Project Canterbury


"The Responsibilities of Bishops for Liturgical Reform in a Changing Society"


Sermon Preached at Evening Prayer
The Right Reverend Jonathan Goodhue Sherman, S.T.D.
Suffragan Bishop of Long Island


In Saint Bartholomew's Church, New York City
Tuesday, April 27th, 1965, 8:00 P.M.


In connection with
The New York Liturgical Conference



Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2010

            Text: Acts 2:42
            1. The Role of the Bishop: the carrier of a culture-pattern.
            (a) Essentials of the culture-pattern: the Faith; the Church; the Sacraments.
            (b) The meaning of authority.
            II. The Covenant-structure of the culture-pattern.
            (a) The Old Covenant: God's promises reinterpreted by the Prophets.
            (b) Fulfilment in the Incarnation.
            (c) The words of our worship.
            (d) The Apostolic Ministry: Christ represented.
            III. The fruits of the culture-pattern:
            (a) The genesis of modern science, higher education, and social work; Christian biography.
            (b) The problem of a cut-flower civilization: the lack of a unifying principle.
            IV. The Bishop's role: conservative and militant.
            (a) The primary target in the world: men's minds.
            (b) The attack on enemies within the gate: individual pietism and parochial insularity.
            (c) Opportunities within the present formularies.
            (d) Needed: flexibility in the ius liturgicum.
            (e) Concerning episcopal visitations; area projects, urban and rural.
            (f) A note of caution: change not an end in itself.
            V. Conclusion: behind the headlines, the Holy Spirit!


Text: "And they were persistent in their adherence to the apostles' instruction and to the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and to the prayers."-- Acts 2:42

This evening we are to consider "The Responsibilities of Bishops for Liturgical Reform in a Changing Society". In order to identify my position in the theological spectrum let me say that it is my intention to present a concept of the bishop's office that bears some recognizable relation to the Anglican formularies in the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal, also to the testimony of Holy Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the long life of the Church.

To snatch a term from anthropology, I propose to consider the bishop as the carrier of a peculiar culture-pattern. Being derived from a particular tradition of historical experience, this culture-pattern includes at least the following essentials:

First, the Christian Faith as expressed in the Apostles' and the Nicene Creeds. This Faith involves a view of reality as grounded in the One Triune God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We use the definite article when we speak of the Christian Faith (as against, for example, Professor John Dewey's choice of the title for his book, "A Common Faith") because we believe as Christians that the Son of God became Man in Jesus of Nazareth. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit springs from the continuing experience of power and illumination in the activity of God as the Inspirer and Teacher of mankind, indirectly through his creation and directly through the particular context of human experience to which the Bible and Church History together bear witness. The doctrine of the Trinity as set forth in the Collect and Proper Prefaces for Trinity Sunday and in the Offices of instruction is part of the given-ness of revelation, a rational statement to be likened, if you will, to a scientific hypothesis framed to account for this historical experience in its totality. It is to be noted, moreover, that the content of the Christian Faith is realized in terms of personal relations before it is made articulate in the language of systematic theology and metaphysics.

The second essential in the Christian culture-pattern is the social organism, the New Society, the Church, created by God in Christ to the end that men might participate in God's own life and that they might share this life more abundantly. Within the Church we find as a third ingredient the sacraments of Baptism, the Lord's Supper and Holy Orders, the specific means by which God the Holy Spirit works in the Church to bring his healthful purpose for mankind to good effect.

Let me restate the position here by adducing a word which I have been advised to avoid because it is apt to be loaded with false connotations. Words, like "the best laid plans o'mice and men gang aft agley" and need to be rescued. Of such is the word "authority" which, in our time, has had a notably bad press. A clue to its true meaning is found in the marriage service where God is referred to as "the Author of everlasting life": in its Christian context "authority" ought always to bring to mind God's creative, redemptive, and healing activity in Christ. The word "liturgy" I understand as signifying the extension of this creative, redemptive and healing activity of God in the life of the Church. The Scriptures, the Creeds, and the Ministry are instrumental to this end: their authority is derivative and secondary. Properly the word "authority" should be reserved to God the Holy Spirit: and whenever one of the secondary instruments just mentioned is elevated to a position of such importance that the primacy of the Holy Spirit is concealed or disregarded or forgotten, the result is the perversion of authority to authoritarianism. Bishop Robinson quotes Bonheoffer as saying, "The Church is her true self only when she exists for humanity." In other words, the validation of authority takes place at the cutting-edge of the Church's mission to the world.

