Category Archives: Ritual and Cæremony

I Didn’t Know This Psalm Project Existed

Well, I know now because I was looking for stuff for next Sunday’s worship and came upon these guitar arrangements of the Genevan Psalter.

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People Who Don’t Believe the BCP Is Basically All Bible Should See This

By the Rev. Henry Ives Bailey, The Liturgy Compared with the Bible. Here begins the exhortation that immediately follows the opening scriptural sentence of Morning Prayer:

liturgy-compared-with-bible-mp-exhortation

Let him impugn the words of the Prayer Book who dares to deny the truth of Holy Scripture.

Adapting Western Clothes Ethnically

Jessica R. Metcalfe wrote in 2011 about an Ojibwe Indian named Bagone-giizhig, or Hole-in-the-Day the Younger.

She said of Hole-in-the-Day,

He dressed in fashionable European-style clothes, but he always kept his hair long and continued to wear a blanket draped across one shoulder. Euro-American fashion was simplistic in the 1800s, and individuals like Hole-In-The-Day made it visually more exciting with the inclusion of Ojibwe accessories and items of adornment. He also continued to wear Ojibwe-style moccasins.

Perhaps this is how other non-Westerners ought to wear their Europæan-style clothes. How might Chinese men do this?

Addai and Mari for the Church of China Today?

To do honour to the Lord’s work in China of old, the Church of China could follow the first Chinese Christians in using the Anaphora of Addai and Mari (whose structure and content Thomas Mannooramparampil explains), at least on certain days. This Anaphora could be used within the existing Holy Communion service on the feast day of St Thomas the Apostle, on whatever feast day might be set for Alopen 阿羅本 the Missionary (7c.), and on Sundays in Lent:

First Gehanta, after the opening dialogue

Worthy of praise from every mouth and of confession from every tongue is the adorable and glorious name of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost, who didst create the world by thy grace and its inhabitants by thy mercifulness and didst save mankind by thy compassion and give great grace unto mortals.

Sanctus

Thy majesty, O my Lord, thousand thousands of those on high bow down and worship and ten thousand times ten thousand holy angels and hosts of spiritual beings, ministers of fire and spirit, praise thy name with holy cherubin and seraphin shouting and praising without ceasing and crying one to another and saying:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts; heaven and earth are full of his praises.

Second Gehanta

And with these heavenly hosts we give thanks to thee, O my Lord, even we thy servants weak and frail and miserable, for that thou hast given us great grace past recompense in that thou didst put on our manhood that thou mightest quicken it by thy godhead, and hast exalted our low estate and restored our fall and raised our mortality and forgiven our trespasses and justified our sinfulness and enlightened our knowledge and, O our Lord and our God, hast condemned our enemies and granted victory to the weakness of our frail nature in the overflowing mercies of thy grace.

Third Gehanta

Do thou, O my Lord, in thy many and unspeakable mercies make a good and acceptable memorial for all the just and righteous fathers who have been wellpleasing in thy sight, in the commemoration of the body and blood of thy Christ which we offer unto thee on thy pure and holy altar as thou hast taught us, and grant us thy tranquillity and thy peace all the days of the world.

Yea, O our Lord and our God, grant us thy tranquillity and thy peace all the days of the world that all the inhabitants of the earth may know thee that thou art the only true God the Father and that thou hast sent our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son and thy beloved. And he our Lord and our God came and in his lifegiving gospel taught us all the purity and holiness of the prophets and the apostles and the martyrs and the confessors and the bishops and the doctors and the presbyters and the deacons and all the children of the holy catholic church, even them that have been signed with the living sign of holy baptism.

Anamnesis

And we also, O my Lord, thy weak and frail and miserable servants who are gathered together in thy name, both stand before thee at this time and have received the example which is from thee delivered unto us, rejoicing and praising and exalting and commemorating and celebrating this great and fearful and holy and lifegiving and divine mystery of the passion and the death and the burial and the resurrection of our Lord our Saviour Jesus Christ.

[For on the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.]

