Weekly exorcism of a rented worship space

In this age of small churches, church plants, and sharing worship space with other institutions and even businesses, we’ve got an unusual situation.  You see, churches and chapels and the like are usually consecrated or dedicated for the holy purpose of divine worship.  This doesn’t mean we are unable to worship anywhere else, but there is something very Gospel-proclaiming about setting aside a physical space or structure for the sole use of the Kingdom of God.  There is also the spiritual world to consider: a place of worship is a place where angels minister among us, and thus it is appropriate to expel first the evil angels, or demons.  This is, of a sort, an exorcism.  And those who meet for worship in a space that is used for non-church purposes during the week are advised to carry out such an exorcism before each worship service.

Says whom? The Book of Common Prayer (2019), on page 523, states:

Shared-use facilities like school auditoriums or community centers are not consecrated and dedicated, but weekly preparation for worship should include spiritual cleansing (exorcising) of any forces of darkness that may have entered, invited or uninvited.

Yup.  Welcome to Weird Rubric Wednesday!

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A number of the “weird rubrics” we’ve looked at in the past are instances of what might feel like loopholes for strange practices or mucking about with the liturgy in strange ways.  This kind of weird rubric, however, is one that is probably more of a surprise to the average reader followed by a huge question mark – how should a church community go about exorcising its worship space every weekend?

There probably are other sources out there, perhaps even historic ones, that provide guidance to this scenario.  The main challenge here is that it is an extremely rare situation for a church to share sacred space with a secular institution, so a rite for our present need is not going to be prominently known from history; I highly doubt that there is a standard official rite for this even among Rome’s massive collection of medieval liturgies.

And so I made one up.  But that sounds sketchy and proprietary, so allow me to explain it properly, yet briefly.

In the confrontation of spiritual evil, there are (up to) seven movements a liturgically-minded devotion or Office might go through:

  1. Adoration of the Holy Trinity (to start with the fundamentals of worship)
  2. Celebration of the Communion of Saints (because we are not alone here)
  3. Veneration of the Cross (where God and the earth did meet in full power)
  4. Confrontation of Evil (now we’re ready to “speak truth to power” as it were)
  5. Confession and Absolution of Sin (where we send evil back to the Cross)
  6. Comfortable Words (let the Word of God speak peace into the situation)
  7. The Peace (close with a blessing or other word or prayer of finality)

This outline is generally in conformity with Deliverance ministries, exorcists, reconciliation of a penitent, and other similar ministries of prayer that deal directly with sin and evil powers.

How you spell this out for the purpose of cleansing/exorcising a worship space, well, may look different depending upon your specific situation and your churchmanship or theology.  As a generally-pretty-loyal-Prayer-Book-Anglican, I see it as right and proper that what I provide is entirely derived from the Prayer Book tradition.  It is not my place to introduce too many new and different intrusions to the life of the Church from what has already been established by canon law.

So here is how I would flesh out this summary into a Rite of Cleansing.

  1. Invocation of the Holy Trinity expanded from the beginning of the Ministry to the Sick
  2. Invocation of the Communion of Saints with Psalm 113, which is traditionally used in liturgies for Marian feast days
  3. Anthem of the Cross from the (2019) Good Friday Liturgy
  4. Prayers of Confrontation, again taken from the Good Friday Liturgy
  5. Sentences against Sin from the Scriptures (mixing steps 5 & 6 above)
  6. Collect from Evening Prayer and Compline for God’s angelic presence (mixing steps 5 & 6 above)
  7. The Grace from the end of the Daily Office

I made this short and simple so that anyone can use it, though added the option for a priest to use the Oil of Catechumens if desired.  The assumption is that a congregation’s first time in a shared-use space would do something like this on a larger scale together, and then this short Rite would be used privately by a smaller number of people on the weekly basis during set-up for the worship service.

