Proposed liturgies honor creation, offer Daily Office alternatives

By Sharon Sheridan
Posted Apr 26, 2012

[Episcopal News Service] While much public attention focused on its work on same-gender blessings, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music tackled multiple other issues during the 2010-2012 triennium.

“The work that is put into the lap of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music is breathtaking,” said the Rev. Jennifer Phillips, commission vice-chair and rector of St. Francis Episcopal Church, Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

The SCLM Blue Book report to General Convention offers new rites for honoring creation and the care of beloved animals as well as prayers to supplement the Daily Office. It contains resolutions to authorize continued trial use of Holy Women, Holy Men (successor to Lesser Feasts and Fasts) and to include new commemorations within it. And it proposes forming a congregational song task force and expanding the World Music Project’s work.

The commission’s report also recommends continued work toward revising the Book of Occasional Services, addressing Christian anti-Judaism and developing liturgies for the adoption of children.

Proposed rites

The proposed rites honoring creation include materials for observing Rogation Days, the blessing of the animals on the feast of St. Francis or the nearest October Sunday and prayers for “civic occasions” such as Earth Day or Arbor Day or blessing a community garden. The commission developed the liturgical materials in response to 2009 General Convention resolutions to establish a “Creation Cycle of the Pentecost Season” but ultimately decided not to recommend creating an optional season.

The commission recognized that some denominations and some parts of the Anglican Communion have embraced the idea of a separate cycle, Phillips said. But members also discussed how “the Revised Common Lectionary is new to use in our church, still being understood and worked on and developed and introduced. … The SCLM thought it might be really ill-advised to suddenly encourage people to deviate from the Revised Common Lectionary.”

“When you’re in a time of a lot of ferment, which we are, and anxiety about sexuality and all of these kinds of questions about authority and the Bible and ordination and so forth, rocking the boat with other things is not always timely,” she said. “So basically we wanted to make materials available [and] to recommend their use on other than the main service on Sundays.”

The rogation rites weave together the English tradition of walking the boundaries of a parish and the wider church practice “of public processions and litanies in times of war and disease, in times of crisis,” she said. “For urban centers, there used to be processions in which there would be the public singing of a long litany, praying for defense.”

While Episcopal churches don’t have the same sort of geographic boundaries as the old English parishes, “what does make sense is being intentional about offering intercessions for the life of your local community,” she said. When an urban parish holds a procession, even if it’s just a walk through the neighborhood, “it makes the church visible to the surrounding culture.”

“In this time that we have such critical concerns for the earth,” she added, the rites allow everyone “to give thanks for the fruitfulness of the earth, to pray about its care and preservation and to do that in both urban and rural settings.”

“So it’s not just a pastoral liturgy, but it’s something you can pray in the midst of the city.”

In response to a 2009 resolution about rites for companion animals, the commission developed a Burial Office for a Beloved Animal and other prayers for use at the adoption, illness, loss or death of companion or service animals.

The creation and beloved-animal rites are not one-size-fits-all. Not all congregations do the blessing of the animals, for example, and those that do may bless them in a parking lot or process them down the main aisle of the church during a worship service, Phillips noted. “St. John the Divine [cathedral in New York] brings in the elephants. Every place kind of sets its own style, but this will enable some prayers, some litanies, a kind of form that people can draw on that we hope will create a good standard.”

Daily prayer

The Daily Prayer for All Seasons is proposed “for experimental use by individuals and in congregations and other church groups wishing to pray or meditate throughout the day,” according to the Blue Book resolution. It is intended to complement the Daily Offices and Daily Devotions within the Book of Common Prayer.

“Those are really wonderfully rethought for a contemporary audience,” Phillips said. The idea is to offer “not a replacement, but an alternative to what’s in our prayer book to appeal differently, to fit into people’s complicated and post-modern lives.”

She believes they will be especially useful in places like college campuses or with retreat groups, “but especially for people to carry around in their car, maybe have an application on their mobile phone that they can pray an office … in 10 minutes.”

“We have a long tradition, precious tradition of daily offices, which was the gift of the great reformers of Anglicanism who desired to take the prayer of monasteries and to make it available to ordinary people in a form suitable for their real lives working in the world. That’s a huge gift, and so it is kind of a shame that the offices have fallen into such disuse.”

