Can you go "off-book" for the Sunday Office?

Discussion in 'Liturgy, and Book of Common Prayer' started by DadHocHypothesis, Sep 27, 2021.

  1. DadHocHypothesis

    DadHocHypothesis Member

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    According to the relevant section of the 1928 Prayer Book, Proper Psalms are only mandatory on 13 particular holy days, plus their eves, where applicable. It also says that Psalms and lessons for morning and evening are interchangeable; that on Sundays, the Epistle or Gospel may be read instead of the Second Lesson; lessons may be lengthened or shortened at the minister's discretion; and that on "special occasions," the minister may select Psalms and lessons at will.

    The fact that it specifically says that the officiant may choose Psalms at will on nearly all occasions, but doesn't say the same for Lessons (except on "special occasions") suggests that regular Sunday Mattins and Evensong must have some set of the approved readings. For example, yesterday (Trinity XIV) would have one of the six pairings listed in the Lectionary:
    • Micah 6/Philippians 4
    • 1 Chronicles 29/Luke 17
    • Genesis 45/Romans 12
    • Jeremiah 7/Luke 13
    • Deuteronomy 8/Luke 17
    • 1 Kings 3/Acts 17
    ...And any of the New Testament lessons can be replaced with Ephesians 4 or Luke 14. This is definitely a lot of variety, and because of that, the argument can be made both ways:
    1. The Prayer Book already gives you 18 options. Why do you need more than that? Do your parishioners really need to hear that sermon series on Song of Songs you've been thinking about?
    2. The Prayer Book already gives you 18 options. It's definitely in the spirit of those guidelines for you as a rector to choose such lessons you think are appropriate and edifying for your parish, whether they're ordered in the Lectionary or not.
    Which perspective was more in line with actual practice, with regard to Mattins and Evensong?
     
  2. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    My liturgical training was that, for pastoral necessity, a priest may diverge from the prescribed readings but if he is going to make a habit of it he should consult with the bishop and explain why this is necessary. For the most part, it is preferable to follow the book. And we are not Baptists or Pentecostals, cherry-picking our favorite verses to bloviate on each week.

    As to the Psalter, I ignore the suggestions in the lectionary tables and read, or preferably sing, the 30 day cycle.

    As to the lessons, I think your option 1 is practiced by most. In truth, I suspect most priests default to the first suggestions in the tables unless the second is a very familiar passage. Most convince themselves they don't have the time to look at all of the options and reflect on which is most needful. Also, the reading is supposed to be somewhat methodical so it is in keeping with the logic of the lectionary to continue reading from where it left off the day before.

    As for sermon series, I've seen many priests read whatever the lectionary prescribed and then ignore the readings and preach their topical sermon.
     
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  3. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    One clear example I have noticed of late is for those parishes who use September as a 'Season of Creation', https://seasonofcreation.org/

    This group provide for a series of readings, collects and themes around the ecological message that they are promoting, within the context of the stewardship of the Environment we see expressed in the fifth mark of mission https://anglicancommunion.org/mission/marks-of-mission.aspx

    In a sense that is not going off book, so much as using a different book for the month.

    Obviously it makes some sense if you are preaching a theme of some sort that you might modify some of the lectionary readings so as to provide a consistent theme to the whole liturgical offering.

    In the main the lectionary provides the 'syllabus' which should provide the made diet.
     
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  4. DadHocHypothesis

    DadHocHypothesis Member

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    I read about "Creationtide" on Laudable Practice a while back and thought it sounded interesting. With the Embertide, I think September makes sense, especially in the UK, where Harvest Thanksgiving can go wherever it's deemed most appropriate.
     
  5. DadHocHypothesis

    DadHocHypothesis Member

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    Just like Methodist lore claims was common in the 18th Century, I believe!

    Unrelated: I knew a Shane R who was a religious person from eastern Ohio... You were never a high school science teacher, were you?
     
  6. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    No, never any sort of high school teacher. I don't have the temperament for that. Also, I've only recently moved to Southeastern Ohio.