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Concerning the service of the Church today

11 January 2013


From Mr John Milner
Sir, - I suspect that I am not alone in being only partially comforted by the assurance from the Revd Christopher Woods, Secretary of the Liturgical Commission (Letters, 4 January), that there is "no mistake in the lectionary for 2013". There may be no mistake, but it is hardly comforting to be told - in a statement that could come from either W. S. Gilbert or Kafka - "Therefore, on the Third Sunday of the Epiphany, the readings of the Second Sunday of Epiphany are used."

The explanation offered by Mr Woods for this curious state of things takes us to a General Synod publication of 2005, and an obscure corner of the Church's website. Those of us who have responsibility for helping to organise worship really deserve better than this. It would seem reasonable to expect that, when unusual things arise, clear guidance and explanations are provided in the Lectionary as a matter of course.

Reflecting on this issue took me back to the Preface to the 1549 Prayer Book (found in 1662 as "Concerning the Service of the Church"). To address the pre-Reformation problem that "many times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out," so "certain Rules are here set forth; which, as they are few in number, so they are plain and easy to understand."

That, surely, should be an abiding principle in liturgical development. It is salutary to remember that, had the Prayer Book pattern been retained in Common Worship, we would have had Sundays after, not of, Epiphany, and avoided this year's foolishness of three being two.

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