The hope is that the new prayers, which contain hymn texts, readings from various places and questions to meditate on, may draw new people into praying the offices. While “a little more free-form and contemporary in feel,” she noted, “they still contain some shadows of the ancient structure. They’re just really pared down.”

Holy Women, Holy Men

The commission recommended that Holy Women, Holy Men, which was presented at the 2009 General Convention and greatly expanded the number of commemorations on the church’s calendar, continue to be offered for trial use and that SCLM continue inviting responses to it and developing the volume. The commission would present a revised edition in 2015 for a first reading.

“It’s a huge compendium,” Phillips said. “There is controversy about some bits of it. There are people who are unhappy to have Calvinists included, including Calvin himself. There are people who wonder about the proper orthodoxy of some of the non-professional Christians like John Muir. … There are figures that are brand new to people, and folks haven’t quite had a chance to get accustomed to who they are and where they came from.”

“The feeling was [that] it needs more time and that if we act precipitously we might make decisions that later we would regret,” she said.

As directed by General Convention, the commission added Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to Holy Women, Holy Men, the commission report said.

SCLM also asks General Convention to direct it “to consult with the Executive Council Committee on the Status of Women, the Episcopal Women’s History Project and other organizations of women in the Episcopal Church to identify women suitable for inclusion.” And it proposes trial use commemorations for the next triennium for: James Solomon Russell, Emily Cooper, Junia and Andronicus, Pauli Murray, the first ordination of women to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, Virginia Dare and Manteo, and Thecla.


Based on the results of a feasibility study, the commission did not recommend revising The Hymnal 1982.

“Really, there was no consensus within the denomination whether we should pursue the renovation of the hymnal,” said John Repulski, SCLM secretary and music director at Christ Episcopal Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

The exception was in Province 9, where clergy and musicians “expressed clearly to the research interviewers that the currently available authorized musical resources of the Episcopal Church do not meet their needs in terms of worship style, theological and cultural context, and affordability,” the SCLM report said.

“We Episcopalians, what we reiterated for ourselves in that survey is, we love our books,” Phillips said. “Even though there are some better and worse supplements available and authorized out there … the mainstream still loves the hymnal and wants to use the hymnal and wants to have a hymnal that they can hold in their hand. But Province 9 is feeling underserved, that the material does not fit their cultural needs.”

Consequently, the commission recommends forming a congregational song task force to “explore a variety of musical resources and foster musical leadership able to learn, perform and teach various musical styles,” the SCLM report said.

“While the data does not point towards revision at this time,” it said, “it does indicate the need to begin an in-depth process of discernment as to what new music beyond the current set of authorized resources will inspire and revitalize our congregations. A process of carefully observed and rigorously measured trial use of music that is currently beyond what is authorized would be at the heart of this discernment.”

Repulski said he hoped the task force would enable “really a lot of broad information gathering,” looking at questions including whether people would like musical resources in forms other than printed books.

The task force also would incorporate and expand the work of the World Music Project, according to the report.

To help provide resources for Province 9, where congregations typically learn music by rote listening rather than from books, a group of musicians recorded about 15 songs from El Himnario that will be released by the time of General Convention, Repulski said. SCLM is still discerning the best way to circulate the materials and in what format. Video as well as CD formats are planned, and versions will be available with instrumentation only, he said.

Repulski also is an administrator in a new Facebook page for Episcopal Church musicians that rapidly gathered 450 members. “There is definitely a need for us to talk,” he said. He hopes the outcome will be “just some more conversation between all the musicians in the Episcopal Church.”

Other SCLM resolutions propose:

  • continuing revision of the Book of Occasional Services;
  • authorizing continued use of Enriching our Worship 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5;
  • continuing to “collect, review and disseminate materials to address Christian anti-Judaism expressed in and stirred by portions of Christian scriptures and liturgical texts”;
  • revising prayer book Holy Week liturgies to conform with the Revised Common Lectionary;
  • continuing to develop liturgies for the adoption of children;
  • adding The Message and the Common English Bible as approved translations for use during worship;
  • setting translation standards that include reflecting “the idiomatic style and cultural context” of the languages used;
  • providing $105,000 for SCLM meetings and $202,000 for developing and reviewing liturgical resources as mandated by General Convention and church canons.

