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Orthodox worship to a Western Rite - Paul Harrison - 30-10-2006
I've been doing some reading on this subject and it seems that, as far back as 1879, the Moscow Patriarchate authorised to the of the Western Gregorian Canon for Orthodox Christians in the US. In the early years of the 20th century Bishop Tikhon (who was the "evangeliser of the US" and later became the Moscow Patriarch and was canonised following his martyrdom at the hands of Stalin) authorised a modified version of the Anglican Prayer Book. He believed that in order to evangelise the West, Orthodox Christianity had to have available Western Rites dating from before the Great Schism or corrected to a pre schism theology.
In England the Sarum usage lasted from well before the Great Schism up to the introduction of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. It is therefore a Rite of the Universal Church. Although the heretical filioque found its way into it, once that is removed, there is nothing in there incompatible with Orthodox Christianity. That is true according to the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the US, in any event. One of the aims of the BOC is, to quote:
"The mission of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate is to share the good news of the Orthodox Faith with British people in their own culture."
It is admitted by all Orthodox jurisdictions who are currently represented in the UK that Britain was Orthodox until the coming of the Normans in 1066 with their bishops loyal to the Pope. It is also recognised that the British Isles were among the first countries to be Christianised. So we had a thousand years of Orthodox Christianity. Yet we had our own Liturgies which were local variations of the Liturgies of the East. The Lorrha (or Stowe) Missal was in use in Ireland, Britain and Gaul. Sarum came later but was still a usge of the Universal Church. If the BOC is keen to share the good news with the British people in their own culture, would it ever consider adopting a Rite familiar to our culture.
I need no convincing that Orthodox Christianity is the original Church of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. The more I read into Orthodox theology the more I become convinced that error spread outwards, firstly to Rome and then even bigger errors in the reformation. But invasion brought those errors to Orthodox Britain. Having experienced several times the great Liturgies of the East, I can admire their beauty and magnificence. Yet they sound alien to our culture which isn't surprising. Perhaps this is a feeling which would go away after much more experience of Orthodox Christianity, but perhaps it wouldn't.
My personal view is that if any Orthodox jurisdiction were to introduce a Western Rite in Britian it would experience exponential growth. This has been the case with the Antiochians who have done this in the US but show no interest in doing it here. We anglophones have time honoured Christian Rites which are theologically sound and culturally our own.
- admin - 31-10-2006
This is an interesting topic. I have a great love of the pre-Conquest Christian traditions in the British Isles and it is a pleasure to be able to drive just half an hour over to Canterbury and sit at the place where my name-saint, Theodore of Canterbury, was/is buried.
I have obtained quite a few volumes for my personal library about the Sarum Rite and even as an ex-Evangelical rather than Anglican I do find the subject absorbing.
But....though I am myself naturally inclined to a Western Rite in Orthodoxy I think that several factors come into play in the present situation of the British Orthodox Church.
Firstly, we are still a small community and there is a great need for us to have a coherence, and for ministries to be easily interchangeable since our resources are limited. If we had 150 churches with three bishops etc etc then that would be a different situation, or I could imagine other situations where the question would be more pressing. But for now I sense that it is more important we do the same thing because of our small size.
Secondly, as a Englishman from a non-liturgical background I don't find the BOC Liturgy of St James particularly alien at all. It is different to what I was used to, but then I was pretty much used to pentecostal type worship where anything might happen. I think it is the case that we still have a British ethos even though we do use a liturgy that originates in the East. But for me, the fact that the Liturgy is in good English doesn't make it sound Eastern as far as I am concerned. It is, after all, a collection of prayers and hymns.
Thirdly, I have discussed this very issue with Anglican clergy who are interested in learning about Orthodoxy, in fact I was on the phone to one such last week an we discussed this. He felt that the particular liturgy used was of less importance than the Orthodox foundations which the British Orthodox Church offered, and the genuine effort to be at home in our British culture.
