This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, or Whitsunday. This looks back to the birth of the church, when the disciples were gathered in the locked room for fear of the authorities, and the gift of the Holy Spirit came down upon them, and they went forth in courage and preached the gospel. It changed a group of frightened people into the greatest missionary endeavour the world has seen. That’s why we call it the birthday of the church – it was then that the church started, with its mission to go and proclaim the good news to all people.
It’s also the anniversary of another date – the introduction of the first Book of Common Prayer into the English Church in 1549 in the reign of Henry VIII’s son, Edward VI. From Pentecost of that year the old Latin Mass was put aside and a new English rite was set as a standard for all of England. It was a radical move by a central government to standardise church usage. It was initially not particularly popular, especially in the countryside. Three years later another more Protestant version was put out, and yet another series of changes were enforced, leading to further discontent, before the death of Edward led to the restoration of the Latin Mass under Mary I. Five years later she died, and another English Book of Common Prayer was issued by Elizabeth I. It was an expensive time for parishes, with continual changes in books and liturgy.
However, the use of English was eventually accepted, partly because of the beauty of the prose used by its main author, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. He was a brilliant wordsmith, and his translations of the Latin prayers capture the metre of the Latin in the English. Every time we say prayers such as “We do not presume to come to your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies” or “Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden”, we are saying the measured beat of his prose, with its balance of phrases and rhythm. The Anglican Church, in the Book of Common Prayer and its structure, retained its catholic heritage with its ordained ministry and solemn liturgy, yet reformed at the same time. Parishes throughout England used a common liturgy, hence the name “A Book of Common Prayer”, showing their joint common membership of one church. It was also all in one book, and generations of Anglicans became used to having one prayer book that was the source of their devotions. Many of you will probably have received a copy of the book for your confirmation, often in small print that now defies reading. Sadly, one of the effects of the last few decades has been the abandonment of a common liturgy throughout our Anglican church – I dread some of the services that pass as Sunday worship when I travel.
Things are slowly returning to a steady pattern in our lives, with the reopening of shops and services. We will be allowed twenty people per mass from next Sunday. At the moment I am having four masses on Sunday morning as well as the weekday masses to try and provide opportunity for everyone. It is perhaps a good time to look at mass times as well. I propose from next week to change to three masses. I request your feedback as to what suits most people: masses at 8, 9.30 and 11 am or instead 8, 10 and 11.30am. The second mass would be the sung mass of the day. I know many of you who usually go to the second mass have already said they prefer a later time in winter, so that’s my first preference, but do let me know. We are back to having mass on Tuesday at 10 am and Thursday at 12 noon as well, but unless there is a particular reason, I would like to keep the Friday mass at 8 am. Remember, you need to book a time for the Sunday mass. I will have an attendance sheet at the back of the church as well as a booking sheet for the next Sunday. At the moment there is no problem with overcrowding at the weekday masses.
As things snap back to life, it’s also interesting to consider to what we are snapping back. Many governments have enforced their decrees by public announcements, and let the law catch up later. This has led to some interesting confusion in England, for example, where in some places the police were enforcing Welsh lockdown restrictions instead of the English by mistake. There have been similar questions about some of the enforcements of fines in some states in Australia for breaches of legally dubious announcements. Here we are seeing a questioning of some rules like border shutdowns – by what authority does the government restrict border movement and trade. Even for us Anglicans there is an interesting question: we are restricted in offering the chalice at the moment in clear violation of Article 30 of the Articles of Religion, which are part of the foundation documents of our church. Now all these restrictions may be a good thing, but the questioning of the means is an important part of our democratic system. Are we going to snap back to a way of life with higher restrictions and control in the future?
Regarding parish finances we are fortunate in that I am on the government job keeper scheme at the moment. We will be facing a significant reduction in our investment income this year. However, people have been wonderful in donations and in setting up bank transfers for regular offerings. We do ask that you use the word ‘offering’ preferably in your transfer, and your name, as it helps our treasurer work out the reason for the money.
As our churches slowly re-open it is good to note this week the resumption of one of our small groups. This Saturday the Benedictine Oblates will meet again. Oblates are lay people who affiliate with a Benedictine community, to follow the Rule of that order, insofar as their lives allow. Before coming to Adelaide, I was chaplain to a Benedictine Community, the Community of Christ the King, in Wangaratta, and after moving here I took on the responsibility of being a chaplain to the oblates in South Australia. Another of our small groups, our Gregorian Chant Group, resumes next month as well. Owing to the dispersed nature of our parish it has always been hard to nourish small groups in our parish, as distance makes a commitment harder.
We are blessed in that despite our financial problems over many years we have preserved our large grounds and the gardens are a credit to the many gardeners over the years. I have included a few photos of the gardens for your enjoyment in this issue. The gardens have been a bonus for many a parish lunch, when the weather allowed it. I have always hoped we could develop a garden group to take on the vegetable garden for the parish.
This week’s hymn is the great Veni Creator Spiritus, translated by John Cosin. The original hymn, which we have sung in our chant group, was by Rabanus Maurus (c. 776-856), a German monk, then abbot, at the Benedictine Abbey at Fulda, and later archbishop of Mainz. One of his predecessors, an Englishman Boniface, or Wynfrith of Crediton, we commemorate this week. England supplied many of the missionaries to Germany and Holland, owing to their common language at that time (and the Germans did not like the Franks then either). The hymn was translated by John Cosin, a high clergyman in the time of the English Civil War, who suffered much and returned with the King in 1660, eventually becoming Bishop of Durham. His “Collection of Private Devotions for the Hours of Prayer,” much offended the Puritans, who styled it “a book of Cozening Devotions.” The hymn is significant in that it is traditionally said by the priest on the way to the altar, a custom that I adhere to. It was one of the few insertions into the Book of Common Prayer when it was restored in 1662 as the standard worship in England.
1 Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire
and lighten with celestial fire;
thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.
2 Thy blessed unction from above
is comfort, life, and fire of love;
enable with perpetual light
the dullness of our mortal sight.
3 Teach us to know the Father, Son,
and thee, of both, to be but one;
that through the ages all along
this may be our endless song:
4 Praise to thine eternal merit,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
John Cosin 1594-1672
Father Scott has reminded us of the importance of gardens in reminding us of God’s creation. Here are some links; next week, we’ll continue another of his themes – Benedict and his contemporary followers:
- Medieval Cloisters and their role in the day-to-day life of monks and nuns:
- A short introduction to the cloister with links to beautiful contemporary examples.
- Gardens and belonging for refugees in Davoren Park.
- Simple and contemporary landscaping ideas.
- 800 year old gardens at Lambeth Place, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
If you’re having any difficulty accessing these resources, please contact Tim Hender at email@example.com.