice.

Responsibility for instruction in celebrating the eucharist is a differ­ent matter, and best done after ordination to the diaconate. A­l­though liturgical practice is some­times included in Initial Continuing Ministerial Education programmes, the ideal person to give this training should be a curate's incumbent. Directions about liturgical style, gestures in the service, and par­ticularly the customary manual acts in the Eucharistic Prayer ought to conform to local tradition, to which a curate's loyalty can be expected: this approach helps to maintain uniform practice in the parish.
(Canon) Terry Palmer
Magor, Monmouthshire

This sounds a simple question, but, in my experience as a training in­cumbent in two dioceses, it is exactly the opposite.

First, while it is true that more people can sing than believe that they can, it is not true that all priests can sing. The experience of some ordinands at my theological college, where singing was manda­tory, showed me very clearly the misery that can be inflicted on those forced to sing against their natural will, skill, or inclination. So, let us satisfy ourselves with the matter of saying the service clearly and audibly, and making the appropriate manual actions.

In an ideal world, this training would begin at theological college, and be continued/completed during the ministerial training (IME) offered to all first-year curates preparing for priesting. Theological colleges of a more Catholic per­suasion care very deeply about liturgical preparation for priestly ministry. There seems, however, to be far less emphasis on this area of clerical responsibility in colleges that take an Evangelical approach.

Then, when curates come under the care of diocesan training departments, the churchmanship dilemma continues. How is the training for priesthood to be man­aged when some parishes will ex­pect manual actions during the eucharist, and others abhor them?

I believe, therefore, that it is the responsibility of the training incumbent to train the curate in two ways: the Catholic style, with its formality and ceremonial, in order that the curate can confidently minister wherever he or she is called; and the style that is appro­priate to the curate's current parish.

Of course, the diocesan choice of training incumbents is a whole other question.
(The Revd) Alex Russell
Pennington, Hampshire

Is it really a good idea to take five weeks of Gospel readings to cover the single chapter of John 6? And what about the chapters of St Mark's Gospel that we are missing while we read that one chapter from St John? 

J. S.

Address for answers and more questions: Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.

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