Epiclesis

And let there come, O my Lord, thine Holy Spirit and rest upon this offering of thy servants and bless it and hallow it, that it be to us, O my Lord, for the pardon of offences and the remission of sins and for the great hope of resurrection from the dead and for new life in the kingdom of heaven with all those who have been wellpleasing in thy sight.

Doxology

And for all this great and marvellous dispensation towards us we will give thee thanks and praise thee without ceasing in thy Church redeemed by the precious blood of thy Christ, with unclosed mouths and open faces lifting up praise and honour and confession and worship to thy living and holy and lifegiving name now and ever and world without end.

Baptism for Public Testimony of Your Own Faith? Try Again

Baptism of Constantine

The Baptism of Constantine. Excuse the tiara. The painting looks cool.

Where do evangelicals get the idea that the point of baptism is to testify outwardly about one’s faith? Not one verse in the Bible suggests that public testimony of one’s own faith is even one of the reasons to be baptized, let alone the chief or only reason. Try it yourself: search for every occurrence of bapt* in the Bible, and see if even one verse in that search suggests that one reason for baptism is for the one baptized to testify of his own faith before other men.

What do you find instead? Ananias saying to Saul of Tarsus, as St Paul later recalled,

The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

This is why in the Nicene Creed we confess, ‘I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.’

You will also find St Paul saying of baptism in Romans 6,

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

And St Peter says this of baptism in 1 Peter 3:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

What surprises me is not that modern evangelicals are unable to reckon with these passages, or that they misinterpret Scripture. Many parts of the Bible have become a puzzle to evangelicals who have long imbibed the ways of the world, so that little else is imaginable. But what does surprise me is that modern evangelicals, who purportedly believe in ‘sola Scriptura’ and sometimes criticize Romanists for following another principle, do not even attempt to justify their understanding of even something so important as the meaning of baptism on the basis of Scripture. Not one verse have I heard cited in support of the understanding that the point – maybe even the only point – of baptism is to show other people that you have made a personal commitment to Jesus.

Contrast this understanding, not at all drawn from Scripture, with what the London Baptist Confession (1689) says about baptism:

Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

The prooftexts listed are: Romans 6.3–5; Colossians 2.12; Galatians 3.27; Mark 1.4; Acts 22.16; Romans 6.4. In this understanding, much like those of other Reformed Protestants, baptism is ‘ordained by Jesus Christ’ as a sign ‘unto the party baptized’; the word is not of that of the believer but that of Christ, who ordained the sign. Modern Protestants, take heed.

The Huguenots and Anglican Worship in Ireland: Lessons for Today?

Ruth Whelan, in ‘Sanctified by the Word: The Huguenots and Anglican Liturgy’, part of the edited volume Propagating the Word of Irish Dissent 1650–1800 (Four Courts Press Ltd, 1998), 74–94, gives us a look at the Huguenot refugee community in Ireland which complicates the picture often painted of French Protestants readily conforming to the established Anglican worship of the English-speaking countries in which they resettled. Though the French Protestants recognized the Church of Ireland and the Church of England as fellow Reformed churches, with whom they basically agreed in doctrine, differences in practice shaped differences in piety between them and Anglicans who conformed to the Book of Common Prayer. Practices that strictly were adiaphora (in themselves indifferent) were nevertheless, for much of the Huguenot refugee community, part of the Huguenots’ ethnoreligious identity.

The article also shows us some history that could be useful for dealing with the problem of Phyletism – which Wikipedia calls ‘the idea that a local autocephalous Church should be based not on a local [ecclesial] criterion, but on an ethnophyletist, national or linguistic one’ – as well as with the practical mess of the Byzantine communion’s overlapping ethnic-associated jurisdictions in America.

Father’s Day

I’m glad the Rev. Luke Lau, at Montgomery Chinese Baptist Church, did not do yesterday what White Left 白左 evangelical Christians do about Father’s Day. Instead, he preached a normal sermon that did not insult fathers but honoured fatherly love and exhorted everyone to live lives that honoured God.

st-joseph-and-the-jesus-child-jusepe-de-ribera

‘St Joseph and the Jesus Child’. Jusepe de Ribera.

