The 79th Convention of the Episcopal Church gave birth to a flurry of resolutions, as many as 516 in all. Many proposals engendered wide agreement, while others spurred intense conversations both pro and con. Perhaps nothing was more hotly debated than those resolutions (30 in all) brought to Committee 12 for Prayer Book, Liturgy, & Music. Until the fray of the convention dies down after its close today, it’s hard to know where the results will fall–but it’s already clear that this is a topic that is near and dear to the Episcopal heart.
The daily worship of the General Convention demonstrates the breadth and depth of practice in worship and song throughout the diocese. Over these ten days, we’ve sung and prayed in every imaginable language from Korean to Spanish. Our worship bulletins have been printed in English, Spanish, and French. Music offerings included drums, guitars, clarinets, choirs, gospel groups, and more. We had a chance to worship together with new and old friends, and to sing and pray in both familiar and unknown words. For me, at least, it has been a blessing and a joy. It was, indeed, a Episcopal megachurch experience.
On the floor of the House of Deputies, it was clear that we all love the public music and worship of our church and we care deeply about every word we say while in prayer. For some, the familiar words in the 1978 Book of Common Prayer provide a structure that provides safety, comfort, and freedom.
“Many people, especially younger people recognize how ideologies and practices of white supremacy, settler colonialism, and patriarchy made the United States–and the Episcopal Church,” said Larisa Shaterian, a volunteer at Generals Convention and a member of St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco. “We also know that God is too big for just one gender.”
Others spoke passionately about the need for new trial liturgies and inclusive/expansive language that are needed to bring those on the margins into worship “Many people, especially younger people recognize how ideologies and practices of white supremacy, settler colonialism, and patriarchy made the United States,” said Larisa Shaterian, a volunteer at General Convention and a member of St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco. “We also know that God is too big for just one gender.”
We heard calls for the need for liturgies for Quinceanera (celebration of a girls 15th birthday) and for additional rites around death and dying. “My biggest hope regarding Book of Common Prayer revision is that it will give us new ways to know and love God and each other,” said Paul Fromberg, priest in the Diocese of California and member of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. “My biggest fear is that we will settle for something that is [not up to the highest standards.]”
I polled those on the Facebook page of the 79th General Convention to get their take on this issue. Here’s a sampling of what they said:
“The vernacular is constantly changing, so we need to constantly be considering revisions to our book of common prayer and seeking common ground between Anglicans with different beliefs,” said Aldon Hynes, seminary student. “This is what we’ve done since the first prayer book, and what we should probably continue to do as long as there is an Anglican communion.”
“We’ve done fairly well at that except in the area of music,” said David B. Rude.
“Mega churches have stolen our thunder on that one with huge success. I lived through the last change and I noticed very subtle changes in values, beliefs, and doctrine which is not supposed to happen.”
“We up date [the Book of Common Prayer] every once in awhile because our language changes and our society changes.],” said Christina Thom. “Some of the words used in the 1928 Prayer aren’t in the dictionary any more. As for society, when we were up dating the 1928 Prayer Book women weren’t allowed to hold any office outside the traditionally women’s groups. Any one who didn’t fit in a very narrow small box wasn’t welcome. The music was mainly pre-nineteen hundred. Today, our church has grown out of it’s 1979 Prayer Book. We are growing in ways that makes me proud.”
“I love the way that hearing a new prayer- like the confession or creed- catches me up and makes me more thoughtful of what I am saying,” said Christine Carr Moseley.
“Revision matters because same sex marriage will hold second class status in the church until it is included in the Book of Common Prayer,” said Leo Schuman. “Revision matters because God is not limited to any gender, but our language for describing God historically has been.”
Clearly, the Episcopal Church cares about worship…and we pray. On the issue of how to move forward, we’ll keep praying and working.
What do you love about our worship? What would you like to see changed? Let us know in comments below.