Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Prayer Book Society and the UndergroundPewster: Part 3

Three weeks ago  it was my privilege to attend the Prayer Book Society USA's two and a half day 2018 Conference in historic Savannah Georgia. Part 1 and Part 2  of my brief reports can be found by clicking on the links.

Friday began at 8.30 a.m. with Morning Prayer in the Chapel.
The first session was presented by Dr. Stephen Blackwood, President of Ralston College and was titles,
“(Being) Made for Eternity: Liturgical Patterns and Habits of Soul”
My notes were as follows:
We are made in the image of God, and we are being made for eternity.
The experience of time = repetition, rhythm, recollection, memory
Moral and immoral character comes through repetition and memory
Aristotle: frequency becomes nature
Liturgy forms us through repetition and recollection
(As a certain pewster pointed out, that is why it is so important to get liturgy right)
Fatal flaw of the three year lectionary cycle is that there is no temporal rhythm.

Next  up was Dr. Jesse Billett, Trinity College, University of Toronto on,
“The Twentieth-Century Baptismal Revolution: Is the Classical Prayer Book Really Obsolete?”
He had a helpful handout but began with an apology for citing Ruth Meyers about how the 1979 Book of Common Prayer created a "Baptismal ecclesiology"which led to the demise of Confirmation, catechism, the ministry of all the baptized, and social activism among other things.

He then proceeded to give a history of how baptism has been interpreted in Anglican tradition through the ages including the Puritan attack on infant baptism and Confirmation in 1572 and Hooker's defense of both practices.

Next he discussed "baptismal regeneration"and "gifts of the Spirit" and how the 1662 Prayer Book dealt with those issues.

Finally he quoted Roland Palmer on infant baptism,

"Why baptize small children who cannot understand? Baptism is a gift from God, and you do not have to understand in order to receive a gift. No parent would say 'You cannot give my baby a hundred dollars because he does not understand money,' but rather, 'Thank you, we will take care of the gift and teach the child to use it as he has need of it.' Christian parents want their children to be in God's family from the start, not to wait until they have wandered away and fallen into great sin, and then win them back. They can receive the gift, and then can be taught that they possess that gift, and how to use it by repentance and faith." Roland F. Palmer, His Worthy Praise: On Worship According to the Book of Common Prayer (Canada 1959) (Toronto: Anglican Church of Canada, 1959; rev. 1963), 106-107

The afternoon sessions began with The Revd. Dr. Paul Avis  of the Universities of Exeter and Durham presenting,
“ ‘Not a Synod, only a Conference’: The Lambeth Conference and the Councils of the Church”
Concilliatory is ancient and goes on forever
1. Representation: who should speak for the church
2. Constitutionality
3. Consent: all must agree to accept the rules
4. Eucharistic Communion

Next up was Dr. Michael Hurley of Cambridge University
‘On the Virtues of Re-Reading’
Dr Michael Hurley first gave us an exercise which was to read a poem. He then asked for our impressions and he then listed some of his student's critiques when they first read it. Most panned it, but at least one appreciated it more after re-reading it several times. We then re-read it, and with his guidance we all got more out of it. A good Prayer Book should bear re-reading just like the Bible bears re-reading. Good literature or good poetry should make you want to re-read it. This could present a problem for new or novel liturgies which if they turn out like modern praise music will lack sufficient depth to draw people back.

We ended up the afternoon with a Breakout session called,
"The Plans for the “Comprehensive Revision” of the 1979 Prayer Book(An overview after the PBS Dallas Colloquium last Fall):
With Canon Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff, Dr. Jesse Billett, and William Murchison et al.

The Prayer Book Revision update predicted that there would be two major forces battling it out for a voice at General Convention 2018. One side feels that the task is too difficult and that alternative liturgies should just be added to existing extra-Prayer Book resources.
The other force is demanding total revision. Some representative sound bites of the arguments were read to us. These were quite pythonesque: funny in a frightening way.

That evening there was a  closing Conference Eucharist.

Thus endeth the third day.

On the fourth day, this pewster rested.

I would encourage more lay participation in meetings such as these. A Prayer Book Society gathering will not turn you into a "Conference Christian", but rather into a more grounded Anglican.


  1. I certainly agree with the criticism of the baptismal service in the '79 book. It has been used to radically redefine the faith.

    And who knows what sort of damage another re-write will cause, that is, for those few believers still in TEC.

  2. I worry for the children.