At The Church of the Ascension, we use the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The following is adapted from the website of the Prayer Book Society of Canada: http://prayerbook.ca/the-prayer-book
The Book of Common Prayer has been called “the priceless possession of the Anglican Church”. Around the world, the BCP is known wherever the Anglican Church took root. Versions of the BCP (or simply “the Prayer Book” are used in over fifty countries and have been translated into 150 languages. In Canada alone, it is available in French, Inuktitut, Mohawk and Cree, as well as in English. The 1962 Canadian revision of the BCP is the official prayer book of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Why so much interest in a book? The reason is that the Book of Common Prayer, refined in the crucible of the Reformation in England, is a system of Christian devotion almost without peer. The first Book of Common Prayer was compiled in 1549, after the Church of England had repudiated the legal jurisdiction of Rome. The aim of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and his collaborators was to streamline and condense the Latin service books of the medieval Church, and to produce in English a simple, convenient and comprehensive volume as an authoritative guide for priest and people – hence the name “Book of Common Prayer”. They did not wish, like some of the radical Protestant churches, to discard the liturgical heritage of the western Church and start afresh, but to prune away non-scriptural accretions and to produce a book of worship that would reflect more clearly the Christianity of the Bible and the early Church.
The result was a book of scrupulous fidelity to the teaching of the original undivided Church and to Holy Scripture. It remains the standard of doctrine and worship of almost the whole of the worldwide Anglican Communion to this day. It is also a book of matchless beauty of language, which has nourished countless generations of Anglicans spiritually and devotionally. The Prayer Book has come to be recognized as a liturgical classic, and is widely admired by Christians of other denominations.
Essentially, the Prayer Book is a book of worship. It includes the Offices – services of morning and evening prayer to be said every day – along with tables for reading through the Bible yearly as a part of these services – and the Psalms, as appointed to be read through monthly as a part of the offices. It also contains the forms for administering the sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the Anglican Church:Holy Communion (along with the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels used at Communion and other services), Baptism, Matrimony, and Burials, and the ordination rites. Also found in the Prayer Book are a number of other services and prayers for specific occasions or needs, such as the Litany, the prayers for the sick, and prayers for use at sea. Finally, the Book of Common Prayer includes official doctrinal statements, both Christian and specifically Anglican, such as the Creeds and the 39 Articles of Religion.
The Book of Common Prayer is not only of interest for students of Anglicanism, since it has played an important role in the life of the English speaking world more generally. Along with the King James Bible and the greatest works of English literature, the Prayer Book has been central in shaping the culture and thought of the English-speaking world.
The Lord's Supper
We celebrate The Holy Eucharist at every scheduled service. The sacramental bread appears as an unleavened wafer. We drink wine from a common cup as a strong symbol of unity and our willingness to accept each other. We do not practice intinction (dipping) of the wafer into the consecrated wine.
On the last Wednesday of every month, we follow The Lord’s Supper with a short healing service for those who are in need of God’s healing power. In this service, our clergy lays hands on each person while saying a prayer. This is followed by anointing with holy oil those who wish to be anointed. The priest will also visit those who are sick in hospital, or shut in at home to pray the healing service. Such visits may also allow the administration of Holy Communion to people who can and wish to receive it.
Baptisms are offered as needed, using the service beginning on p523 in the Prayer Book. We prefer to conduct baptisms on Sunday, unless an emergency requires otherwise. Since Baptism is an important sacrament, we require adequate notice so the Rector has time to instruct the parents and Godparents. We do not charge fees for a baptism. However, donations are gratefully accepted
In the Anglican tradition, as in other parts of the Body of Christ, Confirmation of Faith is the customary adjunct to baptism. The service requires the laying on of hands by the Bishop following a period of spiritual preparation and study into certain aspects of the faith. Confirmation services require considerable time to be arranged
Marriages are offered as needed, using the service of Holy Matrimony beginning on p. 573 of the Book of Common Prayer. We take marriage very seriously, as a lifelong Christian commitment:
1. We require the parties to meet the priest, or someone appointed by him, for instruction about Christian marriage;
2. At least one person in the couple must be baptised. If neither is baptised, we strongly encourage one or both to be baptised before the marriage, and to seek confirmation afterwards;
3. We need at least one month’s notice so that the banns can be read on each of three Sundays before the marriage;
4. If either party has been married before and divorced, they must seek permission from our Bishop.
We do not charge fees for marriage ceremonies, but once again a donation would be welcome.
