What Is Deputed for the Sacrament

Both online and offline, the thoughts I have expressed on the status of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper have been subject to dispute. People have said that there is no such thing as consecration, and instead have urged what is often termed (dynamic) receptionism. I maintain, however, that my view is not in conflict with receptionism, and that it is entirely Reformed in principle, having nothing popish or superstitious.

First, since the matter of which I treat pertains to ceremonies connected with holy communion, I must address the role played by ceremonial in public worship. The Prayer Book orders, for example, that communicants receive the signs of bread and wine kneeling. This is a ceremonial support that persons of good breeding will recognize as properly reverent. As Xunzi says about ceremonies,

Rites trim what is too long and stretch out what is too short, eliminate surplus and repair deficiency, extend the forms of love and reverence, and step by step bring to fulfillment the beauties of proper conduct.

In the context of the worship of God, rites shape what Anglican divines often call the beauty of holiness. In Christian worship, after all, it is most of all in holiness that proper conduct consists. What is decent, then, depends on what is true: propriety, the child of true doctrine, is meaningful only under that head. For due proportion in liturgy can be known only in relation to theology. Therefore it is on theological grounds that I must continue to defend or alter my position.

Some receptionists are concerned that the idea of consecration reifies the bread and wine as the locus of Christ’s sacramental presence. I, too, abhor such reification, because the whole action is important, and not just the objects. With the receptionists I hold that the locus of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood (the res of the sacramentum) is not the bread and wine but, by the power of the Holy Ghost, the person receiving with faith. In this we are entirely agreed.

John Cosin, who certainly believed in a qualitative difference between bread and wine consecrated and not consecrated, was nevertheless highly critical of the questions that arose among theologians who reified the grace God exhibited in the sacrament. ‘These men’, he said, ‘tired their brains (as we have said) about unheard-of questions touching transubstantiation, such as pious ears would abhor to hear.’ Here is one example:

Whether the mice (who sometimes feast upon the hosts, when they are not well shut up) eat the Body of Christ itself? or, if a dog or a hog should swallow down the consecrated host whole, whether the Lord’s Body should pass into their belly together with the accidents? Some indeed answer (other some being otherwise minded) that, ‘though the Body of Christ enters not into the brute’s mouth as corporal meat, yet it enters together with the appearances, by reason that they are inseparable one from the other,’ (mere nonsense;) ‘for, as long as the accidents of bread’ (i.e., the shape, and taste, and colour, &c.) ‘remain in their proper being, so long is the Body of Christ inseparably joined with with them; wherefore, if the accidents in their nature pass into the belly, or are cast out by vomiting, the Body of Christ itself must of necessity go along with them: and for this cause pious souls’ (I repeat their own words) ‘do frequently eat again with great reverence the parts of the host cast out by vomiting.’

Such questions are indeed offensive to pious ears, savouring of blasphemy, and are rightly censured. The sacrament is intended for humans and offered to them only, and by faith, and so it is nothing but foolish talk to speak of the Lord’s body entering any belly, let alone the belly of a dog or a hog. Likewise, since the intention of the outward rite ends with eating and drinking, vomiting is of no moment.

But it does not follow that the bread and wine of the sacrament are theologically unimportant except for calling certain promises to mind. Indeed, it is well known that many of the best Reformed divines (including Calvin and Vermigli) have believed in not merely a parallel between physical and spiritual eating but, further, an instrumental relation. They have held that the body and blood of Christ were truly given in the sacrament, and that the spiritual eating and drinking was (at least ordinarily) mediated by the physical signs that signified the spiritual things.

