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Out of the question: Uncanonical?

17 November 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


Churchmanship at my parish church is high Anglo-Catholic: though the priest, when saying mass, follows Common Worship, the pages have been stuck into the Roman Missal; the Roman Catholic collect is used instead of the collect prescribed in Common Worship; and a stone tile has been set into the high altar, thus, if my understanding is correct, transforming it from a communion table into an altar in the Roman Catholic sense. Do these practices accord with canon law?


All Church of England clergy are required make the Declaration of Assent set out in Canon C15 at several times during their ministry, including prior to ordination and whenever they are licensed to a new post. As part of that declaration, they 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”.

According to Canon B1, the expression “form of service” appears to extend to the prayers known as collects. That said, Canon B5 allows the minister a discretion to make and use variations in a form of service authorised under Canon B1 which are not of substantial importance.

Whether that discretion extends to the use of unauthorised collects from other communions is a bit of a grey area, and one could say it was a matter of interpretation. It is not something that’s been put to any legal test, so far as I’m aware. I don’t think a Church of England priest could substitute such collects for authorised Anglican ones, though, without some measure of disloyalty to the Church that he or she has solemnly pledged to serve.

Canon F2 requires the provision of a “convenient and decent table which may be of wood, stone or other suitable material” for the celebration of the Holy Communion. Inserting a stone tile into such a table would not alter either its canonical or sacramental character, and would be almost certainly be unlawful unless a faculty, requested for good Anglican reasons, was obtained for the purpose.

Adrian F. Sunman
South Collingham
Newark, Notts


Your questions


I have been asked by a parishioner to explain the term “Gradual” hymn. Can anyone explain the origin or meaning of the word “Gradual” in the context of the hymn immediately before the Gospel in the eucharist?

A. R.


I was interested in the question about liturgical practices and canon law. 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?
Name and address supplied


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