Monday, December 15, 2014

Appreciating the Book of Common Prayer: Building from rather than dismissing it

Last week as I shared what I appreciate about the Book of Common Prayer (see parts 1, 2 & 3), there was to be no implication that it should be the modus operandi for all worship and prayer. I would suggest, however, that all corporate worship aspire to its achievements.

It is a sad day indeed where confession is replaced with self-expression, creed with sentimentality, and thoughtfulness with spontaneity. It is a sad day, also, when traditional liturgy becomes meaningless rote and rhythm, all but left for dead as it rolls off our tongues.

That's why I appreciated the effort put into it by our student-leaders at Trinity College last week. I was particularly moved to prayer by the leadership of Denis Adide, who took the closing intercessions of the BCP and added to them creatively so that we came to those same-old lines with renewed theological attentiveness, personal conviction, and global concern.
The steps leading from Stoke House
down to the Chapel at Trinity College Bristol
Previously I mentioned these intercessions (shown below in italics) as a fine lead-up to the Collect for Peace, but now read them with Denis's additions. You'll see what I mean, and you'll see what is possible when you make the most of your liturgical sources rather than dismiss them in favour of pure spontaneity.

After the Lord's Prayer, the leader, standing, prays:

Because at times we, knowing you are King, 
do not relinquish the thrones in our hearts; 
recoil from the lepers; hide from the sick; 
approach your table with contemptuous hearts;
ignore your voice as it leads us from temptation delivering ourselves into evil:

O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us. 
(All) And grant us thy salvation.

For reminding us by her presence that we are not sovereign and pointing us to the fact that the earth is yours. That she responds by your Spirit to the office you have called her,

O Lord, save the Queen.
And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.

Because it is a broken people that you choose to reach into a broken world, pour your Spirit in abundance and teach your church to break, so that what is from heaven may flood the earth. Give wisdom, integrity, faithfulness:

Endue thy ministers with righteousness.
And make thy chosen people joyful.

Because it is in a broken world that you begin your work, where broken people reject you to reject their own brokenness, stand with the persecuted and the oppressed:

O Lord, save thy people.
And bless thine inheritance.

As the two hundred school girls nestle among thorns far away from home, or the refugees flee the Islamic state: fathers bury sons; daughters become orphans; the sword is wielded hastily and our rivers turn to blood. We plead:

Give peace in our time, O Lord.
Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God.

Peace in our time may not quench the desires that return us to that tree of disobedience. Search us and know us, test us and know our thoughts, uproot the wickedness that nestles deep:

O God make clean our hearts within us.
And take not thy Holy Spirit from us.

(Thank you to Denis for permission to publish this prayer)

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