The Burial Office
This office begins on p. 591 of the Book of Common Prayer. Experience has shown that this service reaches the hearts of those present in truly wonderful ways. Consequently, unless otherwise approved in advance by the Rector, we discourage additions, such as testimonies by family and friends. These can more appropriately be given at a reception afterwards. We recommend that we are called in time to pray with and to give Holy Communion to those communicants who seem to be close to death. After the burial, at a time agreed with family and friends, we offer a full requiem, including Holy Communion, to those communicants who request it.
The following is from Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life [Ch 3, p 37-38]:
The Bible says, "Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgement seat of God .... Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God" [Romans 14:10-12]
Fortunately, God wants us to pass the test, so he has given us the questions in advance. From the Bible we can surmise that God will ask us two crucial questions:
First, "What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?" God won't ask about your religious background or doctrinal views. The only thing that will matter is, did you accept what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him?
Second, "What did you do with what I gave you?" What did you do with your life - all the gifts, talents, opportunities, energy, relationships, and resources God gave you? Did you spend them on yourself, or did you use them for the purposes God made you for?
The Anglican Church of Canada Gone by 2040? Not so!
The following article [slightly abridged] was written in an Online Bloga on January 30, 2020 by The Most Reverend Melissa Skelton, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster [British Columbia]. You may find the Bishop’s opinions worthy of reflection:
I for one am grateful to see the Anglican Journal in its January 2020 issueb turn its full attention to the health and sustainability of the Anglican Church at the parish level. This has been my passion as an ordained person in the Church, and I’m glad that people all over the Diocese of New Westminster and within the broader Anglican Church of Canada are now talking about their parishes and their ability to attract and form those people whom God has seen fit to bring into their orbit.
Key to any discussion of what we might do to respond to these parish trends is a common understanding of the purpose of a diocese or a territory or any regional judicatory. From where I sit, the purpose of a diocese or a territory is, with God’s help, to foster healthy, faithful, effective communities of faith at the grassroots, local level. Within this understanding of the key purpose of a diocese or a territory, that regional unit can focus on a number of things that can help redevelop parishes or experiment with different forms of communities of faith. Not all of these will speak to all dioceses or territories.
The list is offered as a stimulus to anyone who wants to think about how to respond both to the trends and to the Holy Spirit who is forever calling the Church into a new future.
Prayer: A bishop and any diocesan/territorial staff should pray for parishes and for their redevelopment and should encourage parish leaders and parishes to do likewise. Prayer is fundamental to redevelopment and creating new expressions of communities of faith. Pray openly, boldly, and persistently and in a way that is open to God’s guidance
Substantial and consistent training: We must consistently offer substantial training for lay and clergy leaders in the basics of congregational development, organization development and faith development. Currently, the Diocese of New Westminster and the Diocese of Ottawa offer the School for Parish Development, a program that continues to grow in Canada and in the US. This kind of training—offering it, offering something like it, or finding a way to connect our leaders to it–is key to a diocese or territory focusing its energy on parish development. The training also builds a common language around development in the broader diocese or territory
Practitioner Groups: There is great power and wisdom in convening groups of people who are working on the same thing and supporting and learning from one another in that work. In the Diocese of New Westminster, we have created and are creating practitioner groups. For example: a membership growth practitioner group for clergy and a similar group for clergy and lay teams called GroundWork, a practitioner group for children’s ministry, a practitioner group for those working with youth, an innovative ministry group. These groups reinforce the importance of the area of practice and provide concrete support and wisdom for those who participate
Third-party consultation: Redevelopment often needs outside facilitation or hosting skills. Where possible, a diocese or territory can cultivate such a group of consultants/facilitators who are willing to offer themselves to parishes in their redevelopment. If they do this, they must train those consultant facilitators in consultation skills as well as the skills specifically needed by the parish in its work