— Sharon Sheridan is an ENS correspondent.

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Comments (21)

  1. John Buck says:

    Is there any liturgy relating to the deconsecrating, retirement from use, etc., of churches, crosses, gardens, etc.? How might such things be best commemorated?

    1. Dave Hedges says:

      Yes, there is a liturgy for deconsecrating a church in the Book of Occasional Services, called “Secularizing a Consecrated Building.”

    2. There is already a deconsecration liturgy for church buildings, I believe in the Book of Occasional Services.

  2. The Rev. Daniel Hanna says:

    I was inspired to read of the vigor of those carrying out the mission of the SCLM. We owe them great thanks for what they have accomplished thus far for the liturgy and music of our Episcopal Church. They are certainly helping us live into the name Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society! The comment by the Rev. Jennifer Phillips lamenting the lack of use of the Daily Offices in the life of the Church should resonate with us all.

    1. Lynn Marini says:

      Amen and heartfelt gratitude for this valuable ministry.

  3. David Morath says:

    I understand that we are a liturgical church, but does all of this liturgy undermine the use of extemporaneous prayer. I have seen paralysis set in with the absence of a printed liturgy. I would hope that our membership could respond prayerfully to circumstances not anticipated and addressed with published liturgy.

  4. Carl Marinelli says:

    Seventh para from the top refers to questions regarding Ordination. Can someone tell me to what that is referring?

  5. Rev. K. Gordon White says:

    In this marvelous age of immediate usage via the Internet, it would be wonderful if any of the proposed Liturgies approved for trial use at the forthcoming General Convention could be made immediately available. I am thinking especially of a Rite for the Blessing of Animals as well as an appropriate Rite for the Burial of a pet. I know of a retired UCC colleague who is in constant demand to officiate at the Burial of a pet, At a small nearby city, the Annual Blessing of Pets has become a community event centered in the gazebo of a public park with horses and every other possible pet. At one congregation I attended among over a dozen visited in traveling west from Ottawa to Vancouver and back through the States, I was reduced to tears of joy in seeing a pet parrot remain on a chorister’s shoulder as she knelt to receive the Blessed Sacrament. Our God of all creation speaks to us especially at such happenings!

  6. Frank Edmands says:

    Honestly, I was disappointed that the SCLM has decided to not recommend an optional Creation season. When you say we are “in this time of a lot of ferment and anxiety” I have found that the issue of caring and being good stewards of the environment is a unifying practice. Given the recent pastoral letter from the House of Bishops concerning stewardship of the environment and the highly successful international webcast about the intersection of the poor and the environment initiated by TEC, I say that creation care and economic justice together is an important ministry for the Church right now. I appreciate the SCLM’s work on the more traditional days to address this issue, Rogation Days, St Francis Day et. al.; but a short optional season for Creation (during the long ordinary time) would offer an opportunity for a focused teaching season to address environmental issues. Frankly, I would not use the option if it would stir up anxiety in the community of if my Bishop said no. But, at the same time I know that younger members of the Church are ripe for a season to address environmental stewardship issues that are very close to their generation…. let’s talk about their anxiety!

  7. I am delighted to learn of the development of liturgies for the blessing of gardens and of animals. Having searched for and developing both on my own in the last five years, guidance from more learned and gifted liturgists than I is welcome. I am also delighted to hear that they won’t be moving forward with Holy Women, Holy Men for another triennium. It needs considerable work and I would hope that SCLM would take into consideration the thoughtful feedback received on their blog over the last few years.

  8. I am glad to learn that the process of proposing HWHM is being slowed down. I’m delighted to learn that there will be more collaboration with women’s groups to include more women. I’m hoping for the same collaboration with indigenous and other racially communities so there can be more and varied “saints” whose lives enrich our religious lives of faith.

