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Liturgical formation — elephant in the room of the Common Worship debate

by
18 October 2013

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From the Revd Simon Reynolds

Sir, - Many of us recognise the Revd Mark Earey's description of the emerging liturgical terrain (Comment, 4 October). While applauding the Revd Dr Edward Dowler's response (Letters, 11 October), I am left wondering why two experienced theological educators seem not to have named the elephant in the room: the culture of antipathy and embarrassment towards liturgical formation in many of our training institutions.

The challenge lies not with Common Worship, but in the dearth of competent liturgical presidents who can combine theological rigour with a depth of pastoral and artistic insight to enable the Church's richest provision for worship since the Reformation to be a consistently transformative experience.

What has been lacking is a fully synoptic approach to liturgical formation before ordination, which equips and sensitises clergy to emerge from training with the confidence to use the provision with discernment and imagination.

For more than half of those preparing for ordained ministry, the leading (and devising) of worship requires the persistent re-invention of the wheel, under pressure to be thematically "creative" and satisfy a craving for novelty. We should not be surprised that clergy feel ill at ease with Common Worship, and convey this insecurity to those they lead in worship, when they are formed in isolation from the daily pulse of the language and contours of the authorised provision.

At present, there are just 38 words that address liturgical formation in the Learning Outcome Statement for those reaching the point of ordination. As I was pre- paring a forthcoming book (Table Manners: Liturgical leadership for the mission of the Church, SCM Press), I repeatedly requested information on the liturgical syllabus for the new Com- mon Awards, and (where I got a response) met repeated vagueness.

The weakness lies not in our authorised liturgical provision, but in the culture of training, which is content to leave one of the most public and mission-orientated tasks undertaken by the ordained until after ordination, the inherited liturgical culture where they serve, and the vagaries of IME 4-7.

SIMON REYNOLDS
The Rectory, Upper Church Lane
Farnham, Surrey GU9 7PW

From the Bishop of Antsiranana

Sir, - The Revd Mark Earey's article has clearly engaged some strong feelings.

Reading comments about Common Worship in the recent Church House Publishing collection Moving on in Ministry, edited by Tim Ling, led me to wonder whether the Church of England's Liturgical Commission has reflected on the use of Common Worship over the years.

So I asked a member of the Commission, who said, speaking personally, of course, that this was not a significant part of the current agenda - partly because the House of Bishops and/or the General Synod had not asked them to do it.

Whatever we might think about Mr Earey's call for a more strategic view, it is a bit surprising, it seems to me, that the body charged with the oversight of liturgy that has surely made a significant impact on the life of the Church in England, and elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, is not itself a reflective practitioner.

Might the House of Bishops, or someone on the General Synod, encourage the Liturgical Commission to be so?

The Revd Dru Brooke-Taylor's fears of a Trotskyite permanent revolution (Letters, 11 October) are, of course, pure hyperbole.

OLIVER ANTSIRANANA
Evêché Anglican, BP 278
201 Antsiranana
Madagascar

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