Perhaps, though, the Church in America and elsewhere ought to bring the day honouring fatherhood back to the feast day of St Joseph, on 19 March, for two reasons: (1) to tie things explicitly to the life of the Church and her saints, and (2) to resist commercialistic trends by which, as the Father’s Day Council said in the 1980s, ‘[Father’s Day] has become a Second Christmas for all the men’s gift-oriented industries’. After all, as my father says, of all the useful things in the world, money is the most useless. To orient ourselves toward commercialism, then, rather than the life of God in his saints, is to forsake the things that are worthy for the things that are not; it would be far better, then, for human society to use a day on which the fatherhood of God was expressly glorified in the self-sacrificing life of St Joseph.

John Cosin’s Interleaved Book of Common Prayer Against the Puritan Objectors

Notes from the interleaved copy of the Book of Common Prayer kept by John Cosin, who after the restoration of the Stuart monarchy became Lord Bishop of Durham.

Aye, apparently WordPress allows ebooks to be embedded from archive.org. You can view the book in full screen if you want.

Enjoy Dr Cosin’ retorts and private responses to the Prayer Book’s puritan surveyors who object to its provisions.

Who Giveth This Chinese Woman?

Grace Kelly, accompanied by her father, arrives at the cathedral to be married.

The Book of Common Prayer directs that the priest should ask, ‘Who giveth this woman to be married?’, but it does not specify the manner in which he should receive an answer. Generally, the bride’s father, standing to the bride’s left, takes her right hand and delivers it to the priest; in so doing, he may also explicitly say, ‘I do.’ In a Chinese wedding, though, there are other ways this could well be done, and there is another form of words that I imagine would work, from the ‘Airs of States’ 國風 in the ancient Odes 詩經, the poem ‘Peach Tree’ 桃夭:

桃之夭夭、灼灼其華。
之子于歸、宜其室家。

The peach tree is young and elegant;
Brilliant are its flowers.
This young lady is going to her future home,
And will order well her chamber and house.

桃之夭夭、有蕡其實。
之子于歸、宜其家室。

The peach tree is young and elegant;
Abundant will be its fruits.
This young lady is going to her future home,
And will order well her house and chamber.

桃之夭夭、其葉蓁蓁。
之子于歸、宜其家人。

The peach tree is young and elegant;
Luxuriant are its leaves.
This young lady is going to her future home,
And will order well her family.

As the Mao Prefaces say, ‘ “Peach Tree” is [about] the queen consort’s directives. Through her freedom from jealousy, the relation between males and females was made right; marriages were celebrated at the proper times; and there were no unmarried people in the kingdom.’ Then, the vows once taken, would these words of the poem ‘They Beat Their Drums’ 擊鼓 ring true:

死生契闊,與子成說。執子之手,與子偕老。
For life or for death, however separated,
To our wives we pledged our word.
We held their hands; –
We were to grow old together with them.

Thus let all be done in order, under Heaven’s will.

A New Generation Poem for the Tsangs?

中華曾氏祖根地 (vignette)

中華曾氏祖根地: the Chinese lineage’s ancestral rootland.

In many Chinese and Korean families, you see that the names of the sons of the same generation share a character, a generation name 班次. My ancestor of the Sòng dynasty, for example, Emperor Taìzōng, was named Zhào Kuāngyì 趙匡義; his older brother, Emperor Taìzŭ, was named Zhào Kuāngyìn 趙匡胤. Besides sharing the surname Zhào , they had in common the generation name Kuāng . Now, as Wikipedia explains,

The sequence of generation is typically prescribed and kept in record by a generation poem (bāncì lián 班次聯 or pàizì gē 派字歌 in Chinese) specific to each lineage. While it may have a mnemonic function, these poems can vary in length from around a dozen characters to hundreds of characters. Each successive character becomes the generation name for successive generations.

