Caught up in the Details

I am a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist, as my steady readers know. If it’s traditional, I’m in favour. If it’s not, I’m doubtful. I was once an enthusiastic liturgical renewal person, but seminary beat that out of me with a surfeit of alternative rites.

Having made that yet again perfectly clear, I am going to say this:

Stop worrying about the details. If we get the basics covered in Sunday worship, there’s scripture, prayer, and a good commentary, and I hope communion, I’m not that concerned if we use the right form of the words. It doesn’t have to be the pseudo-Elizabethan English of the Book of Common Prayer. It just has to be right in intention and theology, and we Anglicans (and many others) know what that is. The BCP has its faults – the pseudo-archaic language is one of them, and let’s face it, it is not the true Cranmer rite – and its great strengths.

But the wording is not that important, especially when it separates Christians from other Christians who pretty much believe the same things. It’s a red herring, a distraction from our mission. I can spend the rest of my life speaking Plain speech, or even Elizabethan Engish, and it doesn’t make any difference at all in heaven. Our forebears in the church spoke Aramaic and Greek for service, then mostly the vernacular, until Latin became entrenched in the Roman church.

I’ve worshipped in French, Spanish and Danish, besides English, and because they are not my native languages, I have no idea if the form was controversial or theologically sound. It didn’t matter. It was all I could do to keep up.

I will continue to use the BCP and its equivalents in English (my heart is really in the 1604 liturgy, mea culpa) but I can understand that some people just get left behind, and the prayer book lacks some liturgies we now find essential. No one had thought to keep the Great Vigil, for instance, until Anglicans and Romans looked to the East and saw that the Paschal Light service had never been forgotten in Orthodoxy. And I can’t see doing without it.

Time to move on. The Lord is calling us out into the mission field from those comfortable pews, and we have to become weekday Christians, not just Sunday-morning Christians. All the liturgies ever written and all the arguments over them will not change that.


8 thoughts on “Caught up in the Details

  1. One of the lovely things about not growing up in a liturgical church is that the ancient ways of the church are new to me. I was never tied down by “this is anglican, and so only anglicans do it.” “this is orthodox and so only orthodox do it.” I was able to come to the large table of Christ’s ancient church and see it all. With prayer asking for discernment and a community around me, I can walk through the practices and rites while (trying to) ignoring those who say we must draw lines at denominational borders and only do such and such a thing in worship because we are such and such a group of Christians. The fact that you are living a Plain life with icons and talking about the Paschal Light is a great example to me.
    As a side note, hopefully those who read this blog know that I wouldn’t be considered a pluralist and think that’s what I’m advocating 🙂

  2. I enjoy attending a latin mass once in a while, listening to the latin is very comforting, restful, and prayerful.
    I agree with you, don’t sweat the small stuff, it is just a distraction as the evil one is well aware.

  3. Magdelaina,

    Interesting observations; I have seen this sort of thing just about split congregations back in the SDA church; to ‘overhead’ or not to ‘overhead’ etc., KJV only or not……I have given this a deal of thought lately (we studied Galatians in Bible study last night and the gentleman teaching the lesson pointed to Galatians 1: 6-13 or there abouts and, among other points of relevance, drew our attention to how such splits and arguments hobble and impede the Church from both the proclaimation of the Gospel and its outliving within the body of Christ.

    I would be curious as to your thoughts upon observing the Liturgical year; the Sydney Diosis pays very little attention to it; it barely entres into church life at all; Advent, the important dates after Christmas, Lent etc, we don’t have Shrove Tuesday or Ash Wednesday services or celebrations; specific days of rememberance outside of Christmas and Easter don’t get a look in; I am curious, because it is like I am missing out on a part of Anglicanism; (21 years of Adventism has led me to be in a position starting from almost scratch).

    Could you recommend any good on-line easily accessible (not PDF, not table-form, not over graphic) resources? As for Easter Vidual, the Sydney diosis has had a ban on candles used in worship with only a few ‘high church’ exceptions that they’d wish would simply not be there at all) since the early 1900’s.

    Am I getting caught up in culture rather than faith? Is my interest in this way of experiencing the Anglican form of Christianity outmoded or not focused upon Christ enough? I am interested in your thoughts.



    • Huh? Is there a reason for the candle ban, fire prevention or something? It is extreme low-churchism. How do they think priests even saw the missal at the altar for evening worship, and on those dark, rainy British Sundays? In lowering stone churches? No one thought twice about candles until about 1850, when the Oxford Movement tried to turn them into some high church symbol. The Orthodox would laugh themselves silly! I am not a Puseyite at all, but some things are just practical, and I’ve needed candles on the altar myself because of inadequate lighting.

      Enjoy the history of the church, don’t get too Protestant political about it. Can you visit an Orthodox church? You probably won’t take communion with them (usually closed) but the worship is in direct line with what was done in Jerusalem 1900 years ago.

      I personally think Sydney diocese is suffering under a surfeit of anti-Catholicism in worship. the Anglican church, like the Orthodox churches and Roman church, is a “Jerusalem” church; the liturgy is influenced by the very first liturgies used by Christians. Try that for an argument with your bishop!

  4. As long as the teaching is Biblically correct, the extras (form, wording, ornamentation) shouldn’t be very critical. You’re very right, they are often red herrings. However, some will take them as essential. Once churches start placing the extras ahead of Biblical teaching, it only leads to strife as personal opinions of these differ. Unfortunately apostasy is often the final result. This is part of the reason I switched churches. Too much emphasis was on other things than Biblical teaching.

    • If the hierarchy of the church(es) would listen to the pew-sitters, a lot would change. For one, we would probably all get along better.

  5. Magdelaina,

    yes; the ban on the use of candles in worship was a ‘theological’ not OH&S issue; there is a rather blunt little ditty bandied about wider Anglican circles concerning the Sydney Anglicans, that they’re ‘so low church, they’re not even Anglican any more’… As for church hierarchy listening to the rank and file parishoners; what hierarchy? we haven’t had a local bishop since July! Our minister is virtually filling this role for our immediate area with oversight of upwards of a dozen programmes – churches, outreach ministries, sschool chaplaincy programmes, evangelism etc. the mob at HQ couldn’t afford to fund a bishop, so our minister is on his own with nobody directly above him to support him or care for him. there’s not unease; if folk feel confident that they can discuss their concerns without their confidence being breeched… Our diosis lost $160 million because it took on debt to buy financial investments to fund programmes, wages, property, the usual; it was fine while economic times were good, but, ehm, disasterous when things turned bad. This isn’t conspiracy; it has been reported in both church and secular news. Only one individual in my bible study spoke up that this was not exactly kosher… And now they’re pumping the paritioners for money to make up the shortfall…and our local minister is under more pressure than ever before.

    to learn about
    sydney Anglicanism, go to and watch the programmes that were aired on 25 oct 09 and 1 Nov 09.

    Please pray for everybody from our Arch Bishop down…



    • Wow! In Canada, we had bankrupt dioceses after the residential school settlements, and they seem to be reorganizing and recovering in some way. Sometimes bishops forget how expensive they are to keep! So maybe they should work harder to be worth their pay. Yes, the worker is worth his wages…and yet young and new priests sometimes have to work for no stipend or a half-stipend just to get started. Maybe a retired bishop could help out Sydney…I’m sure it’s been thought of.

      I could go on and on about churches getting “invested.” I won’t do that here.

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