Again the culture-pattern which the Bishop is commissioned to bear maintains the Covenant-structure of biblical history as this comes to a focus in the Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord Jesus. In his Incarnation the Son of God as a Jew thought of himself in terms derived from the Old Testament. In the Pentateuch God's promises under the Covenant included: (1) bringing his people into the promised land; (2) giving them military victory over their earthly enemies; (3) sustaining their economic prosperity. We may note in passing that these interests are not entirely restricted to the ancient Israelites: witness the recurrent issues in our own national elections and today's headlines on Viet Nam. God's promises as outlined were contingent upon Israel's obedience to the law as given by Moses. In view of the sad fact of Israel's disobedience the Holy Spirit proclaimed through the prophets the doom of the nation, and the promises of God were consequently transposed into a higher key. The prophets saw the goal of the Covenant in terms of a right relationship between God and Israel ("Seek ye the Lord and ye shall live")--a reorientation of perspective which implied a right relationship between man and man ("What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"). This elevation of interests is reflected in the Benedictus where the words, "that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies" are followed, not as we might anticipate, by the words, "might enter and possess the land which the Lord swore unto our fathers", but by the words, "might serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life". It is in conformity with this prophetic insight that the Old Covenant is fulfilled in the New. Jesus is concerned not with the land flowing with milk and honey but with the kingdom of God and his righteousness; the enemies conquered by him in his Cross and his Resurrection are not the Canaanites but sin and death; and the wealth which he produces is not silver and gold or flocks and herds but the fruit of the Spirit. This is realized in the reproduction of his character in his followers (compare I Corinthians 13) in love and joy and peace. The concrete down-right earthy imagery preserved in the Pentateuch and the Psalter and the Canticles is a wealthy potential in the words of our worship for the interpretation and the reinterpretation of our experience along the line of moral and spiritual advance on the higher level. Likewise in Morning Prayer we are led in the Collect for Peace to pray that "God will defend us in all assaults of our enemies". In the ensuing Collect for Grace we are taught to pray that "we fall into no sin". Thus in our worship God meets us on the lower level (Where most of us are!) and says, "Friend, go up higher!"

According to the biblical record the work of the Holy Spirit is the uniting of man's life with God's life. In the Old Testament this involved bringing all of mankind's varied interests and activities into an ordered relationship under the sovereignty of God. "I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them." In the New Testament the work of the Holy Spirit is "to gather together in one all things in Christ". Following his baptism Jesus consciously accepted the vocation to be the Messiah but, led by the Spirit, he revised and clarified this concept in line with the clues given by the prophets; and in the course of his later ministry he further enriched this concept by relating it to other Old Testament prototypes: the prophet like unto Moses, the good Shepherd, the righteous servant, and the apocalyptic Son of Man.

"All things are of God," writes Saint Paul, "who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation." The purpose of the ministry is most succinctly stated in the Epistle to the Ephesians: in Phillips' translation, "His 'gifts unto men' were varied. Some he made his messengers, some prophets, some preachers of the gospel; to some he gave the power to guide and teach his people. His gifts were made that Christians might be properly equipped for their service, that the whole body might be built up until the [2/3] time comes when, in the unity of the common faith and common knowledge of the Son of God, we arrive at real maturity--that measure of development that is meant by 'the fulness of Christ'."

How this embryonic ministry given by Christ grew to maturity in the power of the Spirit after Pentecost can only be discerned in fragmentary glimpses in the New Testament. But "what we want to know," writes Dr. Casserley, "is not so much where the early Church was as where, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, it was going." Archbishop Ramsey adds: "Whereas in the Apostolic age we find 'local' ministries of presbyter-bishops and deacons, there appears from early in the second century a threefold ministry of bishops, presbyters, and deacons, an order which soon becomes universal, with great importance attached to the succession (in more than one sense of the word) of the Bishops from the Apostles."

