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Out of the question

01 December 2017

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


Your answers

Our relatively new vicar has changed the words of all the week­day services so that they are now those of the Roman mass. We are a “High” church, and so normally certain practices pass without com­ment, but these changes have upset a lot of people, and are gradually coming into the Sunday services. The PCC has not been consulted about this. We have always been Anglo-Catholic, but never Roman. What can we do, please?

Much depends on what exactly is happening, because the rubrics of Common Worship Holy Communion Order One (Contemporary) allow the president a great deal of discretion in several places, and many elements of the Roman rite, including the readings, responsorial Psalm, offertory prayers, and post-communion prayer can all quite legally be made use of.

If, however, the Roman rite is being used in its entirety in lieu of an authorised Anglican liturgy, that practice needs to cease as soon as possible. This is not because there’s anything wrong with it (in fact, in many respects it’s admirable), but because it is not a form of service currently authorised or allowed by canon.

All Church of England clergy promise that in “public prayer and ministration of the sacraments” they will “use only the forms of service which are authorised or allowed by canon”. Canon B1, “Of conformity of worship”, explains in detail what those forms of service are, and includes ones provided to meet specific special occasions.

For ordinary everyday purposes, though, it means those services contained in the Book of Common Prayer, whether used in their entirety or with some abridgement, plus the alternatives authorised by the General Synod under Canon B2 (1). At present the permissible alternatives are those authorised as part of Common Worship, or which fall within its overall provision.

Canon B3 requires that decisions about which of the authorised forms of service are to be used (apart from the occasional offices) are made jointly by the minister and parochial church council. If that has not been done, it needs to be done, to remove all doubt. A separate informal meeting, to which all members of the congregation should be invited, would then be a great help. It would enable the vicar to explain his liturgical preferences, as well as the reasons behind them, and enable members of the congregation to articulate what they would like to see in services — or not, as the case may be.

Nothing feeds prejudice more than ignorance and nothing dispels it more readily than careful, courteous, explanation.

Adrian F. Sunman

South Collingham, Nottinghamshire


. . . A note at the end of Canon B5, on the Church of England website, refers the reader to a list of the services that are approved and commended for ministers to use when exercising their discretion. Services of the Roman Missal do not appear among the 62 listed services there.

Canon B3.2 says that if there is a disagreement between a minister and the PCC, then the default position is to revert to using the Book of Common Prayer, “unless other forms of worship were in regular use therein during at least two of the four years immediately preceding the date when the disagreement arose”. It is important for those who are unhappy with services to raise their concerns before it can be argued that those services have been in regular use.

Canon B5.4 states: “If any question is raised concerning the observance of provisions of this Canon it may be referred to the bishop in order that he [sic] may give such pastoral guidance, advice or directions as he may think fit.”

Rather ominously, the Canon concludes by saying “such reference shall be without prejudice to the matter in question being made the subject matter of proceedings under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction measure 1963” (section 14.1(b) of which allows disciplinary proceedings against those accused of offences against ecclesiastical law in matters of doctrine, ritual, or ceremonial).

(The Revd) Alan Fraser

Great Barr, Birmingham

Your questions


Does anyone still publish the communion service in an illustrated booklet designed for children?

A. M.


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