Note: This post is a living document, subject to continual revision.
One of the primary movements to update and revise our prayers is focused on developing Expansive and Inclusive language. These are not idealogical shifts to our worship – virtually all Episcopalians already agree that members of every demographic should feel equally included in our prayers. Instead, the discussion revolves around the extent to which this inclusivity should be rhetorically reflected in the readings, songs and prayers of Episcopal worship.
Nineteen years after our current Book of Common Prayer was adopted, Church Publishing produced a supplemental volume, called Enriching Our Worship. This was one of the first major publications to offer expansive and inclusive language as a liturgical resource. Rather than comment on it any further, I will allow the book to speak for itself. The following is from the Preface:
Enriching Our Worship is not intended to supplant the Book of Common Prayer, but rather to provide additional resources to assist worshiping communities wishing to expand the language, images and metaphors used in worship. In some cases the canticles and prayers represent the recovery of ancient biblical and patristic images, such as the identification of Christ with Wisdom, and in other cases images which speak of God in other than the familiar masculine terms which have been so much a part of our liturgical prayer. Expanding our vocabulary of prayer and the ways in which we name the Holy One bear witness to the fact that the mystery of God transcends all categories of knowing, including those of masculine and feminine.
One of the considerations in choosing or developing the texts included in this collection has been the prayer experience of women, and the desire to honor that experience while remaining faithful to the constituent elements and norms of liturgical prayer as this Church has received and understood them. At all points along the way in the process of selection and development of texts the question has been asked: Is this text consistent with the Trinitarian and Christological formulations which we, as Anglicans, regard as normative and the ground of our common prayer?
The local use of Enriching Our Worship is subject to authorization by the Bishop, who serves as the Chief Liturgical Minister of the Diocese. In this way a pastoral bond can be maintained which relates the local use of these texts to the worship life of the larger Church.
It is our hope that praying and singing the prayers and canticles in this collection will deepen and strengthen our encounter with Christ and make it possible, with ever increasing conviction, to cry out with St. Ambrose, “You have shown yourself to me, O Christ, face to face. I have met you in your sacraments.The Most Reverend Frank Tracy Griswold
Enriching Our Worship, pages 5-6
Enriching Our Worship can provide two things to a church such as ours, which desires to move forward faithfully and creatively into the future of Episcopal worship. (1) It is a rhetorical resource for additional or alternative prayers to include in our liturgy, and (2) it sets a precedent for any initiative to produce original prayers, helping us to be inspired but also informed about best practices and faithful boundaries.
In all our attempts at worship planning, my prayer is that we think carefully about the diverse life experiences within the congregation of St. Michael’s, but also about the broad diversity among all those who gather to worship the Triune God, in spirit and in truth.