In this developed, universally accepted ministry, the bishop is clearly "under authority". He is to represent Christ the Creator: he is to be the Lord's agent as the chief missionary and evangelist in his diocese, "adding to the Church daily those that are finding salvation". As the chief witness to the Resurrection he is to represent Christ the Truth, the Militant Defender of the Faith, persistent in his adherence to the apostles' instruction, alert to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God's Word. He is to represent Christ the Good Shepherd as the chief liturgical officer of his diocese, bestowing the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, feeding his flock in the breaking of the bread, and leading his people in the prayers in Christ's Name. He is to represent Christ the Servant in showing himself gentle and merciful to poor and needy people and to all strangers destitute of help. He is to represent Christ the Reconciler as the personal embodiment of unity in the fellowship, symbolizing the whole Church in his diocese and his diocese in the whole Church. And since Christians are those upon whom the end of the world has come and who have tasted the powers of the New Age, all of this activity is viewed within the context of eschatology, the last things, and the bishop is to represent Christ as the Son of Man coming in judgment. The conception of the bishop as the bearer of the Christ-pattern is thus theological rather than governmental, sacramental rather than bureaucratic, pastoral rather than autocratic.

We have been considering what the office of a bishop is and how this office came into being. But we are asked, "what is it, humanly speaking, that justifies the continuation of this office in our society today?" As to the pragmatic values derived from the Christian culture-pattern I believe that a good case can be made, indeed has been made quite objectively, in several areas. In 1925, for example, Professor Whitehead in his book, "Science and the Modern World", advanced the thesis that faith in the possibility of science, generated antecedently to the development of modern scientific theory, was an unconscious derivative from medieval theology. This line of thought was given further explication in depth by K. Michael Foster of Oxford who said, "The founders of the classical modern view of nature were convinced that there existed, besides nature, God who made it and mind which knows it." Again Mr. Robert M. Hutchins has drawn attention to the fact that in the history of the higher learning it was theology which contributed the principle of unity which, in turn, generated the concept of the university; and he deplores the contemporary fact that the loss of this principle of unity accounts for the chaos in the curricula of most of our colleges. In the United States the genesis of the great universities was the desire to provide an educated ministry for the Church. Turning to man's problems with himself, we find that social work was born in the Church as charity, preceding all other forms of organized charity in this country. It was in the Church that social work received its Christian nurture and motivation. Mr. Ralph Barrow of the Church Home Society in Boston has observed that, "The loftiest aspiration of social work--respect for the individual and his right of self determination [3/4] springs from the Christian tenet that he is a child of God." O we might summon Christian biography to the witness stand and cite Florence Nightingale's resolution: "I am thirty, the age at which Christ began his mission. Now no more childish things, no more vain things, no more love, no more marriage. Now, Lord, let me only think of thy Will." Or again we recall the declaration of Wilberforce that God almighty had set the suppression of the slave trade before him as the object of his life.

For their individual and social well-being people need clarity in standards of behaviour, and they also need neighborhood companionship in the sharing of standards. I think it is a mistake to speak of our time as the post-Christian world--as though there had ever been a time when the world could properly be called Christian. Church History is the record of the continuing conflict of environments--the conflict between "the world" in the Johannine sense, or this present age, and the Church as representing the New Age initiated by God in the Incarnation. Nevertheless, it is true that the changing society in which we are living is a cut-flower civilization. The great American heresy--the doctrine of the fruit without the root--can be documented in many of our most prominent writers. Common agreement as to standards of behavior has been lost. The sense of community has been lost. The Christian culture-pattern is either rejected or obscured or frustrated by attitudes and conditions which prevail both outside the Church and within the Church. For us the problem lies not only in the world but in the fact that the Church is infected by the world and is quite literally secularized in many departments of its life.

The root of the confusion in the world lies in its lack of a unifying principle. Philosophically this condition has been diagrammed in the figure of a pyramid. In the popular Platonism that was current in the first Christian century reality was conceived as a system of ideas. At the base of the pyramid lay the particular ideas representing the objects of man's sense-impressions. Above these lay the concepts representing generalizations of these sense-impressions--the concept of "chair", for example, as distinguished from this particular chair. The concepts are subsumed under still more general concepts, and the pyramid rises and narrows to the point at which we find the Idea which constitutes the Reality behind all the other ideas. The apex of the pyramid is the Logos or the Word, and it is through the Logos that God enters into human thought. In the Fourth Gospel the Logos is identified with the concrete historic Person of Jesus--"the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us". St. John makes the Greek concept bow down to history, saying what no Greek philosopher could have said since, according to Plato, there was a great gulf fixed between the ideas and our shadowy sense-impressions, and never the twain should meet. But St. John proclaims, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands that handled of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." Here the Christian culture-pattern is established with the Lord Jesus Christ as the principle of unity around whom both the individual person and the New Society are to be organized. Returning to the pyramid, if we cut off its head, the Logos, what we have left is not a unified system but a pluralism of unrelated concepts and values. Hence, the multiple culture-patterns of modern society and the appalling farrago and jumble of interests thrown at people (children included) by advertisers (the "hidden persuaders") in TV, and other mass media. Lacking a principle of unity, lacking a hierarchical structure and a clear-cut criterion as a basis of discrimination, the mass media tend in the direction of the fragmentation of personality.