Recruitment and formation of ordained leaders: In my experience the single most powerful thing that can transform a parish or community of faith that believes it may close into a vibrant, magnetic faith community, is the appointment of a clerical leader who both has the will to redevelop a parish and has the skills to do it. We should be recruiting people into the ordained ministry who have the qualities to lead a community of people to a new place and have the skills to engage them in the process. I believe dioceses and territories need to lay out the specific qualities the Church is seeking and assist local faith communities in identifying, encouraging and assisting those very people to enter ordained life
Catechesis as an engaging faith development experience: Dioceses and territories should work diligently on restoring catechesis to the parishes. In my experience, the teaching has been mostly absent in some parishes for years. Dioceses and territories need to consider how to enliven teaching at the parish level, not just in the form of “talking heads” either in-person or in a video but in the form of designing learning experiences that bring participants to life in Christ through the study of Scripture, prayer, the sacraments, Christian action and other foundational areas of our faith
Anglican ethos and character: Dioceses and territories need to teach parish leaders again and again about the positive and life-giving qualities of an Anglican Christian way. This is not to be done in any self-congratulatory or uncritical way. When done well, it should lay out the full range of qualities associated with an Anglican ethos and allow people to identify what gives them life, what they continue to struggle with, and what they might strengthen at the parish level
The “gathering” function: If we believe that assisting God in the gathering of people into communities of faith is part of the core function of a parish, we need to focus some diocesan or territorial energy on training our parishes to strengthen “gathering” at the parish level. In my experience, every parish can strengthen what they do in this area. A significant piece of the School for Parish Development is about this very thing.
Modest financial incentives: Redevelopment efforts or experimenting with new forms of being Church can be helped by modest financial grants. This is both about morale and about funding small things that can, in fact, turn out to be big things.
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.Matthew 6:14-15
Forgiveness is something all of us want to receive but most of us hesitate to give. Jesus makes it clear, however, that we can't have it without giving it. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15). These words allow no room for doubt or discussion. Forgiveness flows two ways. We cannot separate receiving forgiveness from extending forgiveness.
Forgiveness is at the core of emotional well-being. It is fair to say that unforgiving people are emotionally sick. Their bitterness is a disease of the spirit, and many unforgiving persons eventually could experience physical illness as well.
Obstacles to forgiveness:
The reason many of us refuse to forgive is our fear of loss. And there's no denying that forgiveness requires us to give up attitudes and actions that are important to us.
Fear of Losing the Energy that Anger Produces
Fear of Losing Leverage in a Relationship
Fear of Losing Hope for a Better Relationship
Fear of Losing Power and Control [and looking weak, or worrying that we may be hurt again]
Fear of Losing the Image of Superiority.
Some of the greatest obstacles to forgiveness are the misconceptions about what it is. Realizing what forgiveness is not may make it easier.
It is NOT Condoning the Behaviour
It is NOT Forgetting What Happened
It is NOT Restoring Trust in the Person
It is NOT Agreeing to Reconcile
It is NOT Doing the Person a Favour
It is NOT easy:
Forgiving is difficult enough when it involves a one-time transgression. It verges on the impossible when the offense is ongoing. Such circumstances require an attitude of forgiveness, not simply an act of forgiveness.
When Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive, Jesus gave an unsettling answer: "Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?" "No!" Jesus replied, "seventy times seven!" (Matthew 18:21-22)"
Think about the mathematics of that statement. Can you imagine forgiving anyone, even for a minor offense, 490 times? Jesus is asking us to do something that is humanly impossible. In and of ourselves we don't have enough forgiveness to go around. But God does. So, when our limited resources run out and we are unable to forgive, we can ask him to forgive others through us. In so doing, we take one more step of obedience and allow ourselves to become a conduit of God's grace.
God rains down grace on all mankind. He gave us the beauty and wonders of nature that we see each and every day. He gives us near misses when accidents are heading our way. He often brings us the right thing just in time. And He also gave us an innate conscience to know right from wrong. All these things are common graces, and everyone born on the earth has the benefit of them because God so loved the world.
Before I believed in the Lord, God wooed me with these kinds of graces: beautiful sunrises and sunsets, relaxing moments surrounded by God’s glorious creation in nature, fun, laughter, and camaraderie with friends. He also lured me with thoughts that there is something more in life, something beyond the simple notion that life is good.