So I am very interested in the Sarum Rite, I am just not sure that our present form of worship is particularly alien, or that we could support a variety of forms at the moment, or that it would produce a greater number of enquirers. I am sure that God will lead us into His will, and these thoughts are indeed only my personal opinions.
Re: Orthodox worship to a Western Rite - John Charmley - 31-10-2006
Paul Harrison Wrote:It is admitted by all Orthodox jurisdictions who are currently represented in the UK that Britain was Orthodox until the coming of the Normans in 1066 with their bishops loyal to the Pope. It is also recognised that the British Isles were among the first countries to be Christianised. So we had a thousand years of Orthodox Christianity. Yet we had our own Liturgies which were local variations of the Liturgies of the East. The Lorrha (or Stowe) Missal was in use in Ireland, Britain and Gaul. Sarum came later but was still a usge of the Universal Church. If the BOC is keen to share the good news with the British people in their own culture, would it ever consider adopting a Rite familiar to our culture.
We must be cautious about reading back into some golden age of Orthodox Britain. Long before the Normans turned up, England was famous for her devotion to the Roman line on just about everything. As we know, the Schism of 1054 was only the formal occasion which recognised something that had been developing for a long time - the divisions between the East and West can be seen as far back as Chalcedon.
The mission of Augustine led to the process by which the old Celtic character of the native British Church was overlain by a Roman pattern, and whilst it would be true to say that Britain was Orthodox until 1054, it was in the same sense that Rome was. I fear the 'errors' were here long before the Normans.
None of this, if accepted, would invalidate your point about the Sarum Rite, which is an interesting one. Peter's point is clearly correct, but begs your question about the possible effects on expansion of having a rite familar to many Anglicans. I wonder whether you are on to something significant in this insight?
Western Rite - Michael Kennedy - 31-10-2006
We have had many visitors in the years since our small community has been first at Maidstone and now at Chatham. They have been from all backgrounds, and some continue with us, and I have been fascinated as to how they find our liturgy and worship. Sometimes of course it is impossible to know for sure and I suspect one's worse fears are, as so often, simply 'born of imagination'. But two things stand out. One, the ease with which Orthodox from other cultural and ecclesial backgrounds take to our Liturgy of St James, and second the generally positive feedback from Anglicans. It is, they say, quite like ours ! I don't think it is but there are enough familiar reference points for them not to feel alienated, and I guess this is true for those who come originally from another Orthodox background. We are blessed with a Liturgy that is ancient and eastern, but British because it is in English and it is us who are serving it.
Speaking personally, and based on this experience, I don't believe that a Western Rite is at all necessary for the church to grow. It is not an issue - perhaps if we were trying to serve a Coptic Orthodox Liturgy in a poor translation and perhaps with an attempt here and there to include prayers in Coptic or Arabic it would be. (Imagination and boggle are words that spring to mind here.) What does matter is good English untouched by the curse of political correctness or any other kind of newspeak and good theology. I think we have both. The onus now is on us to serve the Liturgy attentively with faith and humility - a sobering thought.
- Paul Harrison - 31-10-2006
Firstly I would like to take back the word "alien" in describing Eastern Rites. Many Orthodox Church Liturgies from your own to the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom have been expertly translated into English. Neither was I suggesting that any Orthodox Church should abandon the Liturgies of the East unless its cergy and members wanted to. The point I was trying to make is that we have our own British liturgies which are considered sufficiently Orthodox to be used by several jurisdictions worldwide (Antioch, Moscow and ROCOR to the best of my knowledge). Yet not in the UK.
