Project Canterbury

The Middle Way
Suggestions for a Practicable Ceremonial

By the Reverend Latta Griswold, M.A.

Milwaukee: Morehouse, 1928.

Chapter I. Preliminary Considerations

I. Introductory

The clergy, wrote Bishop Davies in the review of a little book about the teaching of our branch of the Church, are often asked to recommend a book that will give an accurate and non-partisan view of the American Episcopal Church. In doing so they often have to stop and explain certain personal and unhelpful passages in the manuals set forth for that purpose. At last we have a well-balanced account and instruction. In this book is contained just the information the Church is generally agreed upon. The author presents the Church as it is, not as any group would like it to be. [The Pastoral Staff, of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, Trinity, 1917.]

THE DEFECT of many books on ceremonial is that stated so clearly by Bishop Davies with regard to books of instruction. They are so often partisan, or they describe ceremonial as perhaps it ought to be, but rarely as in most cases it can be. In con sequence they are not of practical use to the parish priest, or such as he can wisely put into the hands of his laymen.

Probably, if we were forced to do so, we would all line up with this or that school of thought within the Church; our sympathies necessarily lie in one quarter or the other, and it is doubtless easier to be tolerant of extremists in one direction than in another. And doubtless it is true that if it were not for extremists there would often not be progress. But for the most part, in a Church like ours largely engaged in parochial work, we are not definitely lined up on this or that side of a real or imaginary fence, we are not ordinarily concerned with party questions and assuredly not concerned with them in a partisan manner. We have not the time, and most of us have not the inclination. Rather we are concerned with administering (for all its comprehensiveness) a definite system of Christian religion, of which the Book of Common Prayer contains the essentials of doctrine, discipline, and worship. It is not that we do not wish that the school of thought with which we agree should become predominant in the Church, for one who has strong convictions can hardly help hoping they will prevail; but that we recognize that we have an excellent, work able system of religion and would like to work it out in peace and quietness. It is really a nuisance to find it so difficult to get hold of hand books concerning Church teaching and practice that are not marred by extremes. We need more books for clergy and people which deal with the Church as it is, and not as one party or the other thinks it ought to be.

If one were writing a book on Church teaching it would be comparatively easy to keep personal interpretations in the back ground, and to state the Church's teaching as she has officially formulated it, for the Episcopal Church has so formulated it far more extensively and far more definitely than is commonly realized. But with regard to the directions for the inevitable ceremonial in connection with public worship, the Church has deliberately left a great deal to the discretion and good taste of her clergy. Therefore in responding to the request that has again been made to the writer to make detailed suggestions about divine worship, it will not be possible to keep personal opinion out of it, or to avoid confession of one's hopes for future development. And yet in doing so, one is certain to offend many on both sides.

It would also be comparatively easy (and it has often admirably been done) to write a book giving directions as to the adaptation of the Roman ceremonial to the Anglican rite, or to strive to rescue the so-called English use from the oblivion into which it has fallen. But the most of us have to work in parishes where the Roman or the English uses would alike hinder rather than help the worship of our people; and in the opinion of this parson, at any rate, it is far better to make worship helpful than to have it con form meticulously to some particular ceremonial system.

Despite the fact that the Anglican Rite does not contain elaborate ceremonial directions, yet it is a distinct rite; and if our communion is an independent branch of the Church Catholic, it has adequate authority to impose it, and from time to time to regulate the ceremonial adopted in connection with it. The old rites were all evolved through centuries of experiment, and it seems rather absurd to suppose that in the gradual course of developing our own ceremonial we need slavishly copy any particular use.

But perhaps enough has been said to indicate the general principles that underlie what is in mind. There is no pretense that such advice as will be offered is other than personal, what has been suggested by experience and common sense and a sincere effort to be loyal to the genius of our own communion. Though such expressions as should and ought will constantly be used, the reader will remember that the writer is expressing merely his own opinion. This explanation must suffice. One cannot be insisting on one's humility in every sentence.

It is quite unnecessary to insist again that some system of ceremonial is essential even to the simplest rendering of the Prayer Book offices, or that all ceremonial should be reverent and sincere. There are a few general observations that need to be made before proceeding to detailed suggestions.

2. Nomenclature

It is hardly too much to claim that the nomenclature officially used in the Church should be that of the Book of Common Prayer. For the choir offices we have Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, and if we will admit the authority of the Church of England, Mattins and Evensong. [The titles Mattins (properly spelled Matins) and Evensong are found in the kalendar of the English book. Of course Morning Prayer is not the old Matins, a very different part of speech indeed; but the Church herself applied the old title to the new office.] Evensong is not Vespers, and the desire to call it so is inexplicable. Curiously enough the term Vespers seems to be popular even in churches that desire to maintain a Protestant tradition.

For the sacrament of the altar the Prayer Book gives us three titles: Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper, Holy Eucharist, all titles having both scriptural and Catholic authority. There is no doubt, in view of Roman Catholic and Protestant misconceptions or misrepresentations, that it is important for us to insist that the Holy Communion is the Mass, and that we have the right to use that expression. Mass is a short word; it is convenient; etymologically it is colourless; historically it emphasizes aspects of Eucharistic doctrine too much neglected amongst us; it is in common use amongst Lutherans as well as Roman Catholics. But on the other hand it is not found in our formularies, and to use it officially in the great majority of parishes is to stir up prejudice, bitterness, or even strife. It may be ever so desirable to recover the word for our formularies, but it seems to many that that will more likely come as the result of patient teaching than by insisting on its use now without regard to the prejudices of uninstructed or badly instructed congregations.