I add that the sacramental act of receiving bread and wine is a response to a prior ritual and ceremonial signification. The receiving with faith, though necessary, is insufficient. It is also necessary that the bread and wine be truly made in ritual and ceremony to be such as will clearly signify, not only to the understanding of the recipients but also in some objective manner, the body and blood of our Lord. So, as regards the sacramental use of bread and wine, Daniel Brevint focuses on the divine institution of their signification:

For since the proper essence of sacred signs or sacraments consists not in what they are in their nature, but in what they signify by divine institution, hence it happens infallibly that when the sacraments are abused, the injury must needs light not upon them in their own natural being, bread, wine, and water, which upon this account are not at all considerable, but upon the holy mysteries, the body and blood of Christ himself who is the main object of their formal being, that is, their signification.

Although the bread and wine are not changed, it is necessary that the promise of spiritual grace be joined to them objectively, that any who receive them with faith as effectual signs within the rite of God’s appointment may through them receive the body and blood of Christ, not by force of their own wills but by the ordinance and the sovereign and faithful will of God. This appointment one may call consecration, and this consecration is not to be abused with any uses that are contrary to it.

Nor can the consecration of the sacrament be negatived simply by the name of dynamic receptionism. Daniel Waterland, whose Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist is a classic text of what later became known as receptionism, says this:

It must be owned, that it depends upon the disposition of every communicant, to render the previous consecration either salutary or noxious to himself: and if any man has a mind to call a worthy reception of the elements, a consecration of them to himself, a secondary consecration, he may; for it would not be worth while to hold a dispute about words. But strictly speaking, it is not within the power or choice of a communicant, either to consecrate or to desecrate the symbols, to make the sacrament a common meal, or otherwise: it is a religious and sacred meal even to the most unworthy; and that is the reason why such are liable to the judgment of God for abusing it: for if it were really a common meal to them it would do them no more hurt, than any other ordinary entertainment.

The symbols, in other words, are holy as part of the sacramental meal, and this holiness depends not on the one receiving those symbols. It is God whose word makes the meal holy, and the bread and wine in it ordered to holy uses. So while I affirm that the body and blood of Christ are really present only to the worthy receiver, because the promise is only to that effect, yet I cannot deny that this happens only through the bread and wine consecrated. Otherwise, any bread and wine taken in a public assembly after the words of institution had been read, even in the second lesson at Evening Prayer, would be valid for the sacrament. Such is not a sacrament at all, however, but only a mockery of it. The bread and wine taken for this purpose is not only wrongly taken but unable to confer the body and blood of Christ, for these single Christians, or even several Christians, cannot thus make the bread and wine sacramental no matter how they will it. The bread and wine they are taking does not present the sure promise of Christ, and so it gives them nothing but the taste and nutrition of bread and wine, and they are crazed who imagine otherwise. For that part of the sacrament which can be given and then taken is precisely the bread and the wine that partake of the priestly act of prayer, and none other; and by this means the bread and wine that are ordered to sacramental use – or, as Thorndike says, ‘are deputed to become this Sacrament’ (more precisely, by God’s covenant to become that part of the sacrament which can be received by God’s command) – do present the promise and the thing promised.

In this way, though my view may fairly be called a kind of receptionism – and so I think the sign of the Cross is better made by the communicants as they receive than by the priest as he prays – I hold that there is a true consecration of bread and wine, by the words of institution and by prayer (‘hear us, O merciful Father &c.’). My opinion is stated admirably by John Davenant, who is careful and balanced:

For the virtue which attaches to the sacramental signs, in consequence of the institution and consecration, is not inherent to the elements themselves, which are not capable of receiving spiritual grace, but for man’s sake is, in way of a contract, annexed to the sacraments. The virtue of the Eucharist therefore manifests itself, and puts forth its strength, not merely in the circumstance, that the bread and wine are consecrated, nor inasmuch as they are viewed, carried about in procession, or preserved in vessels, but because being consecrated, and prepared for the spiritual use of believers, they are participated in by them according to the institution of Christ. It is not from the sacramental signs themselves that the virtue of them is derived, but by those communicating; and there is consequently more regard to be had to the disposition in partaking, than to the consecration. Nor does this opinion detract anything from the honour due to the sacraments; for it is on this account that they are held in the greatest veneration, namely, that they are applied to, and received by the faithful, in accordance with the institution of Christ, and are as it were vehicles and channels through which the streams of spiritual grace may descend on men.