Here, in both the Church of England and the RC Church, we have suffered from liturgical meltdown in the last 40 years, accompanied by numbers of worshippers in freefall. Pope Bendict XVI in his book, "The Spirit of the Liturgy" written in 1999 when he was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger expresses the view that once liturgy has become deformed theology quickly follows suit and we are left with the position in whch the traditional Western churches find themselves in the UK.This is why he is so keen to encourage increased use of the pre Vatican II Tridentine Rite. All the Orthodox churches have avoided that catastrophe by staying with the best of your tradition. Peter will know better than I do how many Anglicans, priests and laity contact him expressing dissatisfactiion with current trends in Anglicanism. Perhaps they will be attracted to Byzantine and other Eastern Rites, yet I feel there is an untapped market, for want of a better word, out there for doctrinal and liturgical orthodoxy within a Western setting.
Within the square mile of the City of London are several churches which maintain old traditions in liturgy and other traditions such as consecration ad orientum. They are all growing. As are the Fulham parishes. I see one of the PEV's has joined the Fellowship. This is while the C of E continues to decline. With the prospect of the ordination of women to the episcopate in the next 2-3 years there will likely be an exodus of up to 15% of Church of England members, mainly from these traditional lobbies. Many will go to Rome, but a sizeable number will feel as I do, that Rome isn't for them. So we may get a disarray of continuing churches as they have in the US. Some may successfully take the Byzantine plunge and make the transition to Orthodoxy. So there will be people out there looking for a spiritual home. The Orthodox Churches in the US who use the Western Rite are mainly such people who have left either the Episcopal Church of the RC Church and it seems to me that there may be entire congregations petitioning for oversight in circumstances in which they feel comfortable and familiar.
Western Rite - John Charmley - 10-11-2006
Dear Brothers in Christ,
I have been following this discussion with interest. It does not seem to me that the Liturgy of St. James is as far away from the experience of Anglicans as the rites used by the Byzantines.
Perhaps, at the present stage of growth, it would, as Peter suggests, be wise to stay as things are; but it does raise the question as to whether a western rite might eventually become a possibility.
On the other hand, as more come to experience St. James, then it too may become as beloved as the old BCP is to so many of us. It is certainly vastly to be preferred to the 'Oi God!' services common in so many Anglican Churches.
- admin - 22-11-2006
I can only speak of my own experience, I came from a Brethren background where our ordinary worship was simple, plain, for many years of my life unaccompanied by any musical instruments. Our 'liturgy' was celebrated seated around a table where the symbols of bread and wine were placed, and any male member of the Church might stand and speak, or pray, or lead a hymn.
Now I grew up used to that form, but my wife, from a Baptist background, found it most odd and off-putting that anyone could pop up anywhere in the room and start speaking.
But I then started visiting rather more Pentecostal worship settings and grew used to them, even if I was not always comfortable. Indeed I found some aspects frankly disturbing.
I wasn't until I studied at Bible college and began to read in the wider 'catholic' and historic Christian traditions that I found benefit and value in the historical liturgical forms, and I did start to use the Anglican SSF book of Daily Prayer. But looking back I see that the Brethren and the Charismatic forms are also liturgical, and Western, and equally alien to the forms and intent of the historic liturgies.
So what I am stumbling in saying is that although I think there are 'valid' and 'useful' Western liturgical forms rooted in the historic tradition I am not so sure that they are immediately relevant to those who do not already come from a Western historical liturgical background. Indeed there is more in common between a Western Rite and an Eastern Rite (to use those terms for simplicity) than there is between a Western Rite and the Brethren Rite, or a Charismatic Rite.
I do still wonder then how much benefit there is (and this is a question in my mind not a statement) in the BOC using a Western Rite, against the difficulties likely from our small community having several rites. And I also wonder how hard it is for an Anglican, for instance, to engage with the Liturgy of St James, if it is equally or more hard for a Brethren or Charismatic to engage with any historic liturgy.
I would value hearing about other people's experiences.
- Edward - 06-12-2006
I'm an Anglican and I've been very interested to see how on the one hand there has been the suggestion that the Sarum Rite is closer to a possible British (or English) Orthodox Rite and on the other hand the 'Western Orthodox Rite' appears to be very close to the US 1928 Book of Common Prayer.
