Rowan Williams, Anglican Identities (Cambridge, Mass. : Cowley Publications, 2003), 23.
77 St Mark’s Place
New York City 3
Dear Father Allen:
Have you gone stark raving mad? Aside from its introduction of a lesson and psalm from the O.T., which seems to me admirable since few people go any more to Mattins or Evensong, the new ‘liturgy’ is appalling.
Our Church has had the singular good-fortune of having its Prayer-Book composed and its Bible translated at exactly the right time, ie, late enough for the language to be intelligible to any English-speaking person in this century (any child of six can be told what ‘the quick and the dead’ means) and early enough, ie, when people still had an instinctive feeling for the formal and the ceremonious which is essential in liturgical language.
This feeling has been, alas, as we all know, almost totally lost. (To identify the ceremonious with ‘the undemocratic’ is sheer contemporary cant.) The poor Roman Catholics, obliged to start from scratch, have produced an English Mass which is a cacophonous monstrosity (the German version is quite good, but German has a certain natural sonority): But why should we imitate them?
I implore you by the bowels of Christ to stick to Cranmer and King James. Preaching, of course, is another matter: there the language must be contemporary. But one of the great functions of the liturgy is to keep us in touch with the past and the dead.
And what, by the way, has happened to the altar cloths? If they have been sold to give money to the poor, I will gladly accept their disappearance: I will not accept it on any liturgical or doctrinal grounds.
With best wishes
The Revd Dr Martin Henig, in all appropriate professorial dishevelment outside St Margaret’s, Binsey, at Easter.
“Far be it from me to promote a cult of quaintness, but the power of the Prayer Book to connect with many of those who find the ordinary diet of the church banal, should not be ignored. There is now a younger generation who are realising afresh the importance of complementing the argot of Twitter and SMS with the majesty of Cranmer.”
– The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Richard Chartres, Bishop of London