Obviously there are a lot of factors that might color this situation rather differently.  If your church is meeting in a Lodge or a Synagogue or other religious or quasi-religious building, you’re going to want to be a lot more direct or “aggressive” in your opposition to spirits of deception and lies.  If your church is meeting in a building used by a Christian organization, you probably don’t need to be quite so confrontational.

Here is the described Rite in full:

 

INVOCATION OF THE HOLY TRINITY

Peace to this place, and all who enter it, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

INVOCATION OF THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS
Psalm 113

Praise the Lord.  Sing praises, you servants of the Lord; *
     O praise the Name of the Lord.
Blessed be the Name of the Lord, *
     from this time forth for evermore.
The Lord’s Name be praised *
     from the rising up of the sun to the going down of the same.
The Lord is high above all nations, *
     and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God, who has his dwelling so high, *
     and yet humbles himself to behold the things
     that are in heaven and earth?
He takes up the lowly out of the dust, *
     and lifts the poor out of the ashes,
That he may set them with the princes, *
     even with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home to dwell in, *
     and makes her to be a joyful mother of children.
     Praise the Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.  Amen.

ANTHEM OF THE CROSS
Psalm 67 with Antiphon

We glory in your Cross, O Lord,
and praise and glorify your holy resurrection;
for by virtue of your Cross
joy has come to the whole world.

May God be merciful to us and bless us,
show us the light of his countenance, and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth,
your saving health among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

We glory in your Cross, O Lord,
and praise and glorify your holy resurrection;
for by virtue of your Cross
joy has come to the whole world.

PRAYERS OF CONFRONTATION

O God of truth and love, who desires not the death of sinners but rather that they should turn from their wickedness and live: Look with mercy on those who are deceived by the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil; that the hearts of those who have gone astray may be restored to wisdom and return to the way of truth in the unity of your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Merciful God, creator of all the peoples of the earth and lover of souls: Have compassion on all who do not know you are you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; let your Gospel be preached with grace and power to those who have not heard it; turn the hearts of those who resist it; and bring home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there may be one flock under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

SENTENCES OF SCRIPTURE AGAINST SIN

One or more of the following sentences is read.

When the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”  Jude 9

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9

Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.  Psalm 143:2

When a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life.  Ezekiel 18:27

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Matthew 3:2

Rend your hearts and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.  Joel 2:13

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  Psalm 51:17

To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. Daniel 9:9-10

COLLECT FOR CLEANSING

Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Priest may use the Oil of Exorcism, applied at the doorframe of the entrance to the worship space.

CLOSING BLESSING

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore.  Amen.

 

Evening Prayer on the Day of Pentecost

Here’s a little surprise, or bonus, for this evening: I’ve recorded the Daily Office of Evening Prayer for Pentecost evening!

Outline so you can have your books (2019 Prayer Book, ESV Bible, and a Hymnal) ready and follow along:

  • Opening Sentence (BCP 55)
  • Confession of Sin (BCP 41)
  • The Invitatory (BCP 43)
  • Abide with me (Hymnal)
  • Psalm 145 (BCP 461)
  • First Lesson: Acts 2
  • Canticle: Magnificat (BCP 45)
  • Second Lesson: Acts 10:34-end
  • Canticle: Nunc dimittis (BCP 46)
  • Apostles’ Creed (BCP 46)
  • The Prayers (BCP 47)
    • Collect for the Day of Pentecost #1 (BCP 614)
    • Collect for Resurrection Hope (BCP 49)
    • Prayer for Mission #1 (BCP 51)
  • Anthem: Hail thee, festival day (Hymnal)
  • One-minute Reflection
  • Additional Prayers (BCP 675-680)
    • #98 For the Acceptance of Prayer
    • #99 For the Acceptance of Prayer
    • #100 For the Answering of Prayer
    • #108 After Public Worship
    • #115 For the Coming of God’s Kingdom
  • The Great Thanksgiving (BCP 51)
  • Closing Prayers (BCP 52)

