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Why do some clergy preach a sermon at ‘8 am’ service on Sundays?

05 October 2018


Why do some clergy preach a sermon at “the eight-o’clock” on Sunday mornings? Many of us want a short service of holy communion, be it from the Prayer Book or Common Worship.

Your answers: They are obedient to the rubrics. The Prayer Book, after the Creed, contains this instruction: “Then shall follow the Sermon, or one of the Homilies already set forth, or hereafter to be set forth, by authority.”

The equivalent note in Common Worship reads: “The sermon is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word. A sermon should normally be preached at all celebrations on Sundays and Principal Holy Days.”

It goes on to indicate some latitude about the form the sermon can take and (in Order Two) its position in the Order, but omission of the sermon is not, strictly speaking, within the discretion of the minister, whatever the apparent preferences of the congregation.

(The Rt Revd) Humphrey Southern
Cuddesdon, Oxon


The sermon at the “quiet eight-o’clock” was, I think, a mid-20th-century innovation. In the 1940s, Austin Farrer began to read a reflective paragraph to his congregation in the chapel of Trinity College, Oxford. He published some of these in 1952 as The Crown of the Year — often esteemed a gem of Anglican spirituality. But Farrer was a genius, not least with words, and those reflections were literally paragraphs, tersely and beautifully phrased.

The practice of giving addresses at early eucharists became more common in the 1960s. Along with liturgical reform arose the dogma that the Word should always be expounded as well as proclaimed. In the Roman Catholic Church, a similar emphasis, together with the use of the vernacular, was approved by Vatican II and gave ecumenical authority — imperative even — to the practice.

Sadly, rarely are the clergy verbally chaste as Farrer was. Perhaps also they have later services with the same readings, and the temptation to prepare one sermon primarily for the latter becomes irresistible.

Name & address supplied


When a priest acts as deacon at mass, should he or she wear their stole across the chest or hanging down? I have recently seen both ways used. [Answers, 31 August]

Your answer: The Revd Ian Randall tells us that all priests present at a mass ought to concelebrate. I have witnessed concelebration and regard it as bad practice.

I hope that all Christians who attend a mass use it as an opportunity to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ; in that sense, everyone in the congregation, ordained or not, is a concelebrant. One authorised person acts as president on behalf of the congregation; another may be chosen as deacon.

Others who are qualified to preside but were not chosen on this occasion have no special part to play. If they mimic the president’s actions, setting themselves apart from the laity, they divide the body of Christ, which the epistles deplore.

(The Revd) David Billin
Carshalton, Surrey


Your question: Why do some clergy wear academic hoods with their surplices? Canon B8 does not authorise it; moreover, the requirement in the corresponding 1604 canon referenced graduates of Oxford or Cambridge only.

A. H.


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