Anglicanism has always held that the BCP was, to some extent, a reform of the Westerm Rite of the time along Biblical and Patristic lines. Does the Western Orthodox Rite confirm this to some extent?
It is also worth noting that Rome has also used the 1928 and 1979 US BCP texts to create the approved 'Book of Divine Worship' used by the RC 'Anglican Use' parishes over there, many of whom are former Anglicans.
I would be interested to see the worship of the BOC and to what extent it's context and culture is 'British' as such. One of the great appeals to me personally of the Church of England is that I still believe it to be the historic Church of the English people and that this particular identity is expressed in its historic formularies and forms of Worship. Martin Thornton's 'English Spirituality' is a classic text for this kind of discussion / suggestion.
In a way 'classic Anglicanism' (17th & 18th century) very much identified itself in contrast with Rome (whereas much of Anglo-catholicism today indetifies strongly with Rome).
I can understand 'technically' why many of my Anglican friends have found themselves at home within branches of the Orthodox Church but I have yet to make the cultural and spiritual conection that they have.
Some sort of UK Western Rite would certainly appeal to me.
- admin - 06-12-2006
Welcome to this forum, and to the British Orthodox Fellowship.
I would be very interested in some of the other folk from Anglican backgrounds experience our worship using the Liturgy of St James in English?
For myself, from an Evangelical background, all liturgy was new and different, and although I understood there was a difference between say, the Prayer Book Eucharist I attended at Bible College at Sopley in Dorset, and the SSF services I attended at Glasshampton and Hilfield, and then the various British Orthodox services I attended and now participate in, I didn't find them as great as say the difference between all of them and my Plymouth Brethren communion service, or some of the hairier charismatic events I went to.
I'd like to hear how Michael as an long term convert looks back and remembers his thoughts, or John as a new catechumen reflects on the differences. Anyone else's comments would be useful of course.
You might wish at some point to visit a British Orthodox community, and many of our clergy are from an Anglican background. They might also have some interesting reflections.
For myself however, I came to Orthodoxy through spirituality rather than liturgics. I became convinced that there was something life changing in what I was discovering, not entirely different to my life as a Plymouth brother, but as has been said elsewhere on this forum, a brighter light.
I am sure it will be interesting and useful to have your own thoughts and reflections posted here over the coming weeks and months. And again, I wish you a warm welcome.
- Edward - 07-12-2006
Can anyone recommend an English translation of the various Orthodox Liturgies?
Also, is the any Orthodox equivalent of books like 'Ritual Notes' (Anglican) or 'Ceremonies of the Roman Rite described' (Roman)?
I would be very interested to read a 'liturgical manual' or 'manual of ceremonies' so as to see the movement and posture for Priest and People at Orthodox celebrations.
Anglicanism and Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 07-12-2006
Dear Peter and Edward,
I shall leave it to those with a greater knowledge of matters liturgical to answer Edward's specific questions on these matters.
'Our Daily Life' is an excellent source for the texts of the BOC services. There is a guide, on line to the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom at <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.frmichel.najim.net/liturgyvid.pdf">http://www.frmichel.najim.net/liturgyvid.pdf</a><!-- m -->
There is more information on the Western Rite at
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://westernorthodox.com/western-rite">http://westernorthodox.com/western-rite</a><!-- m -->
As one who was drawn to Anglicanism by the BCP, I share your view about the Anglican Church being the Church of the English - but that Church needs, for me, to be Orthodox, and I have real problems with recognising the CoE as that any more. What attracts me to the BOC is that it seems to offer Orthodoxy with an English tone - which is what I thought I had in the CoE.
Like Peter, I hope that you will find whatever it is you are seeking in the BOF. It is, I think, typically English to have such a Fellowship where we can all seek as much or as little as we may need - with no one ever attempting to prosletyse. It is also very English that the BOC does not bang on about ethnicity!
