Discover Liturgy

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Liturgical renewal in the Church of England - from Series 2 onwards

We continue our study of liturgical renewal in the Church of England from a personal perspective. Our story tells of the different stages which have taken the Church of England through the Alternative Services to Common Worship which we use today.

We begin in the late 1960s at a large evangelical church in the Diocese of Bristol. I had recently started to attend Evensong at the church where I would soon surrender my life to the Lord Jesus and subsequently be confirmed. This church was attended by many students and had a worship pattern of Sunday Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. The sermons contained sound biblical teaching and were used by God to set many of my fellow students on firm foundations for our lives. One of the Sunday evening sermons was used by God to awaken the call which He had on my life. The preacher was teaching from the 2nd letter of St Paul to Timothy chapter 4.

During my time at this church in Bristol I was immersed in the choral services of Mattins and Evensong. This early introduction to the Psalms was later to lead to the daily use of the Psalter which has been and remains a a source of strength in my life.

As the 1960s drew to an end I moved on from Bristol firmly grounded in the Bible and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The next stage in my journey took me to Croydon where I was to discover the splendour of the liturgy of the Eucharist according to Alternative Services Second Series, An Order for Holy Communion.

Series 2 as we know it was approved in 1967 for experimental use. This little blue book differed from the 1662 Holy Communion which I had encountered so far in one major way, the structure. The church which I was now attending had the Holy Communion as its main Sunday Morning sung Service. Although Sunday morning was different from what I was used to in Bristol, I still attended Evensong with a sermon expounding the scriptures.

Holy Communion from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer was a product of the time of the Reformation when the Church of England was forming a liturgy seperate from that used by the Church of Rome. The Book of Commmon Prayer has fine language and a sound understanding of all the benefits which we have received in Christ as a result of His sacrificial death on the cross. However the 1662 Communion service did differ in places from ancient structures of the Eucharist which were used in the early days of the universal church. Holy Communion Series 2 was to mark the authorised beginning of a restoration of the ancient structure of the Communion service.

Like the 1662 Prayer Book, Series 2 still used traditional language and some of the of the 1662 order. However it begins with the Collect for Purity, Almighty God to whom all hearts are open, and is followed by the Gloria which has been moved from the 1662 position of after the receiving of Communion. In Series 2 the confession and absolution are still in the middle of the service after the intercessions in a section called the Preparation of the People. The intercessions are now a number of sections each of which has congregational response. In 1662 the Prayer of the Church Militant was one long prayer read by the priest.

The central section of the Series 2 service called the Thanksgiving still has very few seasonal variations, unlike Common Worship which is rich in seasonal material. This section where the priest prays over the gifts of bread and wine has in series 2 been restored to the traditional 3 sections of: the preface which concludes with the Sanctus (Holy Holy Holy); the section which includes the words of institution which Jesus said at the Last Supper; finally the concluding section where a memorial of the passion of Jesus is made. There is not yet an invocation of the Holy Spirit, but a prayer to be filled with grace and heavenly blessing. This third section made good what was lacking in the 1662 service which stopped after the words of institution.

Series 2 was a big step forward in the renewal of our liturgy and was used for far longer than the initial authorised period. It contained some fine prayers and restored part of the structure which we use in Common Worship. For those who lived and worshipped through the times of liturgical renewal it was a service which was a joy to use and is still a pleasure to read through. However our hearts were longing for the next stage in the process of renewal, Alternative Services Series 3. My love of liturgy had been awakened and soon I was to move on the next stage in liturgical renewal in a setting which I previously could not have imagined.

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St Michaels nave

St Michaels lectern and organ