Just being born on this planet includes many benefits. Oh, but when I became a believer in Christ, I got even more graceful benefits! In fact, believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm because we are united with Christ.
The best grace is that God purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave all our sins. This immeasurable gift was given to you when you believed. You didn’t work for it and you didn’t even deserve it. If He stopped there it would have been enough, but He continues to give us even more grace, kindness, wisdom, and understanding. What an awesome God! For He so loved the world that He gave His only Son.
“Be still (cease striving) and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).
I have sinned, I sin, and I will sin. I always seem to do what I don’t want to do and not do what I want to do, even though I want to do right all the time. Yet God will forgive me each time if I repent. All sins — past, present, and future — are forgiven after you believe in Christ.
Sin comes naturally but righteousness takes focus. Focus on obeying God’s Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to help. On my own, I seem to always say or do the wrong thing. But, when I confess each sin, try and learn from it, and change my way of thinking, the Lord forgives me. Not just every now and then but all the time. There is much more grace than I have sin.
Not only are all of my sins forgiven when I repent but I also gain a supernatural ability to forgive others of offenses they commit. God helps me to forgive little offenses, big offenses, and even previously unforgivable ones.
I have learned that forgiveness is possible even when the offense caused extreme hurt. There are examples of people forgiving other people of murder. Jesus, Himself, said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” from the cross! This kind of forgiving grace doesn’t take away from the depravity of the offense, but it does provide an atmosphere where the offender can repent if he chooses.
Forgiving grace requires the strength of God because when I’m left to my own thoughts, revenge and/or depression are at the forefront of my mind. Forgiveness is usually a God-ordained thought.
Each morning I have the glorious chance to begin again. If I made mistakes yesterday, I can start over with a clean slate. Every new day, hour, and breath is a chance for me to act better and display more of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Because of His presence within me, I always have new opportunities to think and do better.
Instead of thinking only of me, I can show concern for others. Instead of being full of anxiety, I can be full of peace and joy. Instead of tapping my foot, I can wait with patience. God’s grace gives me the self-control to act with kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness.
Grace gives me the freedom to forget about other people’s opinions. I can learn to be the person that God created me to be before the lies of this world attached themselves to me. I don’t need to impress other people. I just need to be faithful to the One who created me, and He already loves me, so I have nothing to prove.
I am free to be me. I am fearfully and wonderfully made with a purposeful design. Getting to know God through His Word helps me to know my purpose in life. And when I know it, I can go ahead and live it. If the Son sets me free, I am truly free (John 8:36).
God promised to be with me at all times. His Holy Spirit will counsel me and prompt me as I go through my days. He is with me in each present moment and those moments lead to a glorious future. Even when I go through trials, and I will, He is there to help me get through them and make the environment around me better. Jesus even said that here on earth I will have many trials and sorrows. But I can take heart, because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). The unknown is easier to go through when you have a hand to hold. That’s grace—the feeling that I’m never alone.
Always remember that grace is a gift. You can’t earn it, but you get a lot of it. It’s free and abundant. When you go to God in heartfelt prayer, He will always give you what you need. Forget about worrying about getting what you deserve. Grace is getting much more than you deserve.
“You parents — if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:9-11)
A Quiet Faith: Does it Have to be Energetic to be Real?
by Kirk Abatelli
Does lack of excitement mean that we lack passion for God? Or does lack of enthusiasm mean our passion for Christ is gone? Not at all. Many would define passion today as a barely controllable emotion, but that is not the case.
While teaching at a Christian School, a young girl came to me to talk about a church that she said, “lacked passion.” I asked her to explain what she meant by that. She answered, “There’s no energy. No excitement.” I responded, “So you see passion as excitement, and even enthusiasm.” She answered with a resounding, “Yes. There are no hands raised, no one singing their hearts out, no one saying, ‘Praise Jesus.’ They are just sitting there looking somber and serious. No energy.” I replied, “Lack of excitement does not equal lack of passion.”
