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Good News Article: Morning Prayer

This article was written by Peter Chase for the September 30, 2008 Good News. Click here to view the complete article.

As an undergraduate, I attended an Anglican university in Canada where The Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer were held in an historic chapel. The atmosphere was similar to Oxford, England with students in academic gowns sitting quietly across from one another. There was a lack of ritual and pomp in these simple services which were often sung. They provided a time for reflection and elicited prayerfulness from Monday through Friday…

I graduated from college in 1971, and it was not until I attended seminary in 1977 that The Daily Offices were a regular part of my life. It was great to get back in the groove again.

At seminary we were reminded that “All Sundays of the year are feasts of our Lord Jesus Christ” (The Book of Common Prayer, page 16) and that “The Holy Eucharist [is] the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day” (BCP, page 13). Yet, Morning Prayer on two Sundays of the month was a regular occasion in my upbringing in the Episcopal Church. That experience was missing from my life for the twenty-three years I did not live in Massachusetts. It wasn’t until I returned in 1992 that I experienced again a church that did not have Holy Eucharist every Sunday. I find Morning Prayer to be rewarding on some Sunday mornings even though I have been scolded, reprimanded and hung out to dry by my peers for this. In the spirit of Anglicanism, I continue to feel the value of The Daily Offices but realize that few, if any, would attend these weekday services and see the importance of Morning Prayer on Sundays as a way to collect our lives from the busyness of the world.

However, there are occasions when conducting Morning Prayer on Sundays is inappropriate. For example, on Sundays when there is Baptism, or during the Easter Season when the collects and lessons lead up to the celebration of the Eucharist.

Last spring I read The Parson’s Handbook by Percy Dearmer and learned what I believe to be a more proper observance of Morning Prayer on Sundays. He suggests the following:

First of all when we arrive for the service, the tone should be more reflective and contemplative in nature. Unlike the celebration of Holy Eucharist, Morning Prayer does not lend itself to a triumphal entry with processional hymns, crucifer and choir. Instead the service begins with the prelude, tolling of the bells and a meditative hymn sung by the choir in place. This leads up to the opening sentences and confession, concluding with the Venite sung in a simple chant. Likewise the Psalm is to be led by the choir in chant, followed by lessons and canticle. The choral anthem is given before the third lesson, followed by sermon, creed, and prayers. The offertory hymn is then sung by the congregation towards the end of the service, while the collection is being taken up, and serves as our doxology. It is in the act of giving and not the elevation of our donation that God is honored. The service concludes with announcements ending with A Prayer of St. Chrysostom and Dismissal.

We tried this approach to Morning Prayer on Sunday, September 28 at 10:00 a.m. and will conduct our next Morning Prayer service on October 19, on the occasion of a special music program with Peter Lea Cox. Please feel free to give me any input on this subject, as we are trying to make worship a deeper and richer experience for all the people of St. Mary’s.

—Peter Chase

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