Of rubrics and obedience

A fellow blogger has written of his struggle over his ordination service. As proposed, the service would have flouted rubrics. Thus a dilemma: does an ordinand point out this error? I could relate to that. I had the same problem in my diaconal ordination. I sent over the service completely compliant with rubrics. It came back with a change, making it non-compliant. I mentioned this, and was told that we were doing it the revised way. I gave in, for lots of reasons.

What was the problem in my case? The closing the service as I proposed it was this:

  1. Postcommunion prayer
  2. Hymn
  3. Blessing
  4. Dismissal

It came back this way:

  1. Postcommunion prayer
  2. Blessing
  3. Hymn
  4. Dismissal

Yes, that’s how most congregations end their services on Sundays. But it’s not allowed by prayer book rubrics. Look it up.

I surprise people when I tell them I’ve never, in my tenure as an Episcopalian, seen a principal Eucharist that’s completely rubrical. There’s always something. In parish I serve, we end our service in the un-rubrical way that I listed, above.

Think your service is rubrical? Send me a bulletin and a customary. I’ll send back a list of errors. I would like to see some services that comply with all rubrics, really.

Why do we do things this way? Should it matter? Do some rubrics count more than others? Should they? I don’t have easy answers, but I find that it’s not easy to talk about. Most of my colleagues find it irritating that someone even cares about these things. That is what I find most distressing.

Hmm. Maybe we should change the end of our service. Then I’d have some real moral high ground. Hmm….

(P.S. I think the Postulant did the right thing. Ordinands are in no position to correct bishops on matters liturgical.)

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks for the support.

    Another fellow blogger tell of getting marked down by Marion Hatchett on an assignment for liturgy class because he put a hymn after the dismissal. He wrongly thought it was OK because that’s how they do it in chapel. If the Chapel of the Apostles can’t follow the rubrics under Marion Hatchett’s very nose, what hope is there for the rest of us?

  2. Peter says:

    This is a great post, I hope we do have the courage to talk about these rubrics … You’re my kind of gadfly… I hope people do send you their bulletins and such…

  3. i’m with you, and people are free to send me bulletins too. but i will assert that the liturgy as i knew it in the early 90s at St. John the Evangelist in Boston was scrupulously rubrical, as is the liturgy we do at BSG gatherings (and for which I am responsible).

    perhaps what really irks me is what The Postulant mentions: the seminary chapel habit–VTS too–of “whatever, who really cares” about such details.

  4. John-Julian, OJN says:

    Well, of course, the “problem” you describe comes hymn-singing itself! (grin)

    Bp. William White believed that non-scriptural hymns ought NEVER to be sung at Eucharist — for him they implied something like the distasteful and disturbing “Great Awakening” — and he fought against the inclusion of hymns in the first editions of the BCP!

    That said (with tongue in cheek) I highly support your efforts to be true to the rubrics. It seems we have little right to criticize the liturgical crazies if we are not faithful to the rubrics ourselves.

    It was a major commitment when we devised a liturgical customary for our monastery chapel. Our only stretch is where “some suitable anthem [presumably sung] may be used” we occasionally simply use spoken words (which I suppose we COULD sing, if absolutely necessary).

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