wrwMany Anglicans have a love of importing liturgical and extra-liturgical devotions from other traditions into our own.  Anglo-Catholics brought in the liturgy of the palms and the Easter Vigil and the imposition of ashes before any Prayer Book (re-)authorized them.  Evangelical Anglicans have framed special worship services entirely around preaching.  And Charismatic Anglicans have brought in “prayer services.”  Today we’re looking at how such a prayer service could be licitly formed, based upon the rubrics of our own 2019 Prayer Book.

First of all, you need a day that isn’t Sunday.  That way you have freedom to pick the readings and collect practically at will.  Next, you need to use the Holy Communion service but turn it into Antecommunion (that is, omit everything after the Offertory).  Let’s walk through how this could work.

#1 Start with a music set, of course.

Lots of music is essential to charismatic worship.  Sure, sometimes it’s random, but normally there is a progression to the songs that are chosen:

  1. Start with something chill and average-sounding while people are still getting settled,
  2. follow with something loud and upbeat to help people get excited,
  3. maybe next have a slightly slower song with meatier lyrics to dig into,
  4. then crank it up to the “biggest” song of the set, forming a sort of climax to this part of the worship experience.
  5. After that, choose a slow or quiet song, or simply ad-lib for a few minutes, so people can bask in the glory of the Lord and offer their own praises and prayers spontaneously over the keyboard vamp.

I’ve written before that I do not generally approve of this approach to worship music.  But Weird Rubric Wednesday is a mix of satire and education, so let’s roll with it.

#2 The “liturgical” stuff

Following the letter of the law in the 2019 BCP, some sort of Acclamation, or “seasonal greeting” must be said, followed by the Collect for Purity.  Then follows the Summary of the Law (the Decalogue would be too long and perceived as too “formal” for a prayer & praise service) and the Kyrie.

#3 Praise the Lord

The Gloria in excelsis may be substituted with “some other song of praise”.  This is probably not the time for a full worship set, though you could put Step 1 here instead if you prefer.

#4 The Collect & Lessons

Away from Sundays and the Holy Days mandated in the Prayer Book calendar, the celebrant is free to choose just about any set of Propers desired.  For a prayer & praise service you probably want to choose one of the Various Occasions from page 733, such as “Of the Reign of Christ” or “For the Unity of the Church” or “For the Mission of the Church”.

Of course, there’s musical opportunity along the way here, too.  A common pattern I’ve observed is to split a song before and after the Gospel lesson.

#5 Preach

The sermon follows.

#6 Pray

The Creed can be skipped, if it’s neither a Sunday nor a Holy Day, so you can go straight to the Prayers of People.  And as we’ve explored before, technically anything is possible here.  This can be pastor-led or congregation-led, spontaneous or planned, spoken or sung.

#7 Confession & Absolution

I have yet to find any rubric that allows this to be omitted in the 2019 liturgy, so confess you must.  In my experience, charismatic Anglicans prefer the words of the “Renewed Ancient Text”, on page 130.

Alternatively, since this is basically the end of the liturgy, you might want to take advantage of the permissions of the Additional Directions and move the confession & absolution near the beginning of the service as a “Penitential Order”, so you can keep all the “liturgical” stuff in one place, and enjoy the pentecostal freedom of prayer & praise thereafter.

#8 The Peace & Dismissal

Antecommunion ends at this point.  Might as well have a closing song or two, and a spoken dismissal from the minister.

– – What did Fr. Brench just do? – –

I think it’s no secret that I’m not super positive about charismaticism being imported into the Anglican tradition.  I’ve seen some liturgical abuses result, and some sketchy theology and historical teachings promulgated as a result, much like how the Anglo-Papists skew our history to further their own ends, and the Anglo-Puritans provide their own slant regarding the establishment of Anglicanism.  Every modern “stream” is guilty of this.

So I wrote this partly as satire, but partly in realistic acknowledgement of what can actually be done in accord with the Prayer Book.  Both the 1979 and the 2019 afford a number of freedoms and points of technicality that open wide the doors to many different possibilities.  On one hand this is a bad thing – it makes the concept of “common prayer” nearly impossible to achieve when so many different interpretations of the same liturgy are possible and licit.  On the other hand, the flexibility of this book is a blessing – it provides a common ground where widely diverging traditions can share a basic common touchstone.  The charismatics will want to strip it down and add more music and prayer, the evangelicals will want to keep it simple and spend more time preaching, the anglo-catholics will want to ornament and ritualize it further.  But the basic texts remain in common.

Thus I outline this prayer & praise service not just to satirize but also to instruct and encourage.  If you are of a mind to hold a charismatic prayer & praise service in an Anglican church, don’t just make it up yourself!  Use the prayer book’s liturgy as the starting point.  I, myself, may not like the final product, but at least you’re using the book we have in common, and submitting to the authority that resides over us both.

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