Dear People of St. Stephen’s,
Starting at the beginning of September, we will be using a different Eucharistic service out of Enriching our Worship (EOW) at our 10am service. Father Rod and I have both used EOW Eucharistic prayers in the past, but at least in my tenure with you, we have not done the entire service out of EOW.
EOW is supplemental liturgical material created by the Standing Liturgical Commission with the approval of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. It builds on the liturgies we have in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. The preface of the first volume of EOW, written by our last presiding bishop, the Very Rt. Rev. Frank Griswold, explains, “This collection is part of an ongoing process of listening to what the Spirit is saying to the Church through the diverse experience of those who gather to worship and to celebrate the sacramental rites which fashion and identify us as the People of God” (5).
The tradition of the words of our liturgy reflecting the experience of those worshipping goes back to the creation of the first American Book of Common Prayer in 1789 in Philadelphia. The fledgling church declared at that time, “it is a most invaluable part of that blessed ‘liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,’ that in his worship different forms and usages may without offense be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire…” (EOW 1: Introduction, 7). We can see this tradition of “different forms and usages” within our current 1979 Prayer Book and within our own congregation—our 8am and 10am services worship God with different words and images.
Because our liturgy is brought to life in community, there is always tension when it comes to change. Familiar patterns, rhythms, and metaphors remind us of the timelessness of God throughout our ever-changing lives and give us comfort, while new expressions of worship open new possibilities in our understanding of God. The Very Rt. Rev. Griswold writes, “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…” (EOW 1: Preface, 5). EOW expands on the language and metaphors used for God in many cases by returning to the imagery of earlier periods in the Church’s history (writings of the early Church, ecstatic evocations of the Medieval mystics, etc) (EOW 1:Introduction 8).
In September, you will notice a variety of differences from our Rite II Book of Common Prayer worship: the opening acclamation, the salutation (before the collect of the day), the response to the readings, the Nicene Creed, the confession of sin and absolution, the peace, the Eucharistic Prayer, and the post-communion prayer.
Some of these changes are very slight. For example, the Nicene Creed is identical to our BCP version except for how it refers to the Holy Spirit:
|We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets||We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.|
In the EOW version of the creed, the Holy Spirit is gender neutral. This change is arguably supported not only by the Holy Spirit not being a person and therefore not having a gender, but also by the fact that both the Greek and Hebrew for “Spirit” (pnuema and ruah) are feminine nouns.
A larger change might be seen in the confession of sin, which reads,
|Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
|God of all mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you, opposing your will in our lives. We have denied your goodness in each other, in ourselves, and in the world you have created. We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf. Forgive, restore, and strengthen us through our Savior Jesus Christ, that we may abide in your love and serve only your will. Amen.|
Though they use different words, these two confessions, as required since 1789, maintain the same “substance of the faith.” They use a variety of words and images to open up to us different ways to grasp concepts such as sin, and evil, and forgiveness.
As we worship our God these coming months, I encourage you to take note of these differences, to save your bulletin to compare EOW with our BCP Rite II service and to compare both to our 8am Rite I worship. Please take the opportunity to think about what these differences mean to you in your relationship with God and what they might possibly mean to others.
Yours in Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13:8),