Wednesday, August 31, 2005

”Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.”

It’s come to my attention that some Episcopal parishes are changing what they say after the scripture lessons. In the 1979 prayer book, for Holy Eucharist Rite II, “The Word of the Lord” is said with the people responding “Thanks be to God.”

There’s also the option of saying, “Here ends the Reading.”

But now some parishes are saying, “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches” or a variant.

That sets off alarm bells with me, to put it nicely. Yes, I’m aware that’s a quote from Revelation. But it’s not an appropriate closure to a scripture lesson.

First, it comes across (to me at least) as a flowery attempt to avoid the authority of God’s Word. The parish leaders don’t want to announce scripture as the word of God, but simply saying “Here ends the Reading” isn’t good enough for them for some reason.

So they say something that makes no clear commitment about the authority of the scripture just said. “Hear what the Spirit is saying . . . “ could easily mean, “We don’t know how much of what we just read is from God, so listen real hard to figure out what God is really saying to us.”

And, frankly, ECUSA leaders have been blaming a lot of their revisionism on the Holy Spirit lately. This change goes right along with that. I for one think that is no coincidence.

Even if I'm being overly alarmist and paranoid (and I'm not), the bad messages this innovation sends, even if inadvertent, are good enough reasons to snuff it.

But, again, you can’t blame the 1979 prayer book for this – it’s not in there. I’ve been told it comes from Enriching Our Worship and is therefore authorized by ECUSA. Which brings up an important reason for having a prayer book liturgy, without an excess of alternative liturgies running amuck – quality control. And part of its quality control is that it disallows at least many hobby horses from entering parish worship. (Although the 1979 BCP, even on its own, certainly allows more hobby horses than more traditional prayer books.)

For example, I come from a Fundamentalist background. But when I do my lector duties, it’s not appropriate for me to say, “This is the God-breathed, plenary inspired, inerrant Word of the Lord.” And the REC Prayer Book would not allow it, and I would lose my Lector’s license if I kept it up. Instead, I can say, “This is the Word of the Lord.”

Similarly, someone in a church whose leadership thinks the Holy Spirit is saying all sorts of strange stuff to the churches should not be allowed to say, “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

That’s not to mention that such liturgical innovations further separate a parish from the historic catholic church through the ages. I like traditional liturgy because it links a church with the saints of centuries past. Needless innovations fray those links.

In any case, this liturgical innovation is one hobby horse that should be shot.

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