  9. Dick Gritz says:

    I am very curious as to why any informed Anglican would question or “be unhappy about” the inclusion of Calvinists – or Calvin himself – in Holy Women, Holy Men! Those of us who still read the Thirty-Nine Articles understand that the Anglican Church was indeed founded on Calvinist principles. I guess the inclusion of that old Calvinist Thomas Cranmer is a source of of these folks’ “unhappiness!”

    1. Fr. Steven A. Scarcia says:

      Thank you for informing me that “The Anglican Church was indeed founded on Calvinist principles.” I must have missed that in Church History. Though there were important influences due to the “Continental Reformers,” Anglicanism finally settled on its own pilgrimage, apart from the excess of either Rome or Calvin. As to the 39 Articles, they were never, as far as I am aware, “officially” adopted as part of the teaching of the Episcopal Church; added only to the “Historic Documents” of the Book of Common Prayer. Thus they were never given the same “weight” in the American Anglican Church as they were in England. As to the old Calvinist Thomas Cranmer, we know what happened to him – a man of his time and ultimately on the wrong side of Church History & Church politics. That doesn’t preclude his making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, only that his work has become, through time, study & growth less Calvinist, as the Church has “matured,” back to its Catholic roots and the excesses of Reform.

  10. Melanie Barbarito says:

    I agree with Michael about The Message. It’s a great resource for Bible study, but I’ve heard it used during the Eucharist and it was just cumbersome.

  11. Andy Hook says:

    In theory all liturgies honor the Creator for they should be done in Jesus’ name.

  12. pat milliren says:

    I am disappointed that the Creation Season liturgies will not be offered even on a trial or optional basis for those congregations who would like to use them. We have been creating our own for the past three years (from a website in New Zealand and other choices) and were looking forward to what our national church might offer.

  13. Richard Angelo says:

    One of the things I like about the BCP in use in Australia or at least its alternate version is the inclusion of a different Office for Morning and Evening Prayer every day of the week. The basic structure is there but there are different canticles, prayers and scripture verses that are right there on the page, no flipping through the book or going back and forth. It would be nice if at some point the SCLM would come up with something similar.

  14. Seamus P Doyle says:

    When will the GC deal with the issue of using Grape Juice. It is used in many parishes with and without the permission/approval of the Bishop. The basis for not using it is to be found in the Lambeth Conferences of 1888 and 1908. Isn’t time for a revision.

    1. Kieran Conroy says:

      The grape juice issue is a big one for Native American ministries where there is a painful history around alcohol for many families. There were apparently already sensitive conversations happening under the leadership of Bishop Anderson on this issue since the 1980’s at South Dakota’s Niobrara Convocation, a traditional Lakota/Dakota Episcopal gathering that has served as an engine of a lot of culturally sensitive ministry in their Diocese (you can read an account here: .

      I know the Catholic church is pretty strict about this, but also that many Episcopal churches offer grape juice and gluten-free options to help those unable to safely partake (my communities in Boston, for example had to be especially sensitive given our work with street communities). I’d be curious to learn more about those Lambeth precedents, and what institutional or theological barriers are related this issue but it seems encouraging Bishops and Dioceses to use flexible discretion to serve the urgent needs of their communities without requiring one extreme or the other.

      Kieran Conroy, MDiv

  15. Kieran Conroy says:

    Also, I love the idea of community processions, what a dynamic opportunity for witness and healing prayer for our communities. Been contriversal talk in the media of some aggressive “New Apostolic” groups “claiming cities” in aggressive forms of “spiritual warfare”- but there are wonderful precedents in the English and Celtic liturgical traditions for gentler forms of prayer to honor our culturally and eccumenically sensitive mission as Anglicans. Was blessed to lead a “Church in the Park” for a few years for the Crossing, Boston in the Common, and we’ve been pondering outdoor forms of prayer for the Tri-Faith Episcopal community here in Omaha, NE.

    It would also be really neat to see ways to complement and learn from existing “liturgies of the street” like the masses held in many cities by the Ekklesia movement for and by homeless communities. (begun in the Episcopal Cathedral in Boston, but with a number of eccumenical projects in many cities.

    Kieran Conroy, MDiv

  16. Kieran Conroy says:

    Oops- here’s the link I was looking for, the page listing all of our affiliates (including Outdoor Church, Cambridge where I served as a student minister)

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