In the same class there was another girl who was shy and quiet but when she spoke you listened. With doubt in her voice she said, “I don’t think I am a Christian.” I asked her why she would think that, knowing she prayed quite often and served behind the scenes helping people. “Well, pastor, I am not as passionate as others when it comes to Jesus because I don’t show my excitement as they do. I prefer calm. I like to fold my hands and not extend them in prayer.” I encouraged her that her faith in Jesus and His sacrifice for her made her a Christian, not the amount of energy she used to express her faith. Passion for God is a devotion to Him, and a desire for Him. It is not always associated with excitement.
The energetic faith versus the calm faith
Many in our culture believe if a person is calm and does not show excitement or energy that that person lacks passion. There are many who are quiet and reserved that the first young lady would consider as lacking passion.
Mother Theresa comes to my mind. She had passion, but hers is seen as she fed the hungry, aided the distressed, and cared for the poor. She did not do it with hands raised up but with hands outstretched to feed the poor and embrace the little children. She did not shout out “Hallelujah” but had a quiet laughter that showed us her love for Christ. She did not yell loud praises but in soft prayer thanked God for what He gives. She had passion.
There was an elderly military man in one of the congregations I served that I highly respect. Whenever we talked about Jesus and His blood-filled cross, he did not get excited. Rather tears filled his eyes and his voice with a quiver said, “I can’t believe He did that for me.” After he confessed his sins, I told him God forgave all his sin because of Jesus’ sacrifice for him. He softly said, “Amen. Amen.” Whenever he received the wonderful gift of the Lord’s Supper, tears came once again with a “Thank you.” He had passion.
When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane He fervently prayed to God the Father. He was not enthusiastic or jumping up and down with excitement. Drops of sweat mixed with blood dropped down His face while He prayed. In the quiet cool evening Jesus passionately prayed for strength to go to the cross and die for our sins.
Hebrews 12:2 says, “for the joy set before [Jesus] endured the cross, scorning its shame.” He somberly, quietly, but passionately went to the cross for the joy of saving us. Lack of enthusiasm does not equal lack of passion.
The quiet whisper
Many children, teenagers and adults today believe lack of enthusiasm or energy equals lack of passion. For them passion for God cannot be in the mundane, boring, or sober but in feelings of elatedness and excitement. This definition of passion is a downfall in our culture, which seeks after the next high, looking for the next thrill. Some will call them the “mountain top experiences.”
There is nothing wrong with those mountaintop experiences but the problem lies when those experiences become the definition of passion and the only type of passion we seek after. When we don’t feel the excitement or the “passion,” we then question whether those around us love God. We wonder whether God loves us when we get depressed or feel life is mundane. If this “passion” is the only thing we seek, we can end up missing God a lot of times, especially in the gentle, quiet whisper.
In First Kings 19, Elijah was in a cave and God told him to go out so that He would pass by Elijah. Elijah stood outside the cave and watched, but God was not in the powerful wind that tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks. He was not even in the earthquake, or the fire that came. God was rather in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:11-12). Elijah found God not in the excitement of the earthquake, wind or fire, but in the gentle and passionate whisper of God. Elijah would have missed God’s whisper and presence if he only sought after the “mountaintop” moments.
Years ago, an art teacher friend painted a picture for me with a verse that read, “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).” I believe she was nudging me to slow down in life so that I can listen to the Risen Christ’s passionate whisper and for me to explore another form of passion in the sober and calm.
I love the passion in enthusiasm, excitement and something new, however I’ve learned to have passion in the silent prayer, the sober, and the mundane. I even desire it sometimes. I assume most parents, like I, would appreciate too the moments of silence once the kids are in bed. It is in the passion of the calm and the “unexciting” moments we can hear Him whisper. I have learned to welcome those passionate moments of the quiet, sober, and mundane, where I sit with my risen Savior and just reflect on the wonders of His grace.
Thinking of how much He loves us to make such a sacrifice and realizing that those moments of spending time with God just being still are one reason He rose. I find myself at times just pulling out a hymnal in the church and singing to God. I try to take my friend’s “subtle” advice by going out of my way to have those quiet and sober moments, just to sit with God and be still. Lack of excitement does not mean a heart that lacks passion. Sometimes it means the heart is passionately listening to the gentle whisper of God.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”