Friday, August 5, 2011

Necessary casualties?

Concurrent with the project of liturgical renewal, the project of ecumenism has had a profound effect upon the texts that christians use in their worship of God. The English Language Liturgical Commission (ELLC) released Praying Together in 1998, “for widespread use, it is hoped, in the Churches of the English-speaking world.” (Praying Together, © 1988 English Language Liturgical Consultation. All rights reserved. p. 6)

In the current issue of Liturgy, both Donald G. LaSalle and Sylvia Sweeney make reference to the further refinement of these common prayer texts in ways which are particular to their own denominations (Roman Catholic and Episcopalian, respectively)

The texts of the new translation will also have an impact on ecumenical prayer, since a number of Christian churches have adopted common texts, following the lead of the earlier Roman Catholic translations. As a result, common texts of the Gloria, Credo, and Sanctus have been used by a number of churches. The new translations put an end to this common usage. A Curious Juncture: Roman Catholic Liturgical Renewal after the First Decade of the Twenty-First Century, Liturgy, 26:4, 21-22

In 1998, Enriching Our Worship 1 provided approved rites for the more inclusive celebrations of morning and evening prayer, the Great Litany, and the Holy Eucharist. Enriching Our Worship 1 was meant to be and has been a beginning, but only a beginning, for the larger work of gender inclusion in worship that still lies before us... On the one hand, communities like All Saints Pasadena and Episcopal Divinity School have led the way in helping Episcopalians imagine what a thoroughly Episcopal rite with thoroughly inclusive language might look like. On the other hand, more conservative parts of the church have found less gender-inclusive, more rubrically focused ways to seek to give expression to what they believe lies at the heart of full, conscious, active participation of the faithful. Baptism as the Gateway to Episcopal Liturgical Renewal, Liturgy, 26:4, 39

As the various denominations seek to inculturate the project of liturgical renewal within their own communities, will the work of the ELLC to provide the church with a set of prayers that we have in common be a necessary, though regrettable, casualty?

Donald G. LaSalle, Jr., S.M.M., is the Vicar General of the Monfort Missionaries and former Secretary of the North American Academy of Liturgy.

The Very Rev. Sylvia Sweeney is the dean and president of Bloy House, Episcopal Theological School at Claremont, California. She is the author of An Ecofeminist Perspective on Ash Wednesday and Lent (American University Studies. Series VII. Theology and Religion)

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