For the Sòng dynasty House of Zhào, the poem goes, 若夫,元德允克、令德宜崇、師古希孟、時順光宗、良友彥士、登汝必公、不惟世子、與善之從、伯仲叔季、承嗣由同。 The poem’s 42 characters were split into three groups of 14 for the offspring of Sòng Taìzŭ and his two brothers. As Emperor Taìzŭ set forth for the family (with older romanizations from the book quoted),

Together with the Prince of Chin, Kuang-i, and the Prince of Ch’in, Kuang-mei, we will constitute three branches. Each will establish fourteen characters [for generation names] in the Jade Register so as to distinguish the streams and give order to the [spirit] tablets. Although our posterity may be distant in time and in relationship, they will not lose their order.

According to this præscription, my grandfather had the character in his name, as did all of his brothers. So it has been, for my mother’s family, since the 10th century of our Lord Jesus Christ; but my own clan, despite its descent from the Xià king Shàokāng 少康, has not had such a long and constant usage.

zhao-genealogy-kuangyin-kuangyi

This record shows the ancestry of Zhào Kuāngyì 趙匡義.

zhao-genealogy-dun

The ancestry traces back through Zhào Dùn 趙盾.

Of the generation poems used by those of the ancient House of , there are so many (beware: Tripod page with popup adverts!), and of such diversity, that there clearly is nothing like a standard. What was once used by my branch of the family has been interrupted by the convulsions of the 20th century. Though we clearly maintain commonalities between brothers – my father’s generation having the character and mine having , even for my cousin – these generation names have not at all been drawn from the poem formerly used. Instead, my father’s generation received an accent on the nation, and mine on righteousness. In each, of course, is an ethical orientation. Herein I see the makings of a new generation poem that has yet to be written. Since my grandfather was the seniormost Christian in the family (though his conversion was not the first), his name should be the one that heads the poem, and the poem can mark a new beginning by expressly giving glory to Christ the Saviour of the nations.

炳國義, and the rest is unwritten. But even here, with just three characters, we can see some order. My grandfather’s character ‘bright, luminous’ has the radical for fire, ; my father’s character ‘territory, nation’ clearly suggests earth; my character ‘righteousness, justice’ is associated with metal. Thus we have gone from summer to the ripe season to autumn, and the next in the cycle of the five phases of matter and energy (wŭxíng) is winter and water. A cycle of five itself suggests lines of five characters each, whether four lines for 20 syllables or eight lines for 40. Numerologically, 40 can correspond to the days of rain and flooding in the time of Noah, or the years of Israel’s wandering until the faithless generation had died, or the days of Jesus’s fast in the wasteland to suffer the temptations of man; 20, however, is of no significance. But when the cycle of five has gone eight times, which makes an octave of a feast to the Lord, signifying the spiritual Eighth Day of the week, then shall we have the number of trigrams and the number of persons on Noah’s Ark and the number of the Beatitudes. Let the poem, the jìntĭshī 近體詩, be written thus.

炳國△△ 義某 某△○ ●
某某○○ 某某 某△△ ●

某某○○ 某某 某○△ △  parallelism
某某△△ 某某 某△○ ●

某某△△ 某某 某○○ △  parallelism
某某○○ 某某 某△△ ●

某某○○ 某某 某○△ △
某某△△ 某某 某△○ ●

Decrees of the Church to Be Kept as Wisdom

common-prayer

A high churchman’s conviction that holds the old decrees and customs of the Church in high regard is not unreformed, nor among the Reformed churches is such a conviction unique to Anglicans. Thus says Girolamo Zanchi in De Religione Christiana Fides:

For I beleeve that the thinges which were decreed and received of the fathers, by common consent of them all gathered together in the name of the Lord, without anie contradiction of holie scriptures, that they also (though they bee not of equall authoritie with the scriptures) come from the Holie ghost.

He speaks similarly in his Operum Theologicorum, intended to be a Protestant ‘summa’ modelled after that of St Thomas Aquinas, in the section on the traditions of the church:

Thesis 3. Moreover, just as political laws have their origin in natural law, so, too, the traditions of the church have their origin both from the Holy Spirit (as in the case of the apostles) and from the written Word of God (as in the case of the holy bishops and synods).

[…]

Thesis 4. Therefore, as long as these traditions are either consistent with Scripture or at least not contradictory to it, they are truly the traditions of the Church and must be accepted. And we ought to obey and honor them.

