Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 52 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Monday, June 02, 2008

Lectionary change at St. John's

From this past Sunday's Rector's Rambling in the Chronicle....

This week we are making a change to the Lectionary at St. John's Church. We are going back to the lectionary of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. This is being done with the permission of our Diocesan Bishop, Wendell Gibbs.
In my initial phone interview to be Rector here at St. John's, I asked the question "why does the parish want to continue to use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer?". I wanted to hear a particular type of answer. I didn't want to be a part of a parish that didn't want change in some sort of knee-jerk reaction to it. After a thoughtful pause on the other side, someone answered that they used the 1928 Book of Common Prayer because it best expressed what the Church has believed since it was founded. That was the I was looking for!
We are only one of two parishes in the Diocese of Michigan that uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. It is the last American prayer book to keep the form and theology of our world-wide Anglican Common Prayer Book tradition. The Episcopal Church's most recently approved book deviates from the form for worship and her theology in many ways. In other countries, where such alternate worship forms were adopted, they were given the title "alternate" book, recognizing the difference while continuing to allow the use of the older form as well. In America, the General Convention, bishops, and some who were zealous to change the Church sought to suppress the use of the original forms. Only in recent years, and in our case at the most gracious permission of our diocesan, has there been wider permission and acceptance of the use of the 1928 Prayer Book.
An integral part of the "Rite" (1928 v. 1979) for Holy Communion is the schedule of readings, called The Lectionary. The new rite(s) adopted a three year cycle of readings, which has since been revised, and the update required by the Episcopal Church this coming year. The 1928 lectionary is a one year cycle, helping us to solidly recognize and memorize a core of Scripture used at the Sunday Holy Communion. This schedule in our prayer book tradition, is based on the older Western Liturgies, and goes back past the 13th Century. For nearly 800 years this schedule of readings have been used to teach about the life of our Lord and the direction of holiness for His Church.
It is certainly not perfect: no lectionary is! With only two lessons assigned for each Sunday it assumes that Christians will ALSO be reading scripture in the context of Morning and Evening Prayer, as well as self-study! With more scripture variety at the Holy Communion over the last 30+ years I wish I could believe the Episcopal Church is holier and more scripturally literate than its first 200 years, but that is not my observation. I think the original lectionary is worth using, and we begin doing so this Sunday.
So take a peek in your prayer book - the readings for the next year at Holy Communion are all there for your study (page 90-269). And learn to use the Daily Office lectionary (page x-xlv) as well - for your self study, as well as praying Morning and Evening Prayer.