Indeed, he says that ‘great respect is due, even to the visible signs, because they represent and shew to us spiritually his living flesh and precious blood.’ Thus has God deputed bread and wine to be used in a spiritual way from prayer even to faithful reception.

This divine deputation human ritual and ceremony must affirm, by treating the elements as different from common bread and wine in their signification and their ordered end: for our Lord promises through them to confer upon all faithful receivers the things they signify, to wit, his own body and blood. Therefore, unlike bread and wine outside the sacrament, they must be held to the use instituted by Christ, to be eaten and drunk with the reverence due to something that, faithfully received, imparts union with Christ, pardon of sins, and the power to love and serve God. For thus the bread and wine are duly used, and not otherwise. In short, because of what they now signify by the will of God, they must be consumed, and with faith; and they are not instead to be paraded about or prayed before or waved over the people or held aloft for adoration or given to pagans, but only to be consumed, that the rite may be perfected in the complete consumption of the elements given.

This consumption on our part is the human expression that regulates our piety toward sacred things:

Therefore the ancient kings established certain forms so that the duty of honoring those who deserve honor and demonstrating affection for those who deserve affection might be fulfilled. Therefore I say that the sacrificial rites give expression to the feelings of remembrance and longing.

Since our Lord is ascended, we express our remembrance of his death and our longing for his kingdom. The simple ceremony which adorns the sacrament, of ensuring immediately after the blessing that all the bread and wine are reverently consumed, helps serves this purpose for us. Completed with reverence and understanding, it is to our benefit. Though the purpose of the sacrament is already fulfilled when all who desired have eaten the body and drunk the blood of Christ, it is sound piety to show our reverence for God’s showing forth of his gift by in turn using the signs thoroughly. Whereas the first sacrament calls for a complete washing by the water designated for it, the second sacrament calls for a complete eating and drinking of the bread and wine.

Now, I am not so scrupulous as to think it necessary to make ablutions (though ablutions have clearly been ruled legal in the Church of England). But the rubric’s calling for the consecrated bread and wine that remains to be consumed has an exact reason: just as the rite of baptism is fuller in dipping or pouring than in sprinkling (though God is no less gracious in baptism by sprinkling), so the action of the Lord’s Supper, according to its institution, is perfected in the consumption of all the bread and wine. Therefore, though I think ablutions are a matter of indifference, able to be either used or disused, for the sake of charity and thoroughness I might think them a commendable practice for cathedrals, so long as the clergy firmly opposed the notion of Christ’s body and blood being locally present in the bread and wine.

In writing the above I hope to have explained my position more clearly, or at least more fully, and showed it to be free of superstitious attachment to any sacredness inhering in the bread and wine of the sacrament. Despite insisting that the presence of Christ is actually in the faithful receiver and not in the bread and wine, I also maintain that the presence of his body and blood is exhibited effectually only by bread and wine that have been consecrated for the purpose, and not simply by an act of imagination. This, I argue, is the theological basis of the Prayer Book rubric ordering that the bread and wine of the sacrament be all consumed, agreeable to the institution of Christ.

Planting in Oakland

Christena Cleveland wrote last month about urban church planting plantations.

The urban pastors reported that, in the wake of Governor Cuomo’s announcement, many predominantly white, wealthy suburban churches in the area have expressed renewed interest in Buffalo’s urban center. But rather than connecting with the urban pastors who have been doing ministry among the oppressed in Buffalo for years, and looking for ways to support the indigenous leaders who are already in place, they have simply begun making plans to expand their suburban ministry empires into the urban center. In other words, they’re venturing out into the world of urban church planting.

