Posts Tagged ‘liturgy’

A Hole in the World

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

I know second-hand from my wife’s work that hospitals are like miniature worlds.

Employees work all sorts of hours enclosed within their buildings, wearing distinctive garments and speaking an arcane language only they understand. Bearing extreme stress together in situations of life and death, hospital employees not surprisingly come to think of themselves as “family.”

Early this morning, I officiated at a memorial service for a beloved doctor at a hospital on Long Island. Even though the employees in the packed conference room were, I assume, from very different religious backgrounds, I chose the service I knew best–the traditional language version of the Burial Office from the Book of Common Prayer.

I think that most of those present could find comfort in the ancient words. I spoke of the help many people felt in offering prayers for the departed; this was one of the few things we who mourn can “do” in the face of our grief.

Death rips the fabric of a community; it leaves a hole in the world of the people who are left. Thank God that we can offer prayers for our loved ones, that they may rest in peace and rise in glory. —J. Douglas Ousley

The Richness of Faith

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

The Anglican Communion has inherited what we call the “Catholic” tradition of liturgy and sacraments. I was particularly struck by the depths of this tradition last week, when I was involved in a funeral, an ordination to the priesthood, several celebrations of the holy eucharist, and a wedding.

Our Episcopal Church offers all these forms of worship and more. And the Prayer Book also includes many forms of individual prayer, as well as personal sacraments such as private confession and anointing of the sick.

We also permit a wide variety of understandings of these liturgies. At the wedding, perhaps 100 out of the 150 persons present elected to receive communion. We invite all baptized persons to communicate because we have a broad definition of the meaning of holy communion, and we hope that as many people as possible will feel included.

The Catholic tradition. The richness of faith. The gifts of God for the people of God. —J. Douglas Ousley

Hearty Thanks

Monday, March 19th, 2018

Poet and Church Times columnist Malcolm Guite recently praised the “full English” of the traditional Book of Common Prayer liturgies.

I share his particular love of the General Thanksgiving in our Morning Prayer Rite I. Granted, the language borders on the archaic. Few of us would offer “humble and hearty thanks” to God except when we are praying this prayer.

Yet, as Guite notes, the word “hearty” could connote a sumptuous breakfast, and thus we can think of ourselves as giving thanks for everything across the board: “all the blessings of this life.” Guite also notes the other “alls” in the prayer: “all mercies,” “all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men,” “all honor and glory.” There is no doubt of the amount of gratitude we are expressing!

I know it’s hopelessly out of date; this prayer and others like it will be excluded from the next Prayer Book. But I’m going to enjoy this prayer while I can. —J. Douglas Ousley

Easy Come, Easy Go

Monday, July 30th, 2012

One of the major topics debated at the last General Convention was “open communion.” The traditional practice of the Church has been to admit only baptized persons to receive the bread and wine at communion. In fact, only in recent years have Episcopalian children and others who are baptized but not confirmed been allowed to communicate.

Some self-declared progressive churches have taken it upon themselves to change this custom (and ignore the underlying canon law), admitting anyone to communion who would like to receive. This supposedly shows the openness of God to feed all his children, whether members of the Christian club or not.

The spirit behind this impetus is admirable but the Convention apparently stuck with tradition. A solid reason for doing so is the desire to show that at least some commitment is required to be a Christian. The communion represents the gifts of God for the people of God–not the gifts of God for anyone who happens to show up in church. If there are no boundaries between Christians and non-Christians, why would anyone bother to join the church?

Still, it behooves us who adhere to tradition to still be open. One delegate to General Convention from the Diocese of New York suggested that when the baptized are invited to receive communion, the unbaptized should also be invited to be baptized! —J. Douglas Ousley