Wednesday, 28 April 2010

A New Franciscan Office Book (Part One)

Quietly slipping onto Amazon and Church House Bookshops Lists this week, but available shortly after Easter direct from Hilfield Friary, a new Office Book for use by all three Orders of The Society of St Francis. Previous books, containing orders for the Divine Office, (Morning, Midday, Evening and Night Prayer), plus a host of extra material, have been well received and much used throughout the Church; the 1981 version cropped up all over the place, (no doubt because the Orders in the Alternative Service Book were so unhelpful), while the 1992 book, published in two slightly differing forms as The Daily Office SSF, and Celebrating Common Prayer, was a joint work between the Franciscans and a number of interested Anglican Liturgists. It is still treasured by some, (available online here), and taught English Anglicans a new, generous understanding of the practice and purpose of Daily Prayer. Many of the insights gained from using these books contributed to Common Worship: Daily Prayer (preliminary version 2002, authorised version 2005), which, in a competitive market where denominational loyalties do not necessarily count, has quickly become the prayer book of choice for the majority of clergy and parishes, and, if the sales figures are a reliable guide, for many others, notwithstanding the persistence of  the Book of Common Prayer, and the Roman Breviary in some places.

For Deacons and Priests, celebrating Morning and Evening Prayer every day is a key part of our identity, along with the Daily Mass, the deep roots of both corporate and personal prayer. Because of its roots, and its pattern of prayer 4 times a day, Common Worship: Daily Prayer (CW:DP) has a Franciscan feel in many places, and we have used it in here in Elland since it was published. Broadly speaking, its compilers intended to take the best from the 2 approaches to the Daily Office that have featured through the Christian centuries, the 'peoples' Office, (movement, ceremony, lots of repeated items and relatively small amount of Psalmody and Bible Readings)  and the 'monastic', (static, lots of options, Psalms, Readings)

As a Franciscan, there are aspects of the second that I miss, when using CW:DP, firstly the Invitatories, (sentences said at the beginning of Morning Prayer, inviting us to worship), which CW:DP has either flattened (in Seasons)or removed (in Ordinary Time); secondly, the invariable 'alleluia', at the end of the Gloria, which CW:DP either ignores (Ordinary Time) or puts elsewhere, and thirdly, the Kyries, or Shorter Litany, which CW:DP has removed in favour of responses familiar from the Eucharist. I am delighted to see that all three persist in the new Daily Office SSF.

The structure of the new book is refreshing, though taking a little time to get used to. After the 7 forms of Morning, Midday, Evening and Night Prayer, the sections of the book are arranged in a progressive, logical form  - first the Psalter, then the canticles, then the Collects and sentences for the sanctorale (saints days) and temporale (Church Year).  Anglican Books tend to arrange things the other way around, with the Psalter at the back. The versions used for Psalter and Canticles have been brought in line with CW:DP, best described as an attempt to be contemporary but dignified, following the NRSV Bible. On the whole they read well and rhythmically, with only the occasional jarring word or phrase. After the need to offer the Church a wider form of daily Prayer with the 1992 version, this definitely seems to be a distinctly Franciscan book, with Midday Prayer in particular using prayers from both Francis himself, and from within the Franciscan tradition.

I am beginning to use the Book for those times, mostly Evening Prayer, when my colleagues and I don't currently pray together, and will return to this topic soon.

Monday, 26 April 2010

All Quiet on the Western Front

Too quiet on here, so a Reader tells me. Easter days have passed in a haze of joyful Paschal Liturgies, together with Weddings, Baptisms, Annual Meetings and Funerals, or, to put it another way, the everyday stuff of a parish priest. There have also been a myriad bits and pieces for our Vacant Parishes, arranging cover and (more) Annual Meetings, and 24 hours away in Ilkley trying to learn how to be a Rural Dean. One Son has celebrated his 18th Birthday, while another prepares for his forthcoming Marriage, (via the stag weekend in Edinburgh at the Rugby League.)

As the May Bank Holiday weekend approaches, we are busy preparing for the All Saints Art Festival, and to welcoming new and returning visitors. The 'home team' work tremendously hard to put all this on, together with the good will of the Artists whose work we exhibit.

The following weekend we are off down the A1 and the A17, for the Parish Pilgrimage to Walsingham.

We already have many prayers to offer, many candles to be left at the feet of Our Lady, for individuals in joy and in sorrow, for our Parish, as we try to move forward with our Transformational Plan, building on our strengths, aware of too many pressures, especially financial ones, and for our Anglican Church, in days of confusion and uncertainty.

God willing, we return from Walsingham spiritually refreshed, physically knackered, to host the Archdeacon's Visitation for the Calderdale Deaneries. I have been ordained long enough to have caught the last echoes of the system whereby, as a very junior Diocesan Deacon/Priest, I was formally summoned to the Archdeacons Court of Visitation (togther with the rest of the serving Diocesan Clergy), the letter bearing some terrible threat about what was to be done to my members and appurtenances, if I failed to appear. Sadly however, I don't recall the then Archdeacon of Leeds wearing Gaiters

Friday, 23 April 2010

To Pray is to Serve

The ladder of Christian prayer not only reaches to heaven and rests more firmly on earth. More than that, it unites heaven and earth very closely, because the ladder is Jesus, the Incarnate Lord. In him, through him, we share today in the prayers and praises of the blessed saints in heaven. In him. through him, we touch with our prayers the sins and sorrows of humankind. And in him, through him, our prayers shall be made one in him, as he is in the Father in the bond of the Holy Ghost. To whom be glory, praise and thanksgiving from angels and from all people, now and for evermore.

-Archbishop Michael Ramsey, who died on this day in 1988; from a sermon preached at the Consecration of the new Chapel at St Mary's Abbey, West Malling, 1966.