One older African-American pastor said he’s heard chilling reports of meetings, in which representatives from many of the suburban churches have gathered around a map of the city and marked each church’s ‘territory’, as if Buffalo was theirs to divvy up. The indigenous leaders were not invited to these meetings, nor have they been contacted by these churches. It’s as if they don’t exist, their churches don’t exist, and their expertise doesn’t exist. The suburban churches are simply marching in.

Now, this is a view of most of Oakland (the island to the southwest is Alameda):


The hills in the northeast are peopled mostly by Whites, and the deprived neighbourhoods of West Oakland and East Oakland mostly by Blacks; Asians, in red, are clustered around Lake Merritt, and Hispanics live around Fruitvale. But in this whole area I know of not a single conservative Reformed congregation, whether Anglican, Presbyterian, or continental Reformed, in the magistratical Protestant tradition.

Missouri Synod Lutheran churches minister to White and Ethiopian residents. Among the Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics, likewise, there are other churches working hard to lift up the Name of Jesus Christ. To enter this area, as Augustine of Canterbury entered England to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons, the Reformed churches must recognize the existing work of the Church: they must partner with the congregations that are already in Oakland. There will be differences in rites and ministry models, as there were between the Celtic missionaries and the Roman missionaries, and we should acknowledge that the Christians already in Oakland are equals in Christ, not foreigners.

Reformed Christians can serve the churches in Oakland through after-school catechizings, classical Christian schools, and processions through the streets on feast days and on fast days (e.g. on Easter Day or after the untimely death of anyone in the neighbourhood). We can also carefully form new congregations that help rather than interfere with the work of existing congregations. On the whole, conventicles seem to be a good way to do this work: they can strengthen the piety of the Christians who are already there, day in and day out, with the discipline of Morning and Evening Prayer, grounding worship and building lay leadership, all without competing with the authoritative commissions of the laymen’s ordained parochial ministers. In this way, rather than colonizing the old congregations, the new work would contribute to them and, where needed, supplement their gifts.


These days the surplice choices seem to be English and full or Romish and ugly. The English style is gathered up to a round yoke, which some folk consider a little fussy. Rogier van der Weyden’s Seven Sacraments Altarpiece, however, shows us that were in fact full surplices with square yokes.

Reverently Eating and Drinking the Remainder

‘And if any of the Bread and Wine remain unconsecrated, the Curate shall have it to his own use: but if any remain of that which was consecrated, it shall not be carried out of the Church, but the Priest, and such other of the Communicants as he shall then call unto him, shall, immediately after the Blessing, reverently eat and drink the same.’ This is what the 1662 Book of Common Prayer directs, the part after the colon having been added in 1662 to the 1559 text. It may strike some as a strange practice, more fitting for Rome than for a Protestant church, but it can be accounted for by entirely Reformed principles.

Let me begin with an analogous example that no one can contest: the water of the other sacrament. After water had been set aside for use in baptism, surely one would not ordinarily then use it for drinking or for watering the garden plants. Likewise it would be at least odd to use the elements of the Lord’s Table for common food or to throw them to the birds. These uses would be akin to using the Table to throw coats over or the Font to wash our eyeglasses in. In fact, being more of the essence of the sacraments than the Table or the Font, the water of baptism and the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper are even less to be used for common purposes.

Even for those who are unconvinced that inanimate things should or can be consecrated – who take an entirely functional view of money that is korban, for instance – it is in keeping with Christian charity to yield on an opinion that, unlike transubstantiation, is not at all impious. It is an unnecessary offence to the Church for a congregation to partake of the Lord’s Supper and fail to handle the remnants reverently.

But that is not the strongest argument. When the awful mysteries of our Lord’s Body and Blood are celebrated, it is not the substance of bread and wine as such that are set apart to be used in the sacrament, but it is a certain portion that is so designated. If I have a hunk of bread in my pocket when I attend the Lord’s Supper, it is certain that I am not to eat this bread for the purposes of the sacrament, nor am I to fancy that any imagination of mine, even when the words of institution are recited, will make it proper to consume my own bread as representing and offering and exhibiting the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Even if I were a Baptist, I should know instinctively that there was a difference, and that ignoring this difference would be impious, indeed an act of sacrilege.