Thus did the fathers of the Council of Jerusalem speak, as St Luke records by the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles:

Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us [emphasis mine], to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.

Therefore, such decrees received from the Holy Ghost, consonant with what he breathes out in the holy Scriptures, are also reverently to be kept until altered under the law of Scripture, and of nature, by duly appointed authority.

Decrees and recognition of adiaphora

Yet reverence for what we have received is not always simple. St Paul tells the Corinthians,

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

If what St Paul teaches is as true as the words of the Apostolic Decree recorded by St Luke, then the matter seems less simple than that decrees of the Church should be obeyed religiously, as a matter of religion strictly. To acknowledge this complexity we are forced all the more if, as historians believe, 1 Corinthians was written a few years after the Apostolic Decree was sent out. Here, the Council of Jerusalem’s decree to abstain from meats (i.e., in today’s English, foods) offered to idols is not the basis of St Paul’s argument at all, though he should know of it. Instead, he treats an idol as nothing in itself: As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world. Thus, that some food has been sacrificed to idols is also nothing in itself: it is the weak conscience that is defiled by eating what has been offered to idols. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. The matter in itself St Paul as adiaphoron, a thing indifferent.

food-offering-incense-chinatown-bangkok

But it makes little sense that a decree recorded many years after in Acts should be nothing to St Paul writing to the Corinthians. After all, the Council of Jerusalem was summoned in the first place because of his disputation against Judaizers in the Church, and at this council he and Barnabas declared what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. The letter promulgating the Apostolic Decree was sent with them at least ‘unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia’, and there is no reason to suppose that the decree’s compass would have excluded the Gentiles of Corinth. There is no room for doubt that St Paul knew of the decree and followed it in his ministry to the Gentiles.

St Paul’s way of arguing for adhærence to the Apostolic Decree, then, is instructive. Nowhere is his persuasion of this sort:

 The Church has ruled against eating what is offered to idols.
 What the Church has ruled, the Corinthians should obey.
 The Corinthians should not eat what is offered to idols.

Instead, he recognizes a basic Christian freedom but urges the Corinthians of ‘stronger’ consciences to take heed lest by any means their liberty become a stumbling-block to those of ‘weaker’ consciences. Otherwise, when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. How St Paul argues for the Apostolic Decree is how Richard Hooker, writing fifteen centuries later, argues for the reformed Church of England’s episcopacy, liturgy, and canons. On the Apostolic Decree, he can easily be read in The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, particularly in book 4; on the settlement of the Church of England as it then stood, throughout the eight books. ‘The end which is aimed at in setting down the outward form of all religious actions’, Hooker says, ‘is the edification of the Church.’ It is not, then, a mere matter of obedience to divinely ordained authority, as if any arbitrary judgement can be taken for that of the Holy Ghost, but a matter of submitting to an intelligible wisdom.

Bless, O Lord, This Ring?

kate-middleton-royal-wedding-ring-1

In PECUSA’s 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the order of solemnization of holy matrimony specifies that the priest may say, before delivering the ring to the man, ‘Bless, O Lord, this Ring, that he who gives it and she who wears it may abide in thy peace, and continue in thy favour, unto their life’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’ The North American Anglican has published my short piece on whether to bless a ring or its wearer. Check it out. What do you think?

‘Doubtful Novelties’ in Church Names

Walker Rumble, in a printing history series, tells us about great Episcopalian printer Daniel Berkeley Updike. About names of churches he says,

Berkeley Updike and Harold Brown thought Episcopalians named and dedicated their churches inappropriately and in a slipshod manner. Nomenclature became thoughtless and frivolous, and things got worse with spreading evangelical congregations. According to Updike and Brown, ‘the names of our Lord, and of the Apostles and Saints of the New Testament’ – traditional sources – were ‘quite sufficient’. Names such as ‘Heavenly Rest’ or ‘House of Prayer’ were as ‘meaningless’ as ‘Precious Blood’ or ‘Bread of Life’. These were ‘fanciful names’. If we demand variety, ‘let us have at least no doubtful novelties.’

