Imagine if the following had been the announcements given from the pulpit this past Sunday before the sermon (notes about their Anglican canonical basis in small type):
Rubric in Holy Communion (BCP, 1662), after the Creed and before the sermon.
Then the Curate shall declare unto the people what Holy-days, or Fasting-days, are in the week following to be observed. And then also (if occasion be) shall notice be given of the Communion; and Briefs, Citations, and Excommunications read. And nothing shall be proclaimed or published in the Church during the time of Divine Service, but by the Minister: nor by him any thing, but what is prescribed in the Rules of this Book, or enjoined by the King, or by the Ordinary of the place.
Canon 64 (1604). Ministers solemnly to bid Holy-days.
Every Parson, Vicar or Curate shall in his several Charge declare to the People every Sunday, at the time appointed in the Communion-Book, whether there be any Holy-days, or Fasting-days the Week following. And if any do hereafter wittingly offend herein, and being once admonished thereof by his Ordinary, shall again omit that Duty, let him be censured according to Law, until he submit himself to the due performance of it.
This Friday, 11 June, is St Barnabas’s Day. Even if ye cannot come to a service at church, I encourage you to observe the day with prayer to God on the day itself and a vigil fast on the day before, according as ye are able, to dispose your minds to thanksgiving for the godly example of St Barnabas the Apostle and Martyr. To this end, to explain the feast more fully and feed your devotions, I will hold a vigil service of instruction after Evening Prayer on Thursday night, the eve of the feast. Nevertheless, this St Barnabas’s Day itself, because this year it falls on a Friday, remains a Friday fast as well, both to remember our Lord’s crucifixion on a Friday and to look forward to his resurrection on the following Sunday. So make your hearts ready, with prayer and fasting, both to remember St Barnabas on Friday and to give glory to God on Sunday for the Lord’s bodily resurrection from the dead.
Canon 62 (1604). Ministers not to Marry any Persons without Banns or License.
No Minister upon Pain of Suspension per triennium ipso facto, shall celebrate Matrimony between any Persons, without a Faculty or License granted by some of the Persons in these our Constitutions expressed, except the Banns of Matrimony have been first published three several Sundays or Holy-days in the time of Divine Service, in the Parish Churches or Chapels where the said Parties dwell, according to the Book of Common Prayer. Neither shall any Minister upon the like pain under any Pretence whatsoever, joyn any Persons so Licensed in Marriage at any unseasonable Times, but only between the Hours of Eight and Twelve in the Forenoon, nor in any private Place, but either in the said Churches or Chapels where one of them dwelleth, and likewise in Time of Divine Service: Nor when Banns are thrice asked (and no License in that respect necessary) before the Parents or Governours of the Parties to be married, being under the Age of Twenty and one Years, shall either personally, or by sufficient Testimony, signifie to him their Consents given to the said Marriage.
This Saturday, 12 June, Bryan and Linda intend to marry here at 11 o’clock. Therefore: I publish the banns of marriage between Bryan Wang of this parish and Linda Lee of this parish. This is the third time of asking. If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it. If no such cause be declared, then after Evensong on the night before the wedding I shall read from the Second Book of Homilies concerning the state of matrimony, that both those intending to be married and those already married may know God’s will for them.
Rubric in Holy Communion (American BCP, 1928).
When the Minister giveth warning for the Celebration of the Holy Communion, (which he shall always do upon the Sunday, or some Holy-day, immediately preceding,) he shall read this Exhortation following, or so much thereof as, in his discretion, he may think convenient.
Finally, dearly beloved, for the following day, 13 June: On Sunday next I purpose, through God’s assistance, to administer to all such as shall be religiously and devoutly disposed the most comfortable Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; to be by them received in remembrance of his meritorious Cross and Passion; whereby alone we obtain remission of our sins, and are made partakers of the Kingdom of heaven. Wherefore it is our duty to render most humble and hearty thanks to Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that he hath given his Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, not only to die for us, but also to be our spiritual food and sustenance in that holy Sacrament. Which being so divine and comfortable a thing to them who receive it worthily, and so dangerous to those who will presume to receive it unworthily; my duty is to exhort you, in the mean season to consider the dignity of that holy mystery, and the great peril of the unworthy receiving thereof; and so to search and examine your own consciences, and that not lightly, and after the manner of dissemblers with God; but so that ye may come holy and clean to such a heavenly Feast, in the marriage-garment required by God in holy Scripture, and be received as worthy partakers of that holy Table.
The way and means thereto is: First, to examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God’s commandments; and whereinsoever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended, either by will, word, or deed, there to bewail your own sinfulness, and to confess yourselves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life. And if ye shall perceive your offences to be such as are not only against God, but also against your neighbours; then ye shall reconcile yourselves unto them; being ready to make restitution and satisfaction, according to the uttermost of your powers, for all injuries and wrongs done by you to any other; and being likewise ready to forgive others who have offended you, as ye would have forgiveness of your offences at God’s hand: for otherwise the receiving of the holy Communion doth nothing else but increase your condemnation. Therefore, if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slanderer of his Word, an adulterer, or be in malice, or envy, or in any other grievous crime; repent you of your sins, or else come not to that holy Table.
And because it is requisite that no man should come to the holy Communion, but with a full trust in God’s mercy, and with a quiet conscience; therefore, if there be any of you, who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein, but requireth further comfort or counsel, let him come to me, or to some other Minister of God’s Word, and open his grief; that he may receive such godly counsel and advice, as may tend to the quieting of his conscience, and the removing of all scruple and doubtfulness.
[Here begins the short prayer before the sermon.]
The Canons of 1604 are not universal, of course, and in the Church of England they have been replaced anyway since the 1960s, but they do show which things are traditionally considered to be suitable announcements for the time after the Nicene Creed and before the sermon. In the 1662 Prayer Book, the exhortation about Holy Communion seems to be ordered after the sermon, but the rubric before the sermon calls for notice of communion then as well; America’s 1928 Prayer Book is more flexible about when the exhortation is to be used. The series of announcements sets the sermon itself within a context of the discipline of the Church. Not least within this discipline are the feasts and fasts set by public authority, whether public worship at church be available for those days or not.
Regardless of which part of the Bible is the source of the sermon to follow, such announcements set a devotional tone that I think useful to Christians’ growth in the ascetical (self-disciplinary) system to which the Church has submitted for the encouragement of holiness. The announcements in that place also call for a harmony, even if a subtle harmony, between the preacher’s sermon and the Church’s feasts and fasts. By setting the sermon within a context of (ideally) the whole Christian body’s discipline, these announcements bring the preached word into churchly discipline, and they bring churchly discipline into the preached word. Both preaching and churchly discipline, after all, whether in absolution of sins or excommunication from the Church, are forms in which the word of God comes to us. Because the announcements before the sermon are not just any announcements – an announcement about the parish potluck is excluded – they serve as an integral part of the Church’s system of spiritual discipline, rather than an insertion of logistically necessary announcements into any ‘convenient’ pause in the service. Thus, the announcements deemed suitable at the time commanded in the Prayer Book are intended to be the ones that pull devout worshippers farther into the devotion necessary for the exalted service of Holy Communion, where they appear.
To approach the announcements at that time as a sabbath from the sabbath, so to speak, is the wrong way to go about it. Instead, the right way is to use the permitted pulpit announcements as part of the exercise of devotion, part of the heavenly rest we take by faith in the Lord’s Day. May it be to the people an occasion not to be distracted, but rather to be devoted to the things of God; not to wander, but to be in wonder; not to loosen, but to fear God.