[5] Bishops are concerned with people. As the carriers of the Christian culture-pattern their role must be not only conservative with respect to the Church but aggressive and militant with respect to the world. They must not only carry the culture-pattern but they must carry it out into society outside the Church. In this Liturgical Conference I rejoice that we have not been concerned primarily with matters of ceremonial. But symbols have their value, even vestments, and I venture to share with you my purely personal view that the traditional vestments of the bishop, the cope and mitre, are meaningful. The cope reminds me of the prophetic tradition, "the mantle of Elijah o'er Elisha cast", and the bishop's role as a conserver of what God has spoken by the prophets and in the Word Made Flesh. The mitre reminds me of the tongues of flame at Pentecost and the bishop's role as the agent of the Holy Spirit as he leads the Church out in her mission to the world, pioneering and adventuring and being ready always to discover new truth.

From this standpoint the primary target of the bishop's endeavors today must be the minds of men, and more particularly the minds of faculty members and students in our colleges and universities Here we have been too timid in our approach. We must be careful to respect the rightful domain of the natural sciences, but this respect should not obscure the fact that college professors in general display a lamentable culture-lag in their lack of awareness of the Church's grasp of scientific method and its application to her own tradition, specifically the Bible. Recently there occurred a debate in one of the colleges in New York City in which the participants included an eminent physiologist and a bishop of the Episcopal Church. The debate was in the nature of an "Author Meets the Critics" panel. It was held in the Biology lecture hall where representations of the skull of Pithecanthropus Erectus and Neanderthal Man, the skeleton of Eohippus, and other fascinating fossils were in abundance. The physiologist represented himself as a militant defender of Darwin and the evolutionary hypothesis against what he presumed to be medieval, anti-scientific obscurantism purveyed by the bishop. It was then necessary for the bishop to point out that he accepted Darwin and evolution and that he was there precisely for the purpose of defending Darwin against the physiologist who, in the book under discussion, had castigated Darwin because "he clung to the spar of teleology"!

In his attack upon the attitudes and conditions in the world which nullify the Christian culture-pattern the bishop is fundamentally the teacher: he directs the Department of Propaganda in the Army of Christ, and his aim must be the imaginative seizure of every resource to improve the training not only of the clergy but also of the laity as teachers and to make them ready "at the drop of a hat" to give a reason for the faith that is in them, We have seen in recent years a prolific development of courses in adult education sponsored by our public schools. People are able conveniently to receive instruction in subjects ranging from the study of Hebrew to block-printing, and bridge-playing, and they respond in large numbers to the opportunity. Can we say that the Church has been a comparable provider in sharing its wisdom? An increasingly vast potential here lies in the men of business, industry, education and the military who are retiring at 65 or even at 60 and who, quite literally, are dying of having nothing to do. The bishops need men and women to help in the propagation of the Faith, Our Lord said, "I will make you fishers of men. . . Cast the net on the right side of the ship and ye shall find!"

Within the Church itself the enemies are individualism in personal piety and isolationism in the corporate life of our parishes. These are age-old tendencies springing ceaselessly from the dynamic self-centeredness of our fallen nature. Not without reason do we speak of "our incomparable liturgy" set to words by a master when the English language was at its apex. But the words, like an old file, can wear smooth, and even the Eucharist can become a soothing escape from the turbulences of this present age. How many of those who frequent the early celebration on a Sunday morning do so deliberately to avoid the sermon at the later service? The rubric, "Then followeth the sermon," is probably of all rubrics the one most honored in the breach. The liturgy as given [5/6] in the Prayer Book is superb, but there is constant need for a fresh and jolting reminder that, while our worship is at the altar, the service begins when we leave God's house to reorganize our lives according to Christ's pattern and to apply the grace that we have received to the hungry, the strangers, the naked, the sick, and the prisoners. Ite, missa est: not, "Go, the Mass is ended," but "Go out now, you have received your commission!" Within our present formularies the bishop can help to overcome individualism and parochialism by proposing bidding prayers and special intercessions (for which there is specific provision after the Creed) to be used throughout his diocese.

