I need to start this post by saying something that may cause shock and surprise to some of you who know me: I enjoyed Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer on Wednesday this week. Yes, that’s the version published in 1662. There were reasons for this: Andy Stinson had completely re-done the music in a contemporary style, and Phil Morton spoke the words in a manner which made it easy to pray along with him, so it wasn’t just any old recitation.
This is the season in college for doing the daily acts of worship using the Book of Common Prayer – and it is safe to say that, despite Wednesday’s high point, most of us find this a frustrating experience.
This is not to deny the beauty of the language, or for that matter the deep reverence of Thomas Cranmer, who wrote most of it in the 1540s. Indeed, there is a danger in modern worship (of which I am generally an enthusiastic participant) of there being too much emphasis on the friendship of God. We try to be too familiar sometimes. Cranmer’s style does the opposite, stressing our sinfulness in front of an awesome and majestic God.
The problem is that there is an awful lot of emphasis in Anglicanism on maintaining the traditions of the past. If this were the right thing to do, the Church of England would be booming, instead of shrinking and closing churches. The churches that are growing now are the ones that speak and worship in today’s language, not hanging on to some mythically wonderful past.
Clearly the college here, like other Anglican colleges, is constrained by the requirements of the Anglican hierarchy – but it is a pity that this leads to so much emphasis on maintaining the past rather than developing new styles that communicate to people of today. After all we believe that Jesus Christ is good news for all time: the 21st century as much as the first, tenth or seventeenth.
Since returning to college I’ve made a couple of trips down to Jacksons Landing, aka Hartlepool Marina, which has become a temporary home to a couple of unusually interesting bird species, including a great northern diver which was showing well on Friday. Last week I saw a large number of mergansers, attractive and eye-catching saw-billed ducks that come complete with punk hairstyles! Here’s one of Jaybee‘s images.