If it be alleged that there is no difference in fact, but only in outward order and appearance (the reverse, I suppose, of the Roman doctrine), then I ask what it is that makes it disorderly to consume for the sacrament what has not been laid out before the minister proclaiming Christ’s institution of that sacrament. More likely than not, the answer is that there must be a common portion of bread and a common portion of wine. But, if the bread is in pieces, perhaps even from more than one loaf, is the fact of consequence not that the loaves have lain before the minister as he read the Scriptures and acknowledged the grace of God in the death of Christ?

Yes, and this fact establishes a difference between common bread and bread consecrated for the sacrament, and between wine for common use and wine set apart to show forth the New Testament in the Blood of Christ. For the promise of God, which is what in truth creates the sacrament, applies only potentially to any bread and wine; but it applies actually to bread and wine for which God’s blessing has been entreated, that he might bless the sacramental use, honouring it with what he has promised: his blessed, holy, life-giving Body and Blood.

For this reverend estimation of the bread and wine, not in themselves but by the faithful promise of God, we honour their difference from common bread and wine for the sake of what the Lord has pledged thereby to give us who receive it rightly, with faith. What we revere, then, is not a power inhering in the elements but the Word of God’s power, by which he upholds all things, even his elect Church. We do not, then, bow down before bread and wine, even bread and wine consecrated as instruments by which God gives us the Body and Blood of his Son; but we look upon the seals of his favour with trepidation, determined to use them rightly, so that even what is left over we suffer not to pass into the hands of pagans or the claws of birds, but consume reverently like the rest. It is an act of reverent love.


Pulled Rickshaws for Students

In the museum of Toyota in Aichi Prefecture in Japan.

Just for fun: I think rickshaws would occasionally be a very useful service on some large university campuses, especially if you had to get from Barker to Kroeber or from GPB to Hearst Mining.

Reserved Sacrament for Communion of the Sick

Despite the practice of at least some churches in the time of Justin Martyr, I have not been partial to reserving the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, a practice that has generally met with greater favour among Anglo-Catholics. But the deposited English prayer book of 1927/1928, which Parliament did not approve, was voted down precisely because of its allowing reservation and communion from the reserved sacrament (cf. the practice of Rome). The Commons’ rejection of this proposed revision to the BCP precipitated a crisis; some Anglo-Catholics even considered essentially seceding from the Church of England. Not being an Anglo-Catholic myself, I am of the opinion that such a schism would have been unwarranted and injurious to the cause of biblical religion, though it would perhaps have allowed all to depart who were the most opposed to the Reformed principles of the Church of England. Nevertheless, I believe there is reason to examine the matter of communicating the sick with elements reserved from a prior celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Whereas the Church of England stopped reserving the elements during the Reformation, the Church of Scotland, which is likewise a Reformed church, continued the practice in both its episcopalian and its presbyterian times. According to F. C. Eeeles, writing in 1910,

To this day there are many old people who when ill would not like to be communicated at a clinical or private celebration. In north Aberdeenshire thirty years ago, old people spoke of Communion with the reserved Sacrament as ‘the Altar coming to them’.

In Shetland in the 18th century and later it was a common custom for Presbyterian communicants to take away in a clean handkerchief a portion of the Sacrament to sick members of their families. The writer has been told that it is still done in places.

Eeles quotes the Dean of Edinburgh on the practice of Woodhead, Fyvie, in the Diocese of Aberdeen:

The old people in the north had a strong feeling about the privilege of being communicated from the elements consecrated in the church. They would have thought that the link which bound them to their fellow churchmen through all being partakers of one loaf, was relaxed if one had consecrated for each separated Sick Communion.

