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A fine tonic

September 14, 2014
Dr Morris.

Dr Morris.

“BY THE END of his first year as rector, Dr. Morris had established as the norm for Sunday worship at Saint Thomas the service of Morning Prayer, reducing the frequency of Holy Communion as the principal Sunday service from twice a month, the standard set long ago by Dr. Stires, to the first Sunday of each month only. He accomplished this by first listing the change in the weekly service leaflet and in the monthly bulletin at the beginning of the summer of 1955 as being merely ‘The Summer Schedule’; but then when fall arrived the same schedule continued to be listed, the word ‘summer’ being removed but no pastoral explanation given. No reason was given in his message in the Year Book for 1955 either, nor was any notice of the change recorded in the Vestry Minutes for the summer or the fall of that year. Some years later, however, a rationale was offered. Morning Prayer, according to Dr. Morris, was a more evangelical and missionary service, providing the means for those unfamiliar with the Episcopal tradition to learn its ways and then to be led to the advanced step of receiving communion. Morning Prayer Sundays, in his view, were properly understood as a preparation for the monthly celebration of the Holy Communion. Dr. Morris strongly believed that this ‘rhythmic’ pattern of worship contributed to ‘a higher appreciation of Holy Communion and is helpful in avoiding the inattention which so easily follows upon a too constant and too entirely unvaried sameness or uniformity of procedure.’ Thus he did not agree with the growing liturgical belief of the Episcopal Church — with which an increasing number of Low Church Evangelicals concurred — that the Holy Communion should be the main service every Sunday. Indeed, it was incumbent upon Saint Thomas and other parishes, he urged, to champion the Morning Prayer tradition in order to maintain the true character of the Episcopal Church as both catholic and evangelical.”1


1. J. Robert Wright, Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue (Grand Rapids, Mich. : William B. Eerdmans, 2001), 177.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 19, 2015 22:23

    The only thing I would ask is that it would be better to have both Mattins and Eucharist on Sunday, instead of one or the other? That way, those who are beginning to immerse themselves in the Anglican tradition may fully take part in a divine service, without the necessity of Baptism that is required for communing. After all, the Daily Office does not need to be led by a priest, as I know well from attending lay-led Evening Prayer at my own parish. The old 1662 Prayer Book, after all, says that the churchwardens may lead when a priest is absent to say it, and it would be more in line with the Mattins-Litany-Eucharist-Evensong pattern of worship imagined by Cranmer and the other reformers, as well as Orthodox tradition.

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