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Learning through Difference (part 2)

Crest and Coat of Arms of the ACC and of TEC

In the second part of our series, the Reverend Matthew Cadwell, rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Wakefield, MA, and doctoral student in theology at Trinity College, Toronto, writes in response to the question:


What do you like best about the liturgical way of being in each province?

This is a difficult question to answer.  As noted above, for the most part the liturgical practices are similar, and in many cases the texts used are the same, or nearly so.  One can’t help but notice this shared tradition.  But what’s interesting is the ways in which each province is simultaneously conservative or traditional while also innovative.  And often when The Episcopal Church is liturgically conservative, Canada is innovative, and vice versa.

Over the 5 years that I lived in Toronto I grew in my appreciation of the 1962 Prayer Book.  I felt that I was sharing in the common prayer of Anglicans across the generations and I could see the logic in placing the Lord’s Prayer and the Gloria after the Communion, as Cranmer had done.  Those of my generation in The Episcopal Church do not have that same experience since the 1979 Prayer Book had already been issued by the time we came to liturgical consciousness.  But, of course, the Canadian Prayer Book Eucharistic rite still poses problems for those who hold a more modern liturgical outlook and most worshipping communities do not seem to follow the text as written.  For example, I rarely (if ever) experienced the Nicene Creed being recited prior to the sermon and the location of the Peace is awkward if the community desires to offer more than a perfunctory verbal exchange between presider and congregation.

But within the contemporary language rites the Canadian practice seems less restrictive than the American.  For example, the American rubrics are clear that only a deacon or priest is to read the gospel and administer the bread at the time of Communion.  In my experience Canadian practice is more open and allows for lay participation in these roles when necessary (for example allowing a seminarian to read the gospel).  Clearly the reading of the gospel is still a deacon’s liturgical prerogative, but a little flexibility is helpful.  This same flexibility extends to the multitude of options that are available in the BAS in terms of responsorials and litanies, proper prayers over the gifts and after communion, etc.

The American rites provide far fewer options.  There are no extra litanies or responsorials found in the Prayer Book, nor are there unique prayers to be offered over the eucharistic gifts or after communion.  Thus it can be more difficult to craft a unique liturgy for a specific Sunday or occasion in the American context.  However, whatever creativity or uniqueness is lost in that regard is perhaps made up for in that over time the congregation becomes intimately familiar with the prayers that are repeated week after week.  This repetition seems to be to be one of the treasures of our Anglican liturgical tradition.  In particular I am thinking of the post-communion  prayer.  It seems to me that there is a sense of spiritual comfort that comes from being able to say the same prayer after communion each week.  The BAS offers a beautiful post-communion prayer that can be used in place of the proper prayers, but in my experience it is rarely chosen.  [on page 214-15, beginning “All your works praise you, O Lord / and your faithful servants bless you.] This is a loss, since I think it is among the most lively prayers in the book.

For some reason, which I can’t easily identify, the Eucharistic rites that follow the American Prayer Book seem more formal (and possibly more grand) than their BAS counterparts.  Perhaps this is due to the more restrictive nature of the American rubrics (as noted above) or perhaps it is simply reflective of the texts that are used.  Either way of being has its advantages, depending on the context.  For informal weekday liturgies I think the BAS and the Canadian supplemental booklets work very well.  And on major feasts like Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, All Saints and the like the unique proper prayers are clearly helpful.  But for the regular Sunday morning I think the American Prayer Book is easier to use and access for the priest and congregation alike.  For public services of the Daily Office either the American or the Canadian Prayer Book is preferable to the BAS in my experience.  But, for private use the BAS Offices might provide options that are welcome.

One area that I haven’t addressed is music.  Published in 1998, the Canadian Common Praise is 16 years newer than the Hymnal 1982.  Thus, it includes a host of musical offerings that were unavailable earlier.  Common Praise also includes music that reflects the multicultural nature of Canada today and it moves Canadian hymnody into a more inclusive direction.  These are clear advantages.  The Episcopal Church has attempted to provide additional hymns and music resources through a number of supplementary hymnals, but many parishes cannot afford to purchase adequate supplies of these for congregational use.

One of the areas in which Common Praise is less strong, however, is in providing service music resources.  The Hymnal 1982 reflects the 1979 Prayer Book in that it offers multiple settings of service music and canticles for Rites I and II for the Daily Offices, Holy Eucharist, and Burial.   In most cases there are plainsong and Anglican chant versions of all canticles for use with both Rites.  Thus, in the area of music, as with the liturgical texts themselves, there are clear advantages and disadvantages with the approach of each province.


Our thanks to the Reverend Matthew Cadwell for his reflections on what he most appreciates about the liturgical expression in the Anglican Church of Canada and in the Episcopal Church. Perhaps we might focus our conversation in response to just a couple of questions:

  • As you were reading Matthew’s reflections, what if anything made you think—“Ooh, I want that for my lived experience!”
  • In our email conversations, Matthew and I noted that it’s often the littlest things that catch us as we experience worship in the different contexts. He shared an example of the gospel acclamation response: in TEC, the congregation says “Praise to you, Lord Christ,” and in the ACC, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” How have you had the experience of a small change throwing you, and asking you to think about what it implied?


Matthew Griffin

About Matthew Griffin

I'm a priest serving in the Diocese of Niagara, with both a pastoral and an academic interest in the relationship between liturgy and theology. I enjoy reading, cooking, and spending time with my beloved and our young son.
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