To this desire I am rather sympathetic. Private communion has struck me, as it has struck James B. Jordan, as an individualistic practice that reifies the blessing of Holy Communion: rather than viewing the sacrament in the context of the whole Church as represented in the local assembly, people seem to locate the blessing in the individual reception of a certain selection of bread and wine. Now Mr Jordan may be a Presbyterian with some Presbyterian quirks, but on private celebrations of the Lord’s Supper I am inclined to agree. In contrast, the old Aberdonians wished to partake in the same supper as the rest of the people; and so, though the supper is one in Christ, for all times and places, yet they desired that this truth should be as visible as possible. Their desire was commendable, and perhaps is for that reason to be preferred to separate celebrations in houses and hospitals.

That said, reservation should be practised in such a way as to affirm the catholic doctrine as clarified by the Reformers. The provisions in the deposited prayer book are good, but not good enough. It is well that the rubrics prohibit uses that are contrary to Scripture – ‘there shall be’, one rubric says, ‘no service or ceremony in connexion with the Sacrament so reserved, nor shall it be exposed or removed except in order to be received in Communion, or otherwise reverently consumed’ – but more should be required than mere avoidance of illegitimate uses.

The sacramental signs are acts, not static things, and thus cannot in any way be tied to any local site of real presence: we ourselves, receiving with faith, enabled by the Holy Ghost, are the site of real presence in the rites. Therefore no one, for baptism, simply takes water from a baptismal font and attempts to baptize someone by splashing this water simply for its having been consecrated for baptizing. Such a baptism most of us would probably reject as null and void. In the same way, it can be no sacrament that has only bread and wine, even if it be reserved from a service at which the elements have been consecrated for such use. A sacrament is enacted by the word; and without the word as intelligible to someone, it has no magical power to change anyone. The word, indeed, is part of the sign itself. In Holy Baptism, the sign is not water per se, whether water in general or any particular water, but washing with water as directly authorized by the words of our Lord; in Holy Communion, likewise, the sign is bread and wine taken up, consecrated, given, and consumed according to the institution of our Lord. And so, just as ‘I baptize thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’ are the necessary words of one sacrament, so for the other sacrament I think it safest not to neglect the Words of Institution in one form or another:

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

To distinguish the administering of the reserved sacrament from the celebration of Holy Communion, I think the biblical text is best retained as a lesson and not, as in the order for the full service, made part of a prayer. Then the following prayer can be used, at the discretion of the minister (lightly altered from the use of Bp Alexander of Dunkeld):

Almighty God our heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption, who made there by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memorial of that his precious death and sacrifice until his coming again; hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee, and of thy almighty goodness vouchsafe to bless with the Holy Spirit us (these) thy servants here before thee, and to grant that we (they) receiving thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine already consecrated into the most precious body and blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ according to his holy institution, and in commemoration of his death and passion, may be made partakers of all the benefits of the same: and so sanctify our (their) whole spirits, souls, and bodies, that we (they) may become holy, living, and acceptable sacrifices unto thee. And we entirely desire thy Fatherly goodness to be propitious to us sinners: and grant that by the merits and death of thy Son, and through faith in his blood, we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, may be delivered from the Devil and his snares, may be fulfilled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, and be made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him, and at the last may obtain everlasting life with thee; thou, O Lord Almighty, being through him reconciled unto us, by whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. Amen.

The deposited prayer book also ordered that, except when extreme sickness required otherwise, ministration to the sick person or persons would follow at least the General Confession and Absolution (which might be in the shorter form) and the prayer ‘We do not presume, &c.’ I would recommend greater caution, in line with the practice of the Scottish Nonjurors, saying that only in emergencies should the communion of the sick be reduced to this minimum; and the Absolution should include the Comfortable Words. Finally, as the 1928 rubrics direct, delivery and reception of the sacrament in both kinds should be followed by the Lord’s Prayer and the Blessing.

