Friday, January 29, 2016

How should we offer Matins, Mass, and Evensong on Sundays and Principal Feasts

Let us assume that I have convinced you that we should have Matins, Mass and Evensong every Sunday. What now? How should we offer them and how should a pastor introduce the Daily Office to his Congregation?

The first point to make is that any liturgical change should be discussed with your parishioners. As priest, you do not have to ask their permission (unless the vestry puts its foot down), but you should ask for their thoughts and inputs. Instruction about the traditions of the Anglican Church and the wider Church would be helpful.

Second, how you introduce the offices to your parish is going to depend on your parish’s situation. If you currently have one service on Sunday, that will call for one way of doing things. If yours is a large parish with lots of money and fours masses on Sunday, that will call for a different response. I will now deal with various sized parishes and how I would introduce the office.

Let’s start with what is tragically, probably the most likely situation in the Episcopal Church. Your parish has one service on Sunday and either a) you have no organist, b) you have a volunteer organist or, c) you have a paid organist, but you can’t afford to pay him or her for more than one service on Sunday.

In this case it is important to get the most out of the organist, if you are lucky enough to have one. So I would say that you should do what the ’79 book clearly allows. Have a combined Morning Prayer and Mass service at the time of your current service. (Assuming that service is in the morning, if it is in the PM hours them you should have a combined Evening Prayer and Mass service) What you do is say Matins with one psalm to the end of first canticle, substituting the Old Testament reading from the RCL for the one in the daily office lectionary. Then after the first canticle is sung proceed directly to the beginning of mass with the opening acclamation and collect for purity. Just because you chanted a Psalm at Matins does not mean you should drop the Gradual or Tract at Mass.

At the same time announce to the congregation that you will be in the church at thus and such hour and read Evening Prayer with all who want to come. (Obviously Morning Prayer if your principal service is at night) Try and invite the members of the parish two at time to join you on a specific Sunday.

This is obviously suboptimal, in that you are cutting an office reading to include the OT RCL reading at Matins, but it is still adding two readings and several psalms on Sunday. Also it is moving your parish more in line with the reformed and catholic tradition of the Anglican Communion.

Now to turn to a slightly more optimistic situation, suppose your parish has two masses on Sunday. Maybe they are in the morning and one is Rite I and the other Rite II, or maybe you have a morning service and an evening service.

Suppose it is the former, in that case, you can start, after proper catechesis, substituting Morning Prayer for one of the services. My advice would be to have Matins at the early service on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sundays and at the later service on the 2nd and 4th Sundays.

At the same time announce to the congregation that you will be in the church at thus and such hour and read Evening Prayer as above.

If it is the later and you have a morning and evening service, then have Matins in place of mass on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sundays and Evensong instead of Mass on the 2nd and 4th Sundays.

At the same time announce that you are going to say the office before mass and invite people to join you as above.

If you are really fortunate, maybe your parish is a large one with three masses on Sunday. Now obviously you don’t want to mess this up so just as in the previous cases, catechesis and consulting with your parishioners is very important. Such parishes in the this day and age usually have one of the two patterns for their services. Either they have thee masses in the morning or two in the morning and one in the evening.

I am going to address the second case first, because I think it is the easiest to deal with. My advice would be to have Matins at the early moring service on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sundays and at the later moring service on the 2nd and 4th Sundays. For the evening mass you have three choices. First, and least optimally, you could have combined Evening prayer to the end of the first canticle and mass. Second, you could have mass and evensong on alternate Sundays. Third, and most optimally you could institute a fourth service in your Sunday offering and have Evensong and Mass on Sunday night.

If you have three Sunday morning masses, then I would have Matins on alternate Sundays as above and start a said or sung evening prayer on Sunday evening. This could involve eliminating an existing mass or to expanding your Sunday offering to four services.

Now the best case is if your parish is offering four or more worship services already, but in that case your options are so many that I am not sure how to advise you other than to say, you obviously have the resource go forth and do what you know is right.

For all sized parishes, on Principal Feasts, Morning and Evening prayer with Mass after one of them is called for with whatever musical accompaniment you can reasonably afford.

I have two closing thoughts.

First, for a three service parish, the model I outlined in my previous post consisting of: Matins or Mass at 9 a.m., Christian Education at 10 a.m., whichever service you didn’t have at nine at 11 a.m., and coffee hour or monthly pot luck at noon, a parish service activity from 1:30 to 3:30, and Evensong at 4 p.m. really is the ideal that we should be working towards.

It has many advantages. A) It discourages communion without baptism. B) It is welcoming and inclusive. C) It allows both the high church and low church members of your parish to feel at home D) It encourages increased participation in a fuller program without hectoring by the Rector. E) It is what our tradition calls for. F) It is a program that can grow with Sext at noon or a mass after evensong.

Second, for those parishes that are going to have two masses on Sunday along with Matins and Evensong the question of the readings for the second mass now arises. Now you could use the same reading twice, but another option would be to celebrate the mass for the day at the principal service and the mass for a commemoration or suppressed feast, or the votive mass for Sunday (of the Holy and Undivided Trinity) or the votive mass for the Faithful Departed at the less well attended Mass.

I hope that was some help, now back to posting the Introits, Collects, etc.

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