One of the stranger experiences for someone accustomed to the 1979 Prayer Book (or similar resources), going into the 2019 book, might be the Offertory. It’s handled pretty much the same in this book as the 1979: the prayer over the offering is hard-wired into the main text of the liturgy, which is a minor change, and probably not too jarring to adapt to. But when you flip the pages over to the list of Offertory Sentences, that’s where things might get weird.
You see, the 1979 Prayer Book has a reputation for being absolutely drowned in choices. Several Eucharistic Rites, contemporary and traditional language versions of the Offices and Collects, countless “_ or _” prayers, you name it, the 1979 book is full of options. And its list of 8 Offertory Sentences and 1 “bidding” to choose from for the Celebrant to read at the beginning of the Offertory seemed like plenty of choices (page 376-7 of that book). But turn to page 149 in the 2019 Prayer Book and you find twenty Offertory Sentences to choose from, spanning three pages! What gives, 2019? We thought the liturgy was getting more streamlined and simple, why so many choices? And why for such a paltry moment in the liturgy?
As usual, the answer can be found with quick consultation with the classical prayer books. Take up the 1662 Prayer Book, flip to the appropriate portion of the Communion liturgy (page 241 in my Cambridge Press copy, I don’t know how standardized they are), and you find that the Communion Sentences are printed right into the primary text of the service, not in an appendix after. And there are twenty of them! (Interestingly, not quite the same twenty.) The 1662 rubric for their use is as follows:
Then shall the Priest return to the Lord’s Table, and begin the Offertory, saying one or more of these sentences following, as he thinketh most convenient in his discretion.
This sounds rather like the handling of the Opening Sentences in the Daily Office, which also have undergone a radical re-purposing since at least 1928.
The 2019 Prayer Book, meanwhile, calls for only “one of the provided sentences of Scripture.”
Chances are that most celebrants will continue saying one of the three or four that they’d memorized from the 1979 Prayer Book’s shorter list, and not give this any more thought. And that’s okay. But it’s worth exploring this renewed list of Offertory Sentences. Like the Comfortable Words they may feel redundant in function, but when taken seriously they can provide an excellent “bible study” on giving, generosity, and charity. Our rubrics technically don’t permit us to read more than one, not that I can imagine any bishop telling us off for violating that, so perhaps the best way to go about exploring these with the congregation is using them on a rotation, week by week. These sentences exist in our liturgy, after all, not just to “kill time” or warn people that the money plate is coming, but actually to teach them about the spiritual discipline of charity, alms-giving, or tithing.
Just for kicks, let’s make a text-based Venn Diagram comparing the 1662 and 2019 lists:
1662 only: Psalm 41:1, Proverbs 19:17, Tobit 4:7b, Luke 19:8, 1 Corinthians 9:7, 1 Corinthians 9:11, 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, Galatians 6:6-7, 1 Timothy 6:6-7, 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
1662 & 2019: Tobit 4:8-9, Matthew 5:16, Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 7:21, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, Galatians 6:10, Hebrews 6:10, Hebrews 13:16*.
2019 only: Deuteronomy 16:16-17, Psalm 50:14*, Psalm 96:8*, Matthew 25:40, Luke 10:2, Acts 20:35, Romans 10:14-15, Romans 12:1*, 2 Corinthians 8:9, Ephesians 5:2*, 1 Peter 2:9, 1 John 3:17.
The 1928 Prayer Book has sixteen Sentences, not simply a reduction from the 1662 list, but supplying new verses – some of which are preserved in subsequent books, and two which are unique to it but are now found in our post-Offertory prayer: 1 Chronicles 29:11* & 14.
* These are the eight listed in the 1979 book, in addition to the following: Matthew 5:23-24, Revelation 4:11. Interesting that that book had only one Sentence in common with the 1662 list.
If at all possible, take up a copy of the 1662 Prayer Book, though, and read through its Offertory Sentences in its printed order. It’s not just a list thrown together (which I think is likely the case with ours), but the progression from one to the next is logical, ideas building from one to the next. With only a little finesse, you can make the whole “list” into a coherent Exhortation!