When you drive out to St. John’s Island from Charleston, South Carolina, you move through filtered sunlight through overhanding oak branches draped with Spanish moss. The low country is filled with tall grasses and salt marshes. And when you pull up to Camp St. Christopher, at the very point of the barrier island, you are greeted by the figures of pelicans carved and painted on the gate. Walking through the trees and over the dunes, you’ll watch pelican swoop and plunge into the bay. From the early belief that the pelican would pierce its own chest with its long beak to feed its young with its blood, the bird stands as a symbol of Christ’s self-sacrifice for our sake. A handy reminder in this Easter season.
I was honored to make this trip to host the third live webinar with the ACNA’s Liturgy Taskforce. Led by the retired Archbishop Robert Duncan, this team of dedicated bishops, priests, and scholars has been working for nearly a decade on a common text for worship in our province. Having discussed the texts for Morning and Evening Prayer as well as Holy Eucharist, we came to South Carolina as they convened to review the Lenten and Holy Week services, the lesser offices, and the pastoral rites.
A Shared Endeavor
From the outside, it’s easy for this process to seem shrouded in mystery or tinged with political intent. But even five minutes in the presence of these men and women quells any anxiety. These people have a heart for faithful worship, and they are animated in their work by the opportunity to create a common text that is so faithful to tradition and so winsome to worshippers that it would be gladly taken up across our province. And in all their considerations, they are striving to imagine how these texts will be received in all contexts—from established, traditional parishes to start-up church plants.
I am disappointed when I (infrequently) hear people dismiss the work of this group, believing that they are deaf to feedback. I waded through the seventeen pages that represented just the most condensed collation of the emails received for just these few texts under consideration. Father Ben Jeffries, who serves as the editorial secretary on the project on top of his responsibilities as the rector of his own parish, organizes and tracks every suggestion, responding personally to individuals for clarity and ensuring that each point is heard as the team deliberates. After we finished recording, he looked back at the chat transcript from the session—he noticed a question we didn’t get to and said, “Oh, I’ll just send him a quick text. I’ve spoken with him about this one a little before.”
The Liturgy Taskforce is grateful for all the specific feedback they have received—it’s been instrumental in shepherding this process so far. As they near the 2019 completion date, could I ask that you support them in the following ways?
- Review the working texts carefully and write down your notes or questions.
- If you do not already use the ACNA texts in your parish, find an appropriate time to implement them. It’s crucial that the team hears from practitioners who are actively worshipping with these texts.
- Watch the recording of our latest webinar, as well as the previous ones.
- Submit feedback to the committee via email. As Fr. Jeffries reminded everyone during the webinar, the most helpful feedback identifies a specific issue in the text and makes a suggestion for a possible correction.
- Finally, pray for God’s continued guidance of this work.
Pay particular attention to the rites for Baptism, Marriage, and Burial, as those will likely be discussed in detail during the team’s next meeting in August of 2018.
On behalf of the Liturgy Taskforce of the Anglican Church in North America, thank you for everything you’ve done to help strengthen and sharpen this important work. I know it is our shared prayer that this new prayer book will become a unifying, edifying, glorifying part of our worship.