The Prayer Book in the Process of Evangelism

I have been considering how to make evangelistic use of the regular services in the Book of Common Prayer – Morning and Evening Prayer, the Litany, and Holy Communion – both to help Christians renew their belief and to show forth the faith to pagans. Our faith, after all, is all about the good news of Jesus Christ, and so the Church must keep this gospel front and centre, doing all it can to call all men to receive the person of Jesus Christ with humble faith. If this be not our goal, then (as the Prayer Book says) all our doings, being without charity, are nothing worth; but if it be our goal, by the work of the Holy Ghost, then there is no more evangelical system of services than our Prayer Book.

Holy Communion

Since every Lord’s Day is a feast day, it seems most proper, both then and on other feast days, to have the Lord’s Supper in commemoration of the benefits procured for us by him who died and was raised for our salvation. To be weekly refreshed with the Body and Blood of the Lord is only fitting, seeing as the same Lord who has given us these gifts has also established by nature the rhythm of the seven-day week, a rhythm that even the most hardened pagans – by the providence of God – have adopted after the practice of the Church. It is true that the Prayer Book’s Holy Communion service is directed very obviously at those who are already in the covenant and marked with the sign of baptism, and so it does not lend itself to being attended by pagans. But this need not be a weakness. Christian attendance at Holy Communion, and pagan absence from the same (at least most of the time), embodies the theological divide between Christian and pagan. All are human, and all are sinners, but one is distinguished from the other by having title to the inestimable benefit of Christ’s Body and Blood, and to all the benefits thereof. This distinction cannot but convey that there is an in and an out, a feast and an outer darkness: all are called to come in, but some are unwilling. Pagan hearers who are very seriously considering the claims of Christ can attend Holy Communion and see what gift is conferred upon those who are washed in the righteousness of God.

Daily Office

For those who have not reached this point, who have not yet contemplated being baptized into the faith, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are the services to which we can invite our friends to see the worship of God: though we hold Holy Communion to be a more solemn act of worship, daily prayers and hearing of the word are not to be despised. These services are easier than Holy Communion for an outsider to understand: we reckon with our offences before God, we hear instruction in the doctrine and practice of the faith, and we petition God for ourselves and for others. They cannot pray the same prayers as we do, if they do not believe in the basis of these prayers, but all the same they may silently pray to the God they do not know. As they hear choral Evensong on a Sunday, they can consider the things they hear and act according to the measure of their belief. So we need to find ways to say Morning and Evening Prayer publicly and have a congregation to attend these services, both Christians and pagan hearers. On university campuses this should not be too difficult, if committed students can be found first, but we should also try to find ways for urban workers to attend services too.


Finally we come to the Litany, which as the shortest service may be a gateway. Given the popularity of weekday services in the City of London, lunchtime talks followed by the Litany on Fridays may be a good way to reach people: Christians could stay for prayers, and pagans could choose to leave if they wanted. Perhaps lunches could be laid out at the end of the talks, to be taken either then or after the Litany – though I suppose Christians might choose instead to fast on Fridays. For Christians, a lunchtime Litany would be a way to remember the Passion of our Lord in prayer and fasting for their own sins and the life of the world; for any pagans who came in to hear, it would be a weekly witness to the love of Christ for all of us poor sinners, particularly if all who attended were enjoined to reflect on the sacrifice of that Lamb of God:

Those who are visiting, you’re welcome to get lunch, but we invite you to stay with us and reflect on the death of Jesus Christ. Brothers in Christ, join me. As Christ died on Good Friday for the sins of the whole world, that all might live in him, let us now remember his love by praying for all those for whom he gave his life.

From glory to glory

What we proclaim is Christ crucified. From hearer to catechumen to candidate for baptism, from Litany to the Daily Office to Holy Communion, a person at each of these stages of contemplation on the way to baptism is met by the gospel-soaked pages of the Book of Common Prayer. As he desires to learn more about Christ, he can be met by friends who will explain the Scriptures to him. And so, God willing, he will come at last to be joined to Christ.