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Informal Acts of Worship

It is clear, that in this context of mission in a diverse and mobile culture, the church needs to provide opportunities for worship designed to meet very specific needs. These may range from informal worship for parents and their children, events for young people, contemplative styles of worship (e.g. Taizé), special occasions, regular worship of an evangelistic nature etc.

Common Worship gives flexibility and permission for informal services. A Service of the Word may replace either Morning or Evening Prayer. For the first time in Anglican history, our Liturgy provides a service without prescribing what is said, which can be determined locally and informally. Please read and follow the guidance found on pages 21 - 24 and the Notes on pages 26 - 27 of Common Worship.

Further guidance and commended material will be found in New Patterns for Worship (Church House Publishing) with its excellent examples of how (and how not!) to do it. An informal Service of the Word may be followed, on occasion, by a celebration of the Holy Communion where the first part of the Liturgy consists of an informal word service followed by the Liturgy of the Sacrament. Please see Common Worship page 25. An authorised eucharistic prayer must be used, together with the authorised collect and absolution, otherwise informal or extemporised prayer may be used. Such rites require careful preparation by the president and lay leaders.

The Bishop encourages activity of this sort. Parishes need to think about how they can increase the opportunities for people of every age and culture to encounter Christian teaching and worship.

If this is to be carried forward in a manner which holds our sense of communion with our inheritance, as both catholic and reformed, then the following will apply:

  • All worship in the parish should be publicly advertised so that people are clearly aware of the nature, content and timing of all acts of worship in the parish church
  • All worship - formal or informal, authorised or experimental - should be properly prepared and rehearsed
  • All who have a role to play in the enactment of worship must themselves be prepared, trained and under supervision
  • The highest standards of excellence attainable should be sought in all aspects. Whether the music is traditional or modern, it needs to be reaching towards improved standards of performance
  • Regular acts of worship need to reflect the balance of Anglican worship in praise, thanksgiving, confession and absolution, intercession, the reading and ministry of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments
  • All worship is an offering made by the whole community. It should have a sense of encouraging everyone to enter into what it is about

The Bishop needs to be kept informed of what parishes are doing in the way of experimental, informal or alternative patterns of worship.

Canon B5 paragraph 3 says:
"All variations in forms of service and all forms of services used under this Canon shall be