But something more is needed. The Book of Common Prayer is still not much more than a first step away from the Latin Mass of the Middle Ages. The first step toward reviving corporate worship was, of course, the use of the vernacular. The Reformers sought to revive corporate worship through the use of English, the use of only one book everywhere, and great simplification. Their achievement was substantial, and it provided a uniform standard of prayer that informed the lives of clergy and laity for centuries. But today that uniformity tends rather to stifle. A pathway to greater congregational participation is being sought, and a liturgy flexible enough for the more varied ministry needed in a complex society is being demanded. Unless we are given reform--or at least flexibility--soon, the Episcopal Church may lose the two greatest treasures committed to us for future generations: an apostolic ministry that ministers unity and a Book of Common Prayer that guides us in a common worship.

The next General Convention will hear an appeal to permit authorized liturgical experimentation. Perhaps this is the instrument needed to guide us back towards unity and to bring to a halt uncontrolled experimentation amounting almost to anarchy. What other course could do so much? If the bishops could authorize variant forms, perhaps they would again be consulted by their clergy before variants were used. And if they were consulted, perhaps they would come again to be regarded as the liturgical centers of their dioceses.

Consider how much could be done without altering a line of the Prayer Book but simply allowing variation in the rubrics:

(1) If the language, especially of the appointed lessons, is obscure, why could we not be allowed to read the Epistles and Gospels from a modern version? A recent Roman Catholic "Experimental Mass" makes use of the J. B. Phillips translation. We are permitted to use the Revised Standard Version at Morning and Evening Prayer. Could not this permission be extended to the Eucharist?

(2) To increase opportunity for involvement and flexibility, why could we not add a congregational response to each petition of the Prayer for the Church, and shorten it or omit it on weekdays? Why could we not on occasion use the Litany (or a special litany provided by the Bishop for a particular object) in place of the Prayer for the Church? And why could we not have a Rector or Lay Reader lead this prayer, thus emphasizing the proper diversity of ministries within the liturgical Church?

(3) If there are elements in Morning Prayer that are being lost through the present emphasis on the Eucharist, why could not full Morning Prayer be used at the discretion of the priest in place of the Ante-Communion? Thus we would be able to use the Canticles and Old Testament lessons without relegating the Eucharist to second place.

(4) The Prayer of Thanksgiving and the Prayer of Humble Access are already frequently said in unison. Why could not permission be granted to do this legally and so emphasize the proper role of the whole congregation in the Liturgy of the People of God?

[7] With such changes the present Prayer Book might become flexible enough to meet the varied needs of the modern world while holding the united allegiance of Churchmen. Our problem springs from the fact that, while we are episcopal in polity, we are impressively congregational in practise. I do not doubt that there is much that the bishops can do, again without altering our present formularies, to correct this image. It is not surprising, for example, that bishops have acquired the sobriquet of being "confirming machines". Their major contact with their parishes is in visitations for Confirmation. A Bishop darts into a parish, confirms and preaches, and darts out again, often under the pressure of having to reach through heavy Sunday traffic his next Confirmation appointment. Often the majority of those who meet the bishop under these circumstances are not members of the parish but relatives and friends of the confirmands. Regular parishioners, out of courteous regard for these visitors, stay away in order to assure room in the pews. Surely the type of visitation already familiar in some dioceses could be expanded where the bishop is the celebrant at the Eucharist at 8:00 A.M., has breakfast with the parish family, meets at 9:30 with the Vestry and leaders of organizations to exchange news, problems and goals of both the parish and the diocese and at the later service performs his ancient office in baptizing as well as confirming.

In urban communities it is probably naive to assume that a local congregation can, by itself, overcome the self-serving tendency to be homogeneous--that is, a particular group anxious to perpetuate its own kind and to have a place where it can meet--White middle-class Protestants, British West Indians, Nova Scotians, Puerto Ricans, etc. As a means of overcoming this centripetal tendency, the bishop has the opportunity to mobilize the parishes in a given area by calling the clergy and the laity together for Eucharist and for a careful study of some one problem affecting them jointly such as racial tensions, housing, jobs, education, and drug addiction.