Evening Prayer Audio: Eve of the Ascension

For a special treat I decided to prepare an audio recording of Evening Prayer today

To follow along, here’s the outline:

  • Opening Sentence: Hebrews 9:24 (BCP 55)
  • Confession through Invitatory (BCP 41-43)
  • Evening Hymn: O blest Creator of the light (2017 hymnal #240)
  • Psalm 104 (BCP 403)
  • OT Lesson: Ecclesiastes 6
  • Canticle: Magnificat (BCP 45)
  • NT Lesson: 3 John
  • Canticle: Nunc Dimittis (BCP 46)
  • The Apostles’ Creed (BCP 46)
  • The Prayers (BCP 47)
    • The Collect of the Day: Ascension Day (BCP 613)
    • Collect for Protection (BCP 50)
    • The 2nd Prayer for Mission (BCP 51)
  • The Anthem: O Jesus, crowned with all reknown (2017 hymnal #148)
  • Homily: Being Rich Is Pointless?
  • Occasional Prayers #48-51 (BCP 660)
  • The General Thanksgiving (BCP 51)
  • The Grace (BCP 53)

Domestic Spirituality

Most of the Occasional Prayers and Thanksgivings in the 2019 Prayer Book are fantastic resources.  One or two of them are “not my cup of tea”, and some are strange but oddly satisfying to me.  That is because it has sections for Personal Life and Personal Devotion, where you will find a number of prayers written from a particular spiritual perspective, or that come from a particular spiritual tradition.  I wrote about Saint Anselm’s intellectual-affective tradition last month, that’s an example of a particular spirituality at play.

Today let’s look at Occasional Prayer #71 For Christ To Be Formed In Us

Lord Jesus, Master Carpenter of Nazareth, on the Cross through wood and nails you wrought our full salvation: Wield well your tools in this, your workshop, that we who come to you rough-hewn may be fashioned into a truer beauty by your hand; who with the Father and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, world without end.  Amen.

First of all, it’s fun to point out that this is a rare example of a Collect that’s addressed to God the Son rather than God the Father.  There are a couple classical Prayer Book examples where this happens, so it’s not unheard-of.  It’s just a rarity.

And in this case it’s important that this prayer addresses Jesus because what this prayer seems to be (in my estimation) is the fruit of lectio divina.  This ancient practice of meditation on Scripture is related to the Anselmian tradition mentioned above.  One of the steps in (or “methods” of) lectio divina is imagining oneself in the scene of a biblical text.  It seems to me that the author of this prayer was meditating on Luke 2:51, or some other reference to Jesus’ life at home growing up at home, with Mary and Joseph, identifying him as a carpenter’s son, and then using that imagery in a prayer for our own spiritual growth.

We are to grow in the spirit.  Normally the biblical imagery for own spiritual growth is that of a tree with branches that bear fruit.  But, sticking with Jesus as the carpenter, we are envisioned instead as a workshop where he is laboring away.  The wood and nails of the Cross are also remembered, as the tools of his trade both as a carpenter and as Redeemer.  There is the acknowledgement that we were originally made good but the imago Dei is marred within us apart from his salvation and second birth, so we are “rough-hewn” in need of fashioning into “a truer beauty” by Christ.

This is, one might say, a very “domestic” spirituality.  Carpentry, an otherwise ordinary career in this world, is utilized to explore the Gospel of Christ and provide a metaphorical framework for the doctrine of sanctification – our continual growth in grace in holiness.  As a result, this prayer may strike you as especially “real”, appealing to images and themes that you are really very used to.  But if you’re not particularly handy with a hammer and nails this may feel like an awkward prayer to say.

Ironically I put together a small bookshelf just before typing this up.  And irony upon irony, I skipped the step where you hammer its cardboard back on, so as not to wake up my napping toddler.  So maybe I will be in a better frame of mine this evening than usual to pray this prayer.

Betrothal, or Engagement, has a liturgical reality now

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Many of life’s great milestones are covered by liturgical services: birth – thanksgiving for a church (or “churching of women” in the old days), baptism, confirmation, getting married, being sick, death.  The 2019 Prayer Book introduces a new one: betrothal, or getting engaged to be married.

On page 200 of the 2019 Prayer Book we find this statement:

The text of the Declaration of Intention, to be signed and dated by both parties prior to the marriage, reads as follows:

A robust statement summarizing biblical marriage follows, and it largely draws upon the language and content of the traditional marriage liturgy itself.  Then it states:

It may also be appropriate to conduct the signing of the Declaration of Intention during a public liturgy, to signify that the betrothal has taken place and that both parties have agreed to be prepared by the Church for Holy Matrimony, and to bid the prayers of the Congregation.

A brief liturgy for the signing of the Declaration of Intention appears on page 213.

Those who are liturgically conservative and skeptical of changes and introductions to the Prayer Book may initially shake their heads at something like this.  Also, those who are not particularly liturgy-minded may also find this strange.  Surely “getting engaged” is too personal and too picky of a point for the church to “intrude” in the couple’s life and “liturgize” it.

HOWEVER, take a look at the state of marriage in our country.  Take a look at the Christian marriages that take place.  What is said and taught at them?  How are the couples prepared?  How well do they really know what they’re getting in to, not just logistically but also spiritually?  I get the general sense that although marriage preparation was deplorably fluffy and light for a while, things are tightening up at last.  In a predominantly church-going culture there is a clearer understanding of what Christian marriage is: there are more positive examples, there are fewer people who flout or reject our doctrine, there is an implied cultural support system to help make marriages succeed.  But we don’t have a predominantly biblical Christian culture anymore, and so the Church has to take up the role of marriage preparation and support that the culture used to do for us for over a thousand years.

And so here we are, with something new.  And yet, it’s not entirely new.  The “archaic” tradition of publishing “The Marriage Banns”, which is the in-church trice-announced intention of a couple to marry, has been reemphasized in the Directions for Holy Matrimony, and piggybacking off of that is this new Liturgy for the Signing of the Declaration of Intention, wherein the parish priest announces that a couple has decided to get married and are now seeking the prayers of the congregation and preparatory counseling by the priest.  The Declaration is read, the couple sign it in front of the congregation, and the priest prays for them right then and there.

Because, let’s face it, people who want to get married need all the help they can get.  There are competing definitions of marriage all over our culture.  And it’s not just the same-sex marriage thing, but also the intentional childlessness and the no-fault divorce and the prolific online pornography and so on and so forth.  There is a lot that opposes Christian marriage, and there are a lot of lies that many otherwise-committed Christians have uncritically swallowed wholesale.  The Church must take up the mantel both of teacher and of encourager if her children’s marriages are to survive healthy and intact.

So page 200 may have some “weird rubrics” that may well be historically unprecedented, but this is absolutely the sort of change or addition that the Church today needs.

If you want to read more about the 2019 book’s marriage rite and preparatory material, definitely check out the essay “Holy Matrimony Explained” which is on the ACNA Prayer Book Resources page.

Let us give thanks for God’s deliverance

In our recently-released order for praying the Occasional Prayers and Thanksgivings you will find Thursday evening is a time particularly dedicated to giving thanks.  Some of the thanksgiving prayers in the back of our Prayer Book are rather specific, and may not always resonate with the individual’s situation or experience.  But this one might be an interesting take right now:

  1. FOR DELIVERANCE FROM PERIL

Almighty God, our strong tower of defense in time of trouble: We offer you praise and heartfelt thanks for our deliverance from the dangers which lately surrounded us [and for your gracious gift of peace]. We confess that your goodness alone has preserved us; and we ask you still to continue your mercies toward us, that we may always know and acknowledge you as our Savior and mighty Deliverer; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

With hints of Psalm 46, this prayer celebrates in thanksgiving a deliverance that God has wrought among his people.  The bracketed phrase about his gracious gift of peace enables one to put this prayer into a post-war context, though it could easily serve many situations in a metaphorical sense too.

Some states and countries are beginning to “open up for business” now or in the near future.  Let’s not get into the debates of “too soon” or “too late”; our concern here is how we pray.  If you have come through this time healthy, housed, and fed, then you have much to give thanks for!  God’s goodness has preserved you from the dangers that lately surrounded you.  We are taught in holy scripture to give thanks even in the midst of our sufferings, though that is not one of the themes of this particular prayer.

But there is an important line in this prayer which we might not always remember to think or pray on our own: “we ask you still to continue your mercies toward us…”  It’s very easy to come out of peril with victorious mentality: I’ve overcome the challenge, we got through this, the fight is over, the battle won.  In reality, most perilous situations (be they wars, pandemics, family feuds, or whatnot) have after-effects and the threat of resurgence.  There is great concern that the second wave of COVID-19 will be worse than the first if it isn’t handled rightly at the onset.  So it is important that we don’t let down our guard and cease from prayer just because a problem looks like it’s going away.  This prayer directs us to keep up the petitions even in the midst of thanksgiving and deliverance.

Regardless of context, that’s an important lesson to take to heart, if one would become a mature Christian in prayer.

The Canticle of Zechariah

The seasoned Anglican, or other tradition of Christianity also steeped in liturgy, will have an interesting experience this morning: the Canticle of Zechariah is in the New Testament Lesson!  On a practical lesson that means you should replace that Canticle with a different one in Morning Prayer today; prior Prayer Book tradition recommends the Jubilate, Psalm 100, which can be found a couple pages earlier in the Morning Prayer service, on page 15 of the 2019 Book of Common Prayer.  Normally the Canticle of Zechariah, or Benedictus, should not be replaced, remaining a static ingredient in the Daily Office of Morning Prayer.

Experientially, though, this is where things get interesting.  If you pray the Daily Office with any regularity, you’ll be used to the translation of the Canticle of Zechariah in the liturgy (whichever one you happen to use), and thus will be reading the awkwardly-different wording for it in your regular Bible today.  But that’s a good thing.  Every now and then it’s helpful to try a different translation of the Bible, as it can give different insights into the breadth and depth of meaning of the text.  You might want to pursue the rabbit trail of the subject of Bible translation; here are two videos:

  1. what sort of translations are there
  2. how to choose among them

Anyway, with that in mind, let’s glance at a couple examples where the English Standard Version of the Bible (ESV) and the 2019 Prayer Book give us different takes on the Canticle of Zechariah, or Benedictus.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free.

The ESV uses the word “redeemed” where our Prayer Book renders it “set them free.”  Both of these terms are, of course, helpful.  “Redeem” is a key biblical term and it’s important to note it and retain it, as the Apostles did as they appropriated Old Testament language into their own writings.  But it’s also helpful to tease out the various meanings of redemption, and being set free is one of those aspects.  It sounds rather clinical, or even businesslike, to say God redeemed us.  To say he set us free carries a lot more emotional relatability.  So it’s quite appropriate that our formal Bible translation says “redeem” while our liturgy is more poetic.

to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,
He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant.

One of the features of modern English compared to Early Modern English and many other languages (especially Koine Greek) is that we like short sentences today.  The ESV tries very hard to preserve the Greek run-on sentence, and that’s great – it helps the reader notice the connectedness of the front half of this canticle, even if it makes it harder to read at first.  But in the course of the liturgy, we want to be able to offer up this song-prayer with ease and beauty, so almost every verse is made into its own sentence.

to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,
To give his people knowledge of salvation, by the forgiveness of their sin.

In both cases, this verse is connected to the previous as part of a larger sentence; this is what Zechariah’s child, John the Baptist, would go on to do as the Prophet of the Most High.  The word order of these two translations is slightly different, but the main difference is in the preposition of the second half: “in” or “by” the forgiveness of their sin(s).  Prepositions like these can be very tricky.  Sometimes we use them loosely and think little of them.  Sometimes we make Really Big Deals about the little nuanced differences between them.  Seeing two different prepositions used here, therefore, helps clue us in to how we might best handle its meaning.  In the liturgical text, people are given knowledge of salvation BY the forgiveness of their sin; and the ESV translation says knowledge of salvation comes IN the forgiveness of sins.  So the act or reality of forgiveness is something of an instrument for bring about salvation… IN and BY the cross, for example, Jesus enacts the salvation of the world, the forgiveness of sins.

Anyway, this is just a fun opportunity to experience this text in a different translation than we’re probably used to.  Plus there’s also the dynamic of reading a canticle as a Scripture Lesson rather than as a Canticle on its own.  I’ve noted something of that dynamic in a previous entry you’re welcome to look back on, too.

An Order for using the Occasional Prayers & Thanksgivings in the 2019 Prayer Book

The Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer have always provided for the allowance of additional prayers at the end.  The classic prayer books, in fact, provided a group of Additional Prayers immediately after (as well as within) the main text of the Daily Offices.  Modern books, like the 1979 and the 2019, have a much larger corpus of additional prayers located near the back of the book like an appendix.  This gives us the mixed blessing of having more quality prayers to draw from but the greater physical distance within the book such that they might more easily be ignored or forgotten.

To help remedy this, I’ve made available here in the past some orders for using the Occasional Prayers and Thanksgivings in the Daily Office.  Now the Saint Aelfric Customary is putting forth a third (and I think, final) version.

 

Occasional p+t

NOTE: All you have to do is download this picture, print it out, and use it as a bookmark in your prayer book!  If you want a document or spreadsheet with this information, please request one in the comments.

The previous versions were more jumpy, attempting to corral certain prayer topics to certain days.  After a few months of use I decided they could be streamlined to be easier to follow.  So here we are!  Let’s walk through how this works.

Two-Week Rotation

Because there are 125 prayers and thanksgivings, they are split into a two-week rotation so that an average of five are appointed for each Office.  You could combine them into a one-week cycle if you’ve got the attention span for it, I suppose.  Two prayers are omitted: #84 because it’s for meal times, not an office, and #106 because it’s better for the service of Antecommunion.

Wednesday and Friday Mornings are omitted because that is when the Litany is traditionally appointed to be said.  I assume that if you’re sufficiently “advanced” in your use of the Office to be making use of these prayers, you can (or should) be already praying the Litany.  Sunday morning is also an appointed time for the Litany, but in the scheme of this Customary, the Litany will actually be treated separately, between Morning Prayer and Holy Communion, and thus there is room for these prayers in Morning Prayer.

Monday

The twenty prayers for the Church are spread through the Offices on this day.

Tuesday

The prayers for the nation and most of the prayers for society are covered on Tuesday.  The morning in Week II has an inordinately large number of prayers appointed because there are included prayers specifically for Canada and for the USA, with the assumption that the individual will skip the national prayers that don’t apply.  #21-26, for Creation, were skipped and saved for Saturday.  #27 and #28 were separated into different groupings of prayer because they are very similar and would be a bit redundant prayed back to back.

Wednesday

The rest of the prayers for society are covered here, and the section of prayers for “those in need” is begun.

Thursday

The rest of the prayers for those in need are finished on Thursday mornings.  The evenings are for the thanksgivings, in keeping with the eucharistic theme accorded to Thursdays in some strands of liturgical tradition.

Friday

The evenings see the Family and Personal Life section begun.

Saturday

Week I holds the prayers for Creation, as Saturday is often a day off from work, and thus a day on which many people are likely to enjoy the outdoors.  More prayers for family and personal life are appointed here, as well as the beginning of the Personal Devotion section.  Most of the prayers for “Death, the Departed, and the Communion of Saints” also land on Saturday evening, matching the Good Friday to Holy Saturday to Easter Sunday pattern of spirituality.

Sunday

The last of the “Personal Devotion” section is covered on Sundays, as well as the last two “Death, the Departed, and the Communion Saints” section.  Most prominently, though, Sunday is when the “At Times of Prayer and Worship” section is used, splitting the preparatory prayers into the morning and the “after hours” prayers into the evening.


As a result, if you hold public Morning or Evening Prayer on Sundays, the occasional prayers here appointed will be particularly apt for the congregation’s interaction with the liturgy.

If you hold a public Office on a weekday, however, a pattern like this may not be beneficial.  The idea of this order is to provide the person(s) praying with the full scope of the Occasional Prayers’ contents, so if someone only experiences one weekday “slot”, then they’ll only experience one theme or category of occasional prayers.  In such a situation, it would be prudent to select occasional prayers from various groupings as is appropriate for the occasion, or as befits the lessons of the day.

World Mission Sunday: it doesn’t have to exist

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You know how it goes, haters gonna hate, complainers gonna complain, the overly-picky will never be satisfied.  Actually, being excessively choosy in one’s tastes is a form of the sin of gluttony, so their reward will be in their bellies… or something like that.

Anyway, one of the more nit-picky criticisms of the Texts for Common Prayer and the resultant 2019 Prayer Book was the introduction of a new commemoration: World Mission Sunday.  It has been branded as the Second-to-Last Sunday of Epiphany since its first appearance, if I remember correctly, though the rubrics (such as on page 604) state that it may be observed on any Sunday in that season, except for the first and last Sundays.

This shows us two things:

  1. The first and last Sundays are noteworthy over against the Sundays in between.  This is perhaps why many modern Anglican calendars appoint white for them, and green for the Sundays in between.  It also stands in line with the tradition of being able to celebrate major saints days (or “red letter days”) on the “green” Sundays but not the first or last in Epiphanytide.
  2. World Mission Sunday itself is not fixed.  It’s the 2019 Prayer Book’s default for the penultimate Sunday before Lent, but it doesn’t have to be!

In fact, when you look at the numbered Sundays “of Epiphany” you’ll find that there still are eight, which means that you can live like 2015 never happened and World Mission Sunday doesn’t exist.

So there you go, if you don’t like it, fine, you’re not required to use it!

What if I’m not grumpy about it, one way or the other?

I’ll tell you a secret, since this is Weird Rubric Wednesday where I’ve given myself permission to be a bit silly-yet-sincere.  I have never observed World Mission Sunday with my congregation.  They probably don’t even know it exists.  And it’s not because I’m opposed to world missions, or think it’s not worth celebrating or preaching about.  I’m not even one of the aforementioned grumpy critics.  Though I have been grumpy and critical about things in the 2019 Prayer Book before… but this isn’t one of them.

Initially I had two reasons for ignoring World Mission Sunday in my tiny parish.

  1. It used the exact same Collect as the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany and all its Scripture lessons are already found elsewhere in the lectionary, so it added nothing really new to the calendar on its own.
  2. More importantly, I had decided to preach through as much of 1 Corinthians as possible through Epiphanytide in Years A through C, so WMS would have interrupted that series considerably.

Since then, World Mission Sunday has gotten its own unique Collect, which is great, though its scripture lessons are still generally duplicated elsewhere in the lectionary.  So if you’ve got a preaching series through the lectionary readings going on during Epiphanytide, you too may want to opt for giving WMS a miss.  But in general, it’s not a bad tradition to introduce, and the Epiphany season is probably the best part of the year to place it.  Epiphanytide is already one of the most-changed seasons when you compare the historic and modern calendars, so it’s not as though further tinkering is going to make it any more or less like its original form.

If you want to learn more about World Mission Sunday in the context of the Epiphany season, here are some links to check out: