The Bishop of Lichfield Causes a Stir with his Diocesan Address

…some of our churches don’t have a weekly Communion at 10 o’clock. And I think that even the greatest enthusiast would admit that there have been losses as well as gains in this great change which has happened over the last 60 years.

The first loss is length. Morning Prayer used to last 50 minutes with a good sermon; Family Services only 45 minutes. But a sung Eucharist can take anything from an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half ”“ especially if there is a Confirmation added in. Sometimes I find myself thinking that this is a good way of saying “Go away” to young people who come to visit us.

The second loss is simplicity….

Read it all (it begins in full toward the bottom).


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

13 comments on “The Bishop of Lichfield Causes a Stir with his Diocesan Address

  1. Father Jonathan says:

    What a bunch of nonsense. The reason that young people don’t come to church is because of the Eucharist? Really? Do we have any proof of that? No, of course not. But hey, maybe a shorter service will bring them in, right? I don’t believe that there are really people out there who would go to church if only we had 45 minute services instead of an hour and fifteen minutes, nor would the average unchurched person be able to qualify the differences between the Eucharist and a liturgical Morning Prayer. This is just grand standing and grasping at straws. The reason our churches are empty isn’t because we have spent too much time fighting for traditional worship and the gospel. It’s because we’ve spent too little, and the culture has been allowed to dictate everything back to us, including our worship.

  2. MKEnorthshore says:

    Perhaps the Bishop of Lichfield could benefit from reading the piece from the RC Bishop of Albany?

  3. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Being brought up as an Anglican, I agree with the bishop. As a family we went to Matins every Sunday morning; the Eucharist was once a month, and so rather special. In the intervening 40 years we have seen the rise of the liberal catholic element and the charismatic evangelicals. Out went Matins. Now you can go to a church and apart from Parish Communion, you may, if you are lucky be able to choose from 3 or 4 other services on a Sunday, all of them Communion. Alternatively, you may put on your jeans, and your ear plugs and joyfully sing worship songs, or at least, sing along with a ‘worship leader’ who controls the volume control, and who may permit you too to be heard, if feeling generous. There is less sense of participation in singing, reading and so on, although often as a youngster much of Matins went completely over my head. Nevertheless, the cadences, the rich vocabulary and the theology contained in it have sunk deep into me.

    I am not sure a return to formal Matins is the answer, but the format of 3 bible readings and a psalm or two has merit, and a sermon to draw them together. One of the losses the bishop does not mention is the going through of the Old and New Testaments in a regular cycle, which again give a background knowledge of what is in the Bible, which one reading if you are lucky in a modern service cannot give.

    The bishop’s points that the Eucharist-mania has in part been responsible for TEC going off course as it has lost touch with the regular lectionary readings and the variety, as well as proving very expensive, as Eucharists require clergy to consecrate the elements, and so whereas in the old days a ‘Reader’ could step in, now for a service, licenced clergy are essential.

    I don’t think we can turn back the clock, and I am not sure I would want to, but we can certainly think about putting back in some of what we have lost.

    I would recommend reading Bishop Gledhill’s piece and thinking about it.

  4. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    And then, there is the joy of choral evensong!

  5. driver8 says:

    I wonder if a bit of research is actually in order. How often have bishops since, say the 1920s, suggested that length of service or length of sermon was putting people off coming to church? How many attempts have been made at shortening the existing service. What were the results of those ventures?

    I’m not disagreeing with the bishop, I’m just saying, “show me”.

  6. Cennydd13 says:

    Seems to me that the central act of worship on Sunday morning is the Holy Eucharist. I have no problem with Morning Prayer, as we call Matins, and I also see no reason why we can’t have both services on the same Sunday morning……separated by about 30 minutes……and this applies to the CofE, too. If we can do it here, why can’t you do it in Britain?

  7. David Hein says:

    I agree with the bishop–that “services have become too long,” and they are not welcoming to visitors.

    Regular services should be no longer than one hour, and Episcopal churches should bring back Morning Prayer as a regular Sunday service.

    Services have in fact gotten longer–to no clear purpose. They often tend to drag, and sermons are too often second-rate: their content could be expressed in five minutes, not fifteen or twenty.

    A related problem: How many current Episcopal priests are deeply literate? I am not surprised on Sunday morning to hear in sermons many references to popular movies and television, no references to great literature or theologians, and frequently poor grammar–and I can tell that all this is not done to (condescendingly) meet the masses where they are.

  8. priestwalter says:

    ‘Eucharist-mania’?? Really?? Our local Catholic Church is PACKED each and every Saturday and Sunday at all seven masses. Lots and lots of young people and somehow they manage to get it all done in an hour. Lets not blame the departure of the people in the pews to the Eucharist. Absurd!!

  9. priestwalter says:

    Oh, and the local Episcopal Church is lovingly called a ‘morning prayer church’ by the fifteen or so ‘blue hairs’ left in the pews even though they are now down to one service. The church could easily hold well over a hundred. Wonder why people aren’t flocking to this church.

  10. driver8 says:

    Services have in fact gotten longer

    I’d love to see any data to back this up. For example, when did the 10 minute sermon become a norm? Is that a twentieth century development or did or our Anglican predecessors in the nineteenth or eighteenth centuries preach for similar lengths of time? These are serious questions – I don’t know I’ve ever seen any studies?

    From a very quick scan of Google Books. A recommendation in 1840 that sermons should be brief – that is under 45 minutes. From 1918 a suggestion that the usual length of a sermon is 30 minutes. Of course, these may be completely atypical for their time.

  11. driver8 says:

    A bit more. A late seventeenth century “Treatise on the Pastoral Care” by Bishop Burnet criticizes the “custom of [preaching for] an hour’s length” and recommends instead that 30 minutes is enough. Hensley Henson in 1909 describes the “modern” preacher delivering a “sermonette” of 15 or 20 minutes.

  12. evan miller says:

    Cennydd13 is, as usual, spot on. The Eucharist is, and should remain, the main business of the Sunday worship service. Many parishes I’ve visited have both Morning Prayer and a later Eucharist service or two every Sunday morning. Works just fine. And for me, a sermon should be no more than 20minutes. Even then, a full Rite 1 or 1928 BCP Eucharist with full service music, processing the Gospel, etc. will run over an hour. If anything needs to be cut, the sermon is the place to begin.

  13. Alta Californian says:

    I’m with priestwalter, this does not explain the RCs, who have a higher ratio of young people than TEC or CoE will ever have. I lived in liberal San Francisco briefly a few years back, and one of the most touching things I witnessed was a flock of 20 and 30 year-olds not only coming out for Sunday Mass at the local RC parish, but also for a weekly Mass that was said especially for them (though in no way contemporized), and if that wasn’t enough, most of them turned out regularly for Eucharistic adoration. The mainline churches I visited were all of them devoid of youth, and the youth they had were entirely uncommitted. It also doesn’t explain the popularity of certain evangelical megachurches which have services or other obligations that can go on for hours.

    I think our problems are numerous, but service length is the last thing we should be worried about. All of these bishops casting about for easy explanations and news catching gimmicks, none of them addressing the core shifts that are occurring in our civilization and the Church’s mistakes in dealing with them.