The same objections may be made to the increasing custom of Catholic-minded priests to call each other and claim from their people the title of Father. The English custom until recently (even among Roman Catholics) was to restrict the use of Father to members of religious orders. By common consent the term is extended by all Anglicans to the members of our religious orders; the use of it by parish priests seems quite pointless and unnecessary in view of the widespread prejudice against it by all kinds of Churchmen.

3. The Sunday Eucharist

The most difficult question the parish priest has to decide is whether or not to have a celebration (presumably choral or partly choral) at the popular hour of worship every Sunday. The Lord's service on the Lord's day is undoubtedly the Catholic rule, and it is the implication of the Prayer Book. But there confronts us the fact that in most parishes for generations the people have been accustomed to have the Eucharist only on the first Sunday of the month or on greater feasts which may fall on Sunday, and Morning Prayer or Morning Prayer, Lit any, and the so-called Ante-Communion ser vice on other Sundays. Every one is familiar with the reasons for introducing the weekly late Eucharist where it is not already the custom. In cities where different parishes have different types of service the problem is relatively simple; but in the average parish it is not simple at all, and it is sheer foolish ness for those who are not confronted with the problem to advise others to "go ahead and do their duty" regardless of consequences.

Assuming that the majority of the clergy would be glad to make the late Eucharist on every Sunday the custom of their parish, some of the difficulties that confront them may be noted.

The majority of our people in most parishes are still accustomed to what we may call the old-fashioned order of service. Many from prejudice, a few from principle, would deeply resent a change. They claim that Morning Prayer is a helpful service, that it is ordered by the Prayer Book to be said on Sundays, and that the implication of the Prayer Book is that it be said solemnly. Probably the original idea was Morning Prayer, Litany, and Holy Communion, as it has often been the custom. But that makes too long a service. Unfortunately, when the service came to be shortened, due to the decay of sacramental teaching, it was the Eucharist that suffered. Undoubtedly it is our duty to restore it: but the question remains when and how.

In many parishes, if the incumbent insists on having a late Eucharist every Sunday, a majority of the people will not stay through the service, leaving before the most important part begins and getting a very short service indeed in consequence. They pour out of the church after the Prayer for the Church in a manner that is humiliating and discouraging to the priest and annoying to those who remain, or they dribble out in a still more unedifying way.

We cannot give orders to our people; if we request them to remain, some will do so as a personal favor, but many more will re sent the attempt, as they feel it, to interfere with their liberty. Various devices have been tried, but none has been successful in inducing worshippers to remain through the Eucharistic service against their will. Some times a choral Eucharist with a sermon is appointed before the hour for choral Morning Prayer with sermon. Not to speak of the burden this lays upon the clergy and choir, it sharply divides the congregation into two camps or parties. Another device is to shorten Morning Prayer, have the sermon at the end of it, and then the Eucharist without sermon. But the same objections obtain to this device as to the former. Sometimes there is a plain Morning Prayer and a choral Eucharist, which again can only be successful in homogeneous congregations; or worse, a choral Morning Prayer and a plain Eucharist afterwards. This is very much as if, when we had the honour of entertaining a King, e took off our fine clothes and put on our shabby ones immediately before his arrival.

After long experience and some experiment, it seems wisest to this writer to go on with the late Eucharist on the first Sunday and Morning Prayer on other Sundays at the popular hour of worship, continuing to emphasize sacramental teaching, stressing early communions on Sundays, holy days, and week-days, affording ample facilities for frequent communion, until the majority of a congregation will not merely tolerate, but desire and value the late Eucharist every Sunday. Meanwhile there are a number of holy days which fall on Sundays when a late Eucharist is always acceptable, and the time will come, perhaps soon, perhaps later, when the late Eucharist may be celebrated on alternate Sundays, and eventually every Sunday.

This demands the exercise of patience on the part of the clergy; yet it is well to re member that there is a point at which patience ceases to be a virtue. Certainly a priest should have in mind and heart to restore the Eucharist to its proper place in the scheme of the Church's worship; and he must realize and teach his people, tactfully but surely, that the substitution of Morning Prayer for Eucharistic worship is an unhappy and really indefensible custom, which when the time is ripe must be brought to an end. Of course if a priest believes that the Catholic custom must be imposed, willynilly, upon a congregation that is unconverted or half-converted to Catholic faith and practice, he must impose it. It may give peace to his conscience, but it will certainly not make for peace in his parish. In the long run a faithful, devoted, tactful priest will succeed in teaching his people to desire the weekly Eucharist as the chief service of the Sunday.

4. Vestments

The considerations advanced in regard to the late Sunday Eucharist apply also to the question of vestments. It is likely that the prejudice against Eucharistic vestments of the white-linen variety is largely dispelled. If the clergy would use tippets or scarves for the choir offices and reserve the stole for sacramental offices, a distinction is always made between choir and Eucharistic vestments. In most parishes there would be little difficulty in introducing white-linen vestments at early Eucharists. When the rector of a parish has convinced his people that he is tolerant and liberal, in the right sense of that much-maligned word, he can usually wear white linen Eucharistic vestments, if he desires to do so, without the slightest fear of disrupting the parish. Coloured vestments, incense, and other accessories of Catholic worship can well wait the full restoration of the Eucharist to its traditional place in the scheme of the Church's worship; that is until they are generally desired.

The Roman sequence of colours seems to be in general use, even in most anti-papal quarters, and we should settle upon it. It is the simplest, practically and symbolically. Briefly it is as follows: White, for feasts of our Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, saints not martyrs, and through Christmas and Easter-tides; Red, for Whitsun-tide, martyrs, and feasts of the Holy Cross; Purple or Violet, for Advent, Lent, Ember and Rogation Days, and Eves; Black, for Good Friday, All Souls, and requiems; Green, for all other days. Cloth of gold may always be substituted. The colours apply of course to vestments and altar hangings, burse, veil, etc.

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