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Pleas not to review Common Worship so soon

11 October 2013


From the Revd Dr Edward Dowler

Sir, - The Revd Mark Earey presents a baneful (though sadly increasingly realised) vision for the future of Anglican liturgy, in which "good worship" becomes synonymous with liturgical anarchy, and our prayer as a Church becomes increasingly less "common" with every passing year (Comment, 4 October).

The liturgy is the dress rehearsal for the worship of heaven, where the saints and angels gather before the throne of God to praise him with united voice. It has been handed down to us through the ages, albeit in an evolving form in Western Christianity, as a precious gift for us to pass on. It is not something for the clergy or other members of a congregation (most probably those with power, time, and computer skills) to think that they can endlessly manipulate and control, according to their own inevitably partial sense of what works best in their context.

We do not shape the liturgy: the liturgy shapes us, corporately and individually orientating us more and more towards its subject, which is the mystery of God, not our own self-understanding.

Given the verbosity of Common Worship, we surely do not need a "big new liturgical writing exercise", either at national or at local level. We do need a renewed liturgical culture in which celebration, penitence, receptiveness to God's word, sacramental presence, and, perhaps above all, a greater sense of silence and stillness - all gifts that the liturgy brings, along with many others - are more fully realised in each and every celebration of it.

This will require work and imagination, but of a very different kind from the non-stop, inexpert, localised liturgical tinkering that is effectively what Mr Earey suggests.

Clay Hill Vicarage
92 Browning Road
Enfield EN2 0HG


From the Revd Dru Brooke-Taylor

Sir, - Please, no! Handled intelligently, Common Worship gives plenty of flexibility as it is. Besides, there is a lot of authorised material that, I suspect, many of the clergy have never even tried. Endless revision would pander to the far too widespread belief that "We know better than the book," otherwise expressed as "Why shouldn't I use the Roman Rite/ change the creeds to fit my particular foibles/write my own hip version of the Eucharistic Prayer?" Having a book and sticking to it protects congregations from being the victims of this.

It would be very useful to have some sort of forum for the exchange of ideas and experience of what people think works and doesn't. There might even be a case for some sort of power for bishops to waive some aspects of compliance temporarily, or to authorise extra bits, as was done for the Diamond Jubilee and has been done recently for eucharists suitable for children.

As a general principle, however, reviewing Common Worship now would be moving into the Trotskyite territory of permanent revolution. It would be like the software providers' issuing continual updates, CW v 1.01, 1.02, etc., and expecting the user to pay for them. Churches would presumably have to reinvest in expensive suites of new books that are hardly different from the previous ones.

2 Oldfield Road
Bristol BS8 4QQ

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