Looking at you, c4so diocese. With a diocese name like that, how can you avoid frivolous names for parish churches?

c4so-header-logo

But Chinese churches should also take note. Such names as Mr Updike cited are not out of the ordinary for a Chinese church, and their frivolous novelty is no less than it was in 1892, the year that he and Harold Brown published On the Dedications of American Churches. Many evangelical Chinese churches, trying to signal their orthodox evangelical credentials, have chosen novelties to shout their decency, and in so doing have negated their own orthodoxy.

It is far better, as Mr Updike says, to take ‘the names of our Lord, and of the Apostles and Saints of the New Testament’ – among whom, I take it, he includes saints who are not mentioned in the pages of New Testament, but who lived and died in the New Testament. It is no novelty, after all, to name a church after a local martyr or a saint from another place whose influence is felt as far as the church to be named. Thus might a church in Edinburgh be named after St Cuthbert, who lies buried in Durham, or a church in Vancouver’s Chinatown after St Robert Morrison, translator of the Scriptures into Chinese. These are names that concretely draw the Christian’s heart to the life of Christ, or to his life in a particular saint.

st-johns-cathedral-hong-kong

The Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist, Hong Kong.

The more our churches seek to differentiate ourselves from the whole work of the Holy Ghost on earth, by taking vain names, the more we separate ourselves from the Church. May the Lord’s blessing rest upon the churches devoted to the glory of his Name.

Introduction to Family Devotions

Reproduced below is the introduction to Family Devotions, from the Book of Common Prayer: With prayers at the communion, from bishops Taylor, Ken, and Beveridge, compiled by Thomas Stephen in 1841. Since this Mr Stephen was also the author of The Confession of Faith of the Church of England in the Thirty-nine Articles, and in the piece below refers to the prayer of ‘the Reformed Catholic Church’, we can well be assured of his commitment to the scriptural piety that is the standard of the Church of England.

* * *

An established religion is as necessary and useful in a family, which is a little kingdom, as in the state. In both, the voluntary system is pernicious, and will not be found to work well; for what is left to the good pleasure of every man’s own discretion will perhaps be left entirely undone. The learned and pious Dr. Doddridge has very justly remarked – ‘that, if any had rather that a family should be prayerless than that a well chosen form should be gravely and solemnly read in it, I think he judges as absurdly as if he would rather see them starving to death, than fed out of a dish whose materials or shape are disagreeable to him.’ Many, from early prejudice, object to forms of prayer; and many, on the other hand, are incapable of conducting their family devotions without a form. Set forms of prayer have many advantages; but, of all forms, the Book of Common Prayer is incomparably the best. Eloquence is a gift of God which few men possess; neither is it necessary in divine worship. Aaron was a most eloquent man, and had the gift of a fine and ready utterance; yet Moses, who was ‘slow of speech and of a slow tongue’, was appointed to instruct him what to say. It is not, therefore, eloquence, but faith and repentance, with obedience and humility, that are necessary in our devotions. Continue reading

Anglican Devotion in the Family

This post is not an original, but a reproduction of a piece by the Rev. Canon Arthur Middleton, Emeritus Canon of Durham.

A bishop’s concern

In his biography, Robert Nelson recorded that before he died, Bishop George Bull (1634–1710) thought he might send his clergy a circular letter, to recommend to them some methods for promoting virtue and piety in his diocese. He died before it was sent. He wanted to promote the salvation of souls committed to his care by an increase of piety and virtue. ‘The first thing therefore that I would recommend to you, and which I do earnestly exhort you to, is to apply yourselves with great diligence to establish the practice of family devotion in all the families of your respective parishes. I need not prove to you … that nothing helpeth more to keep up a sense of religion in the minds of men, than a serious, reverent, and constant performance of this necessary duty; whereby both the glory of God is much advanced, and many blessings do also accrue to those who in this manner daily adore and praise their Creator, the lover of souls.’ He goes on to recommend some small and cheaply priced books, which explain and press this duty and include forms for the performance of it. The importance of family devotions cannot be over-estimated though what a momentous task this seems in the twenty-first century, yet fifty years ago the Roman Catholic Church in this country was engaged in a mission to their members which had the catchphrase, ‘The family that prays together stays together.’
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