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Toward Columbus: Liturgy and Music proposes new rites and prayers

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
4/12/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) will present the 75th General Convention with a series of prayers and liturgies for life transitions, alternative rites for celebrating new ministries, and alternative burial rites.

The commission will ask the convention for permission and money to continue to develop resources for multi-sensory worship compatible with Anglican liturgy.

The details of the SCLM's work can be found in its Blue Book report. The Blue Book, which has a green cover for this convention, is the collection of the reports to the General Convention of the work of the committees, commissions, agencies, and boards during the triennium, along with resolutions they will propose to convention.

The SCLM has told the General Convention that it will not be able to present a complete revision to "Lesser Feasts and Fasts," but it is proposing some interim changes for the calendar of the saints (see sidebar story).

It will also ask for more time to prepare supplemental liturgical materials to respond to the pastoral needs of people experiencing grief and loss over reproductive issues.

The collection of rites of passage was developed in response to Resolution 2003-A092 which, among other things, called for such rites. The SCLM's Blue Book report offers an explanation of the theology and rationale for marking such passages liturgically and offers a template for planning rites.

The collection, including suggested hymns and other music, marks transitions in childhood, young adulthood, midlife, later life and for marking the anniversaries of deaths. For instance, there is a rite for claiming a new name that might be used at an adoption or after a divorce, and there is a rite for older people who have to leave their home.

Resolution 2003-C025 asked the SCLM to consider ways to more fully reflect the roles of all the baptized in the discernment, selection and presentation of ordained people. The convention will be asked to approve a third volume in the "Enriching Our Worship" series that will include a new rite called The Renewal of Ministry with the Welcome of a New Rector.

The rite is offered as an alternative to the Book of Common Prayer's Celebration of New Ministry liturgy and could be used whenever a new leader comes into the life of a church-related community. "We believe that this rite more clearly emphasizes the life all the baptized and the roles of its ordained leaders understood very clearly within the framework of the Prayer Book's baptismal ecclesiology," the committee which developed the rite wrote in the SCLM's Blue Book report.

That committee also proposes to create a new volume in the SCLM "Liturgical Studies Series" to respond more fully to 2003-C025. An invited group of "distinguished thinkers" will provide the historical, theological, and sacramental-liturgical background of the issues. Other writers will evaluate the present state of the church's rites and the volume "will then further explore fresh avenues of inquiry leading, hopefully, to the development of further liturgical materials to enrich what is presently available," the report says.

The SCLM also proposes completely new burial rites to expand on the prayers, litanies and service components offered in the "Enriching Our Worship" series. They new rites are not intended to replace those in the Book of Common Prayer but are meant to make "available liturgical resources that respond to a variety of pastoral situations not directly addressed in the present Prayer Book rites," the report says. The proposed rites are included in the Blue Book report.

In a related set of liturgical work, the SCLM's committee on reproductive loss has told the convention that it needs more time to meet what it calls a "long-overdue need for liturgies and prayers that minister to people suffering from reproductive grief and loss." The materials were requested in Resolution 2003-D047.

The committee's report suggests that it may develop prayers for making difficult decisions, surrounding the loss of a child through miscarriage and other deaths before or just after birth, surrounding the termination of a pregnancy, surrounding infertility or sterilization and surrounding adoption.

The committee proposes to work on the rites and prayers during the coming triennium and to send out the materials for trial use sometime after November 2006. The SCLM would report again on the work at the 76th Convention.

Developing new music and other worship resources took up some of the SCLM's time the last three years. A committee has begun the "Praise and World Music Hymnal Supplement" project to collect praise and worship music from a number of sources and evaluated it for its "accessibility, theology, diversity and whether or not it was 'sing-able,'" according to the Blue Book report. The first volume is due to be published soon.

The SCLM also has a committee exploring multi-sensory worship. "While all worship is, ideally, multi-sensory, the use of this term implies that new technologies are being used in worship, including, but certainly not limited to: electronic/computer generated music, visual imagery projected on screens/monitors, and artistic expression in a variety of media," the committee wrote.

It has developed a preliminary list of resources that is available at www.episcopalchurch.org/liturgymusic.htm. Other resources are available at www.theworshipwell.org and www.ecva.org.

The committee said in the Blue Book report that it thinks its charge should be expanded. "Many congregations have expressed a desire to use multi-sensory resources in worship, but there is currently no Episcopal resource for training and education," the committee wrote. "Resources and training events must be developed that will promote and preserve our unique Anglican liturgical identity."

Among the other resolutions that the SCLM will also propose to convention are:

+ Resolution A077, Revised Common Lectionary, would make the RCL the official lectionary of the church effective on the First Sunday of Advent 2007, replacing the table of readings for Sundays and holy days in the Book of Common Prayer.

+ Resolution A078, Liturgical Development and Episcopal Authority, would direct the Office of Liturgy and Music to invite bishops and the larger church into dialogue about the relations between local liturgical initiatives, directed the SCLM to develop frameworks for resolving the theological, pastoral, canonical and liturgical issues involved in the creation of new rites and examine, in consultation with the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons, the canons and rubrics that govern the development and use of liturgical materials. The SCLM said that with "the multiplication of liturgical and musical materials intended for occasional use at the direction of the Diocesan bishop" that "it is time to give serious to consideration to a structure in which these resources can be understood and evaluated."

+ Resolution A080, Revise the Catechumenal Materials in the "Book of Occasional Services," would direct the SCLM to review the rites of the catechumenate and its parallel rites contained in the "Book of Occasional Services" and propose revisions to the 76th Convention.

+ Resolution A081, International Anglican Liturgical Consultation, would have convention appropriate money for the church's participation in the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation.

The SCLM has asked for $100,000 in the next triennium to cover the cost of its planned six meetings. It has also asked for $315,000 for the cost of revising of "Lesser Feasts and Fasts" and catechumenal materials in "The Book of Occasional Services," preparing the revised "Book of Occasional Services" text for distribution to General Convention, developing resources for multi-sensory worship, continuing to develop the "Enriching our Worship Series," continuing work on the New Music project, funding church participation in the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation and the Leadership Program for Musicians in Small Congregations.