Is it still the practice at large Evangelical churches (as it seemed to be in the days of the Alternative Service Book, when I was a student) to disregard the Church of England’s official calendars and lectionaries so as to preach courses of sermons on the minister’s personal choice of readings? If so, are the relevant parts of canon law destined to suffer the same fate as the vesture canon?
Your answers: The use of lectionaries is not mentioned in canon law; but Common Worship* expects their use, although in Ordinary Time, “after due consultation with the PCC, the minister may, from time to time, depart from the lectionary provision for pastoral reasons or preaching or teaching purposes”.
To my mind, the more fundamental document is the Ordinal, which requires us “to teach and to admonish, to feed and provide for [God’s] family, to search for his children in the wilderness of this world’s temptations, and to guide them through its confusions . . . They are to unfold the Scriptures, to preach the word in season and out of season, and to declare the mighty acts of God.”
To take this charge as “shepherd” seriously, leading our flock to good pasture, requires us to use any or all parts of God’s living and active word, not just those decided by lectionary compilers. There is much to commend some lectionaries, but they often fail to provide helpful context, and inevitably they omit large chunks of scripture, particularly the Old Testament.
There is no standard in “large Evangelical churches”. But many share a common approach to the preaching, particularly in Ordinary Time, that follows the practice of St John Chrysostom and St Augustine, preaching continuously through short books, or consecutive units of longer ones. In these times, we aim to bring more of a balance between types and ages of scripture preached, and to be able, after prayerful consideration, to respond to the needs of a particular congregation at that time.
Rather than being “the minister’s personal choice of readings”, which implies critcism, this takes the promise of 2 Timothy 3.16 seriously.
(The Revd) Jonathan Clark
The lectionary is not followed through the Church’s year in an Evangelical church that I know. Lectures, not sermons, are given on subjects chosen by the incumbent on a term basis; nothing from the lectionary is followed. It may be said that it is the whatever Sunday after Trinity, but that is the only concession made. Most of the lectures are based on the Old Testament.
(Mrs) Kathleen Robertson
Yes, it is the practice in many Evangelical churches to preach by consecutive exposition. That means choosing a book and preaching through it. It is important to keep a balance between Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospel, and between shorter and longer books. Sometimes it needs to be a section, or selections, of a longer book, and the church members should be consulted, so that it does not degenerate into the minister’s personal choice. A church may want to adopt this to treat a book more thoroughly than the lectionary does.
(The Revd) Martin Jewitt
[*The Book of Common Prayer, if used, also “appoints” the scriptures to be read. Editor]
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