The third contribution to His Grace’s emergency team ministry during the coronavirus pestilence comes from Nick Barrett, a former teacher of Classics, Philosophy and Sociology, now working in the legal sector.
Although my own preference in churchmanship is congregationalist (I attend a Baptist church, of which I am a member, and by whose pastor I was baptised as a teenager by full immersion), I have learned a lot from other churches over the years through attendance and speaking with other Christians online. One thing that has really impressed me is the Book of Common Prayer, Cranmer’s masterpiece, which drew on older pre-Reformation liturgical traditions. While reading a portion from it some months ago (a Victorian edition), I was struck by the emphasis on glorifying God.
Gavin Ashenden, although not speaking about it directly, made comments about personal devotion in one edition of Anglican Unscripted. He was speaking about his experience in a monastic community, and as I reflected upon it later, I thought about comments people I know have made about the benefits of reading the Offices, even as laity rather than clergy. I believe the Book of Common Prayer can be helpful as an aid to personal devotion.The formal language can help some people to think about the reverence with which we approach God, but (for those who are native English speakers) the intelligibility of the text allows them to appreciate the meaning of what they are saying.
During a time when many of our churches have decided to suspend or radically alter Sunday services, we find ourselves looking for ways to worship God. Some will receive sermons from their pastors and supplement this with singing or listening to hymns at home. Others may read blog posts and articles or listen to podcasts, recorded sermons, and recorded bible studies. Watching services, whether recorded or live, will help some to feel they are still connected to God and His Church.
Now is a time of opportunity, to consider those things that we have not touched upon before or have not studied for a long time. Whether this means reading parts of the Scripture that are often avoided as topics of sermons and Bible studies (eg the Book of Revelation) or engaging in intense forms of spirituality that our busy lives often keep us from (fasting, prayers of intercession, lengthy Bible-reading), we can all take a moment now to ask the Lord: ‘How would you have me spend this time? How can I grow closer to you and to my brothers and sisters in Christ?’
I chose the Book of Common Prayer as the topic of this post because Anglicanism proclaims itself as a via media (and this is an Anglican-based blog). Cranmer’s blog is meeting-place for Christians from different parts of the Body. During this time of physical separation, the Body can remain united when it is one in spirit. Let us use this season to be knitted together by whatever means the Lord provides by His Spirit.