Sunday, June 27, 2010

A truant Mattins

We fled the city for the duration of the G20 summit, and visited the Church of St John the Evangelist in Elora, Ontario, near Kitchener-Waterloo. The Choral Mattins advertised for second and fourth Sundays was, alas, mysteriously dispensed. Instead we had a Choral Eucharist of Trinity IV.

The service was surprisingly faithful to the BCP. The (Merbecke) Gloria, however, was moved to the beginning, which led to some calisthenics as the entrance rite was otherwise done kneeling. The vesture had the air of pre-Ritualist Tractarianism: the celebrant wore a surplice and stole and faced east on an altar covered in a superfrontal (though he lost his nerve and spun round at the Words of Institution, posts passim). A burse and veil were used, as well as one of those twee little stoles for the lectern. The only spiky touch was the use of apparelled amices on the servers. All the ministers in the sanctuary knelt round the altar for most of the service.

The prayer book lectionary was used, a rarity these days outside of places like St Bart's in Toronto. The gradual psalm, however, was neither that appointed in the prayer book nor the RCL psalm. The last verse was sung as an Alleluia (also the custom at St Bart's) but after springing to my feet reflexively I found myself alone. All rose when the Gospeller (a laywoman from the nave) reached the lectern.

The Nicene Creed was said and the celebrant ascended the pulpit. The rest of the service was prayer book to the letter, complete with manual actions - "He brake it (crack!)" - and post-communion Lord's Prayer. The people joined in the second half of the Thanksgiving ("And here, we offer...") which is common, just as many places also have the Collect for Purity said by all. This phenomenon is likely a part of "organic development" - in earlier editions of the BCP, even the Prayer of Humble Access was said in the congregation's name.

The music of the Mass, incidentally, was Hassler's Missa Secunda. Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus was sung by the excellent choir of St John's. (The music director is also artistic director of the famed Elora Festival, whose choir sings at the church when the festival is underway). It was a rare treat finding such authentic old-fashioned high-and-dry Anglicanism in the country - and I shall return for Mattins!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Frankly, it sounds like a period piece from the late 60s, early 70s, when moving the Gloria to the beginning and joining in the second half of the prayer of Consecration (not the Eucharistic Prayer!) and the Prayer of Thanksgiving was considered the height of adventure in congregational participation. Even Gregory Dix's fourfold action is missing and the breaking takes place in the blessing, so it seems that liturgical understanding and scholarship hacen't made much impact. It's odd that they consider themselves so BCP, but do funny things that came and went in the 70s.

Geoff said...

The placement of the Thanksgiving was not tinkered with. What was mildly outside of the rubrics was simply the audible participation of the people. And as I say, it was much more "BCP" than many services billed as BCP.

Interestingly, the Book of Alternative Services re-ordering of the BCP Communion Service gives a "Eucharistic Prayer B" borrowed from the American prayer book, which is often used at St Mary Mag in Toronto. It avoids some of the perceived problems of the antecedent, preserved as "Eucharistic Prayer A." The epiclesis is a little more explicit than the previous "grace and heavenly + benediction" invocation and is in one place for both the gifts and people. The oblation is more robust than the prayer book's "mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving."

Anonymous said...

It can be argued that the 1962 BCP has no Epiclesis at all. The paragraph beginning "Hear us, most merciful Father, we most humbly beseech Thee" (pardon my faulty memory) is where most try to place it. There, or at "grace and heavenly benediction". The Evangelical party of the 1950's (the Wycliffe group) were very leery of such things. When people get nostalgic about the BCP, they should remember that it's a compromise document and deficient in many ways. We have moved forward liturgically and theologically since 1962, which was already dated when it appeared.

Alastair Morley Jaques said...

I am pleased as Smoking Bishop punch to hear of this church and its service. Through my blog "The Last of the High Churchmen", and various other activities I seek to defend and promulgate the old High and Dry Anglican tradition. I am always glad to hear that there are others in the North American continent who "keep the faith".

With all due respect,
Alastair Morley Jaques