- Michael Kennedy - 07-12-2006
I was brought up in the C of E in the Anglo Catholic tradition. In the church of my childhood we used, I think, it's a long time ago, a version of the 1928 Prayerbook in a pamphlet, rather like those that preceded the ASB. As a Reader I was licensed just as the ASB came into use and I left before Common Worship appeared. I have also worshipped in Anglican churches using the Roman Rite. I left the C of E in a negative frame of mind but I came to Orthodoxy for positive reasons. Before I found the BOC, OCBI as it was when I was first introduced to it, I worshipped with the Russian Orthodox Church in London and at Canterbury. The OCBI used a Liturgy in English which was very easy to follow as by then I had had some considerable experience of Orthodox worship.
Although I generally disliked the ASB my reasons for leaving the C of E were not primarily liturgical, and I didn't come to Orthodoxy because I wanted the Orthodox Liturgy rather than the ASB. Now, I greatly value the Liturgy of St James and would not want to change it to say, St Basil or St John Chrysostom. But this is perhaps just familiarity, the important thing is that worship should be conducted in the local language, which for us is English. This I believe is good Orthodox practice and is, after all, why the Russians worship in Church Slavonic not Greek. The fact that Church Slavonic is now archaic, as indeed is Coptic, is a matter for them both, not us. I was happy to worship with the Russian Orthodox but spent more time trying to guess where we had reached in the service than on my devotions! (They use a lot of English at Canterbury so there it was easier.)
I have never considered a Western Rite, in fact before joining the BOC I hadn't realised that it was an issue, in spite of some experience with Pilgrimage to Orthodoxy. I personally don't see the need, in fact I think it could easily cause more problems than it solves. In the early days of BOC there was some discussion on another Coptic Orthodox list about why the BOC were using St James rather than St Basil so it wouldn't help to complicate matters further. Some sort of modified BCP would perhaps appeal to those who feel strongly that 1662 is the only form for worship in English and for those who would welcome a shorter service perhaps, but it would be at the loss of the spiritual riches of Orthodoxy that are conveyed in and the through the Liturgy itself.
I hope this is helpful,
Anglicanism and Orthodoxy - John Charmley - 08-12-2006
Some very intersting points here.
I should once have thought that I would have taken rather strongly the line that the BCP would be just the thing, and one of the things that has surprised me about my encounter with Orthodoxy in the BOC is that I have not ended up in this position.
There is a richness in the BOC Liturgy that feeds the spirit, and like you, I would not swap that even for the good old BCP. I would also agree that what really matters is that the Liturgy is in English. Sts. Cyril and Methodius did not go into Rus expecting the Slavs to speak and read Greek, and we are told that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile.
Having now used the BOC Evening Prayers for several months, I find them familiar and uplifting - and certainly far more attractive and far less foreign than anything used in modern Anglican services.
But then, like you, my primary problem with Anglicanism was not liturgical - although that was part of it.
- Mark Fletcher - 20-01-2007
This is a fascinating and important discussion. I feel that there is also an issue of form and "the life behind the form" that matters very much. Some time ago I attended a 1662 BCP Holy Communion at a local church, and it became clear to me that the "public work" of liturgy had become an antiquated period piece which was there to satisfy the paying punters. The spirit, the reality behind the form, had dried up. The beautiful liturgy was used like an Antiques Roadshow exhibit pulled out every week to satisfy consumer demand. The underlying spirituality had evaporated, and the liturgy was drained of its meaning, purpose and significance. It had become a marketing tool for people who wanted the frissant of Olde Worlde Christianity or a weekly neurotic ritual which no-one believed in any more but is part of a Theme Park Churchianity which they believe needs to be cherished like a stuffed owl. No thanks!
Museum piece - John Charmley - 20-01-2007
I fear that you are correct. The Liturgy of St. James seems to be beyond words like 'beautiful' - it just 'is'. It draws one in and up and beyond oneself, and for brief moments one can feel that one is part of a service both here and in Heaven.
At the moment it is difficult for me to do the 120 mile round trip very often, but whenever I do I feel fed in a way that I have never been before.