The some opportunity is present in rural areas. As a specific instance of what I have in mind I cite the condition of the migrant-workers in Eastern Long Island, and I mention this with special gratitude to the leaders of this Conference because it is in our conversations in preparation for this week that I have been greatly helped in my thinking. This is a situation of which I have been dimly aware for years, but only two weeks ago was it brought sharply to my attention. The crop-pickers, about 6,000 strong, come from Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. According to the time of harvest they follow the crops north, arrive in Suffolk in mid-August and work through January and February. They are for the most part illiterate and unskilled. They come as migrants but they remain as stagrants: they concentrate in little pockets and squat in shacks in the woods. The shacks are made from materials which they find in vacant lots or village dumps. New slum areas arise. These people are able to apply for welfare, but few of them do so from apathy and their desire to avoid involvement with the government. They lose hope of any improvement in their condition, go in debt, turn to alcohol and crime, and become a tragic blight on the community. The Suffolk Council of Churches has become concerned and has engaged a full-time minister-social worker. Here is the kind of situation where the parishes, called together by the Bishop, could meet, enlist the social experts and representatives of civic agencies, welfare departments, school authorities, and the District Attorney's office, conduct on the spot visitations and find out not only how these people live but how they smell. Perhaps we would then come to some awareness of our corporate responsibility for allowing such conditions to exist. "The only thing of my very own which I can contribute to my redemption," wrote William Temple "is the sin from which I need to be redeemed." Having come together to such an awareness, the bishop and the clergy and laity of the parishes in that area could join again in the Eucharist to offer their penitence to God.

[8] We have been considering the role of the bishop as a change-agent in liturgical reform and I am reluctant to close without a note of caution. Change can never be rightly an end in itself, but in our zeal for reform we may easily forget this. Our first concern is always with people and our last concern is with people. Changes forced through impatiently, perhaps proudly, without a due regard for the sensibilities of people affected both within the Church and outside the Church may disrupt and frustrate the very purpose we seek. The Church Militant can be tempted to take a disastrous short-cut--to compel where it cannot persuade, to accept formal adherence in place of whole-hearted loyalty, to abandon a hard and apparently unrewarding struggle in order to snatch a worthless victory. We must not forget that our Lord rejected the temptation to bring the kingdom by force, and he rejected it precisely for the reason that God respects human freedom. It is all right to bend the twig in a certain direction but not with such force as to snap it. Here the bishop must always be alert to the necessity of "infinitely delicate adjustments". He must show himself and he must lead his clergy to demonstrate the strong gentleness of Christ to those who are being trained in the Way, the Truth and the Life. He must cultivate and keep on tap at all times that excellent gift of God--a sense of humor.

The story is told of a Cathedral in England where the clergy for generations had celebrated the Holy Mysteries at the north end of the Altar. Then came a new Dean who, without a word of explanation, adopted the central position. Shocked and bewildered, the congregation met and appointed a protest-committee to wait upon the bishop. The committee was kindly received by the bishop, who sat behind his desk making notes on a pad. After they had all unburdened their grief, the bishop thanked them for their courtesy, assured them that he would give the matter his prayerful attention, and invited them to stay for tea and buns. During the tea, one of the delegation, observing the pad to be still on the desk, was overcome with curiosity and arranged to have the bishop's attention diverted while he stole around the desk to satisfy himself as to the bishop's godly reflections. He read:

"The children of Israel danced before Moses,"
"Possible exegeses:
1. The children of Israel danced before Moses was born.
2. The children of Israel danced before Moses danced.
3. The children of Israel danced in front of Moses.
4. The children of Israel danced at the north end of Moses."
And at the bottom of the page:
"All of the above highly unlikely!"

In the Bible God is likened to a refiner and purifier of silver. His judgment is a smelting process constantly applied to the lives of men and nations. Only that which conforms to God's character of justice and mercy and loving-kindness survives in the crucible of history; everything else is thrown out as dross. John the Baptist prophesied that the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. The key to the interpretation of present history is not the Marxian dialectic of history but the Holy Spirit acting in judgment.

Our participation in the Liturgy is to lead us to an awareness of the Holy Spirit's work in current events so that our reading of the daily paper becomes a part of our daily prayer. It is for the bishops to call God's people again and again to this awareness and to the realization that it is through them, as his Body, that the Risen Lord is to be recognized and identified and that his work is to be done in the world today.

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days."

We hear an echo of this ancient summons in the cry of one of the characters in Christopher Fry's play, A Sleep of Prisoners:

            "Thank God our time is now when wrong,
            Comes up to face us everywhere,
            Never to leave us till we take
            The longest stride of soul men ever took.
            Affairs are now soul size,
            The enterprise
            Is exploration into God.
            Where are you making for?

Project Canterbury