Saturday, June 6, 2009

Don't Tinker With Our Common Prayer

Rarely do I publish entire postings from other bloggers, but this one from Fr. Tobias Haller is too important and relevant to the purpose of this blog to not share the whole piece. Although succinct, it says so very much in a few words. Please do respond with your comments both here and at Fr. Haller's blog.

It is not within the authority (nor in many cases the competence) of individual bishops and parish clergy to tinker with (or radically revise) the texts of the Book of Common Prayer on their own initiative. I have no difficulty with bishops exercising their constitutional authority to allow for the development of liturgies for which no common text exists — though even in this case a bit of research may turn up work already accomplished elsewhere with greater grace and wisdom.

But when it comes to the texts of the Book of Common Prayer, it is important to recall the penultimate word: Common. These are not my prayers, they are our prayers. They are not mine to tinker with, to alter as the whim (or the Spirit, or the Ego, or both) strike me. There is plenty of scope for creativity in the liturgy without the need to refashion the Eucharistic Prayer or the Baptismal Covenant to suit my own peculiar views. This isn’t about peculiarity, but commonality.

These common prayers are there precisely to be central and uniform (though in the Eucharistic Prayer with considerable variety from which to choose.) They are the center stabilizing point of the compass whose inclusive reach can best be extended and expanded with a rich selection of hymnody (though there are limits there as well! — read the rules), vibrant preaching, and intercessory prayer adapted to the hearts’ content of the people for whom and by whom it is offered.

To those individuals tempted to tinker with the Common Prayer, I offer some old advice, “Put it down; it don’t belong to you.”

Fr. Haller offers his thoughts on exactly why he disagrees with those who "tinker" with the Prayer Book's liturgies here.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Amen! I firmly believe that, as an Episcopalian (Anglican), I should feel perfectly comfortable walking into any Episcopal Church anywhere in the United States and know that when I do, the liturgy that I will share is going to be substantially the same one that I experience in my home parish (that is, our common prayer and common liturgy as approved by our church and published in our Book of Common Prayer). That, unfortunately, has not always been my experience. I have learned to be suspicious when I enter an Episcopal Church to find a "Service booklet" being used instead of the prayer book.

I'm glad to see this post by Fr. Haller. I rarely find much on his blog that I can embrace. This I can, and do so fully.

God's peace.