*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Angela Tilby: Clergy, leave those texts alone  

03 May 2024

I CAN understand (though I don’t approve of) clergy who do all that they can to dispense with a set liturgy. What I find odder is the habit of making one or two small personal changes to texts, which are repeated every time: a kind of liturgical signature.

At the invitation to communion, Robert Runcie used to add the words “and that he lives for you” after “Eat and drink in remembrance that he died for you. . .”. John Pritchard, when Bishop of Oxford, used to insert words from non-Anglican liturgy at the same point. And many clergy make a dog’s breakfast of the “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. . .” by replacing it with “In the name of God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”, often with a pious “May I speak. . .” at the front, lest they be deemed presumptuous.

I wonder whether all this comes from some kind of insecurity: a desperate need to stamp one’s own personality on to the liturgical text, as though not to do so were to commit the sin of vain and unthinking repetition. Or is it an attempt to keep the congregation awake by introducing a slight variation from what they might be expecting?

Of course, when you hear the variation over and over again, it is all too expected. Knowing the habits of individuals, I sit waiting for the intrusive words, sometimes grinding my teeth. (Why, dearly beloved colleague of mine, do you have to add an unscripted “and” before “This is the Gospel of the Lord”? What exactly is gained by this unscripted interpolation?)

Of course, it can all be canonically justified by Canon B6, which enables slight variations where there is no doctrinal significance. I am not sure that the habit of some Anglo-Catholic clergy in replacing “Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” with “Behold the Lamb of God. . .”, while holding up the eucharistic host, really counts as being of no doctrinal significance; but at least it has liturgical precedent.

The problem comes when a pious change or addition communicates the opposite of what the original text, rubric, or familiar gesture intends. I attended a licensing service recently and was looking forward to the powerful moment when the Bishop hands over the licence to the new incumbent with the words “Receive the cure of souls which is both yours and mine.” On this occasion, however, the moment was ruined by the Bishop’s adding, with a flourish, “And, above all, His. . .’ — an addition that seemed to me to undermine the whole significance of the exchange. If the cure of souls is, above all, “His”, perhaps we don’t need licensed ministers at all, let alone liturgy.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

 

Church Times/RSCM: 

Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available

 

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

Church Times/Canterbury Press:

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

Early bird tickets available

 

 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)