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Posts Tagged ‘BCP’

This evening we met at church for an Ash Wednesday service. In previous years, we have had ashing. And on one notorious occasion the Vicar managed to burn my forehead with incorrectly mixed ashes.

This year, with the need for social distancing, the Vicar, like several others, has decided to return to the older liturgy of the Church of England, and lead a service known as A Commination (The Confession of Cursed Sinners). We used a modern, shortened version, provided by Church Society. The original 1662 one is in the Book of Common Prayer.

The service is not all that popular in the Church of England. People find it quite harsh, because it reminds us of all the things that God does not like – that are under his curse. It is a painful exercise, to remind ourselves of our sinfulness and the ways in which we break God’s laws and reject his rule in our lives. But the phrase that struck me the evening, as we went through the service was towards the end of the confession:

and so make haste to help us in this world,
that we may ever live with you in the world to come,
where there will no longer be any curse

That reminder that there will ‘not longer be any curse’ is so helpful to carry out of a service of penitence and mourning for sin. The promise that we will be free of the heaviness we feel when we think of the Lord’s standards and the way we fail to keep them. To remember that

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us

As I was looking for pretty pictures to illustate this post, I came across a poem by Wordsworth. It seems that The Commination wasn’t popular even in his day. But he too realised that this service where we contemplate the darkness of our sin is needed, that we should deal with our guilt and seek pardon from the Lord. So my prayer this Lent is that I would have that fruit of peace and love and joy as I thank Jesus that there will no longer be any curse.

Ecclesiastical Sonnets – Part Iii. – Xxix – The Commination Service
Shun not this Rite, neglected, yea abhorred,
By some of unreflecting mind, as calling
Man to curse man, (thought monstrous and appalling.)
Go thou and hear the threatenings of the Lord;
Listening within his Temple see his sword
Unsheathed in wrath to strike the offender’s head,
Thy own, if sorrow for thy sin be dead,
Guilt unrepented, pardon unimplored.
Two aspects bears Truth needful for salvation;
Who knows not ‘that?’ yet would this delicate age
Look only on the Gospel’s brighter page:
Let light and dark duly our thoughts employ;
So shall the fearful words of Commination
Yield timely fruit of peace and love and joy.

William Wordsworth

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We are approaching a strange and hard Easter. A strange and hard Holy Week. This collect from the Book of Common Prayer is preparing me for that – reminding me of the Father’s tender love, helping me to recall the great humility of the Lord Jesus and challenging me to be patient. These are what I need to meditate on this week. I need to meditate with gratitude on love, humility and patience.

[Black text on yellow starburst, photo of blackthorn blossom behind] ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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So yesterday the Church of England announced the suspension of all public worship. So things are going to look very different here for a bit. And then today we learnt that schools are closing, so homeschool is looming. And the Queen is up at university, making lockdown lists.

Our Open Church has been running this week, allowing people to see one another and connect briefly, as well as pray and seek help if they need it. And we’re thinking through how to keep everyone connected online. We’re not a very techie community – many people don’t have broadband at home, and some don’t even have a mobile phone, not even a text and dial one. So we are going to try and get creative, maybe delivering paper service sheets and looking into a dial a sermon/podcast service, as well as looking at other stuff that many churches are doing – Facebook Live and YouTube services and general online things.

But although we’re going to be doing things differently, we serve a God who never changes. Tonight, in a fit of Anglicanism, the Vicar and I prayed Evening Prayer from the 1662 BCP together. The set Psalm for this evening was Psalm 93 – The Lord Reigns – a truth to hold onto when everything else is different.

[Yellow text on background of grey slate roofing tiles] Psalm 93 The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty! Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O Lord, for evermore.

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This coronavirus crisis feels a bit like election season did – there’s just so much news. Every half an hour something new is cancelled. There are graphs all over the internet giving a fresh perspective and interesting and learned experts giving opinions which help you feel like you might get a grip on what’s happening. It’s a big global event with huge repercussions and it’s also a close to home personal one, with some disruption and changes in view for our family.

I’m staying with my mum at the moment and we’re discussing various planned holidays and family events over the next few months and wondering which ones, if any, will go ahead. The Queen’s university (I know! How can she be that old?!) has suspended face to face lectures, and she thinks the exams next week might be cancelled. (So she rather regrets staying up very late last night to study the genetics of viruses for the biology test. Although, who knows if it might come in handy some time soon?) I get an email from the boys’ schools every day with an update of cancelled events, and I send messages to the family Whatsapp group with handwashing reminders.

The Church of England is updating its guidance to churches frequently – no cup at communion, no full immersion baptisms, standing for communion and other procedures to help us to protect people from infection. Behind the scenes clergy and laity are energetically debating how to serve and guard their flocks and parishes and bring God’s grace into a frequently overwhelming situation. My timelines are awash with random pundits asking what the government or the church are up to and making alternative pronouncements. It’s confusing and stressful, and there’s so little I can do about it all.

So I’ve made some decisions about what to pay attention to, although the drama of the frequent announcements will probably keep distracting me. But I’m going to read some things by proper scientists, and I’m going to keep on washing my hands often and for 20 seconds (whilst praying the Lord’s Prayer, which fits). I’m going to try and read things written by Christians who lived through plagues previously, and say some of their prayers. I’m going to pray about how I can serve those who will be in need because of this crisis, especially in our parish. And I’m going to pray the Church of England’s Collect provided to be prayed In the Time of any Common Plague of Sickness. Pray with me?

In the time of any common Plague of Sickness. O ALMIGHTY God, who in thy wrath didst send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness, for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also, in the time of king David, didst slay with the plague of pestilence threescore and ten thousand, and yet remembering thy mercy didst save the rest: Have pity upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality; that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angel to cease from punishing, so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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One of the MTs who will be joining us in September, Radiohead, is, rather surprisingly for someone in their early 20s, a big fan of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. He recently blogged about Cranmer’s Catechism that is contained in the BCP, and sketched out a version in modern English.

The same evening another friend linked me to this excellent rap from Shai Linne, who captures the basics of a catechism in truly modern English and includes a few ‘Big Words that end in -SHUN‘. I’m thinking our kids might enjoy the Shai Linne best at this stage. But who knows, maybe they’ll be Cranmer fans too once  Radiohead moves in…

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