Why do clergy use ‘you’ in the blessing at the end of morning prayer, but lay ministers use ‘us’?

by
13 April 2018

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Your answers:

In the prayer of absolution and the blessing at the end of Morning Prayer, the clergy use the word “you”, but lay ministers replace this with “us”. Is this because the clergy are perfect and do not need forgiveness or benediction?

 

There is probably some flexibility in Common Worship about whether an ordained minister should use “you” or “us” in giving the absolution or the blessing, though it is clearly stated that “us” and “our” are said by those who are not ordained priest.

In the Book of Common Prayer, the invitation to confession, the absolution, and the final blessing are certainly expected to be said by the priest to the people. This is not, of course, because the priest has no need of God’s forgiveness or blessing, but because when Jesus commissioned the apostles as recorded in John 20.22 and 20.23 (“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven . . .”), our Church believes that the authority and responsibility that he gave to them has passed on to their successors, our bishops and priests.

There will be some priests who choose, when pronouncing the absolution or the blessing, to emphasise by the use of “us” that we are all equally in need of God’s grace. Other priests, by the use of “you”, will wish to emphasise their ministry as “a servant of the servants of God”.

(Prebendary) Christopher Tookey
Wells, Somerset

 

Readers and lay ministers are not permitted by Canon Law to give absolution or blessing. Only ordained clergy may do so. In the prayers of absolution and blessing in Morning or Evening Prayer, the use of “you” signifies that the clergy pronounce absolution (in the name of Jesus) for the congregation and similarly give them God’s blessing.

Readers and lay ministers may pray on behalf of the congregation for absolution and blessing, using “us” to indicate this. This presumably includes all Christian people, including the clergy. It certainly doesn’t imply that the clergy are perfect and in no need of absolution or benediction.

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Margaret Ives (Reader)
Scotforth, Lancaster

 

Many sinners find it hard to believe that God has really forgiven them; so the absolution is pronounced by a priest who has been specially authorised to do this by the bishop. Priests are no better than lay people, who can just pray for absolution.

(Canon) John Goodchild
Liverpool

 

[At BCP matins, a deacon or lay officiant uses the collect for Trinity 21 (1662) in place of the absolution. Editor]

 

Your questions:

I think I remember someone quoting a church Father, perhaps St Athanasius, observing he could not go to the marketplace to buy bread(?) without theology becoming the topic of conversation. I think the example given was whether the Father was greater than the Son. What exactly is the quotation and its source? Such open discussion of religion used to be true in England, what or whose influence caused this to change?

A. B.

 

Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.

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