The contexts in which people are unable to attend church services may have changed somewhat since the early prayer books, but the need remains: sometimes there are those who are sick, elderly, or otherwise incapacitated who need the visitation of their pastor (or other authorized minister) bring the ministry of the church to them. The Communion of the Sick, in the 2019 Prayer Book, is our template for such home or hospital visitations.
If people are unable to attend church due to, say, a global pandemic in progress, elements of this liturgy might help parish priests work out how to make door-to-door Communion visits also!
The full Saint Aelfric Customary entry for this rite can be found here: https://saint-aelfric-customary.org/customary-the-communion-of-the-sick/
There you will find guidance for selecting Psalm and Scripture according to the situation, notes about the need for recurring visits, and even insight and advice on how to handle preaching and prayers.
The Customary has been updated with guidance for the Ministry to the Sick!
Those already familiar with modern Prayer Books will find here a very familiar rite; those used to classical Prayer Books may be surprised to find provision for the anointing of the sick with holy oil. This is an ancient practice, stemming all the way back the New Testament (James 5:13-16).
You can read the full entry here: https://saint-aelfric-customary.org/customary-ministry-to-the-sick/
Private confession of sin to a priest is a subject of some controversy among Anglicans. Some argue that it has no place in our tradition whatsoever, while others advocate it as a good and proper practice worthy of normalization. A look at the historical Prayer Books reveals something in between: this practice was allowed, but not normal. Two references to private confession stand in the old Prayer Books:
- The Communion of the Sick provide an absolution for the Priest to say if the sick person wants to make a confession to him.
- The Exhortation at Holy Communion (the one announcing an upcoming celebration of Holy Communion) invites people to make a private confession if their consciences are particularly troubled, “to remove all scruple and doubt” and receive godly counsel.
Thus we find a clear outline of an authentically Anglican approach to private confession: it is a special pastoral ministry whereby a priest can provide more particular spiritual guidance to his flock and bring the benefits and comforts of the regular liturgy to those who are shut up sick at home.
To this end, modern Prayer Books (like our new one) provide an actual form for private confession. In the 2019 Prayer Book, the absolution from the old 1662 Visitation of the Sick is retained for this very purpose! It’s an excellent resource for priestly/pastoral ministry, drawing upon both ancient and specifically-Anglican tradition, in our modern context.
One of the things that people new to the practice often misunderstand is the issue of secrecy. Our Prayer Book notes that “The secrecy of a confession is morally binding for the confessor and is not to be broken” – no exception is provided. As far as the East is from the West, so far has the Lord put away our sins from us. That established, it must also be noted that a true confession involves contrition. The penitent concludes “I am truly sorry” and “I firmly intend amendment of life” and “ask for counsel.” The confessional is no more a place for ‘cheap grace’ than the Holy Table or the pulpit. For more specific guidance on how to use this rite, and how to handle the issues of particular sorts of sins that may be confessed, read the full Customary entry here: https://saint-aelfric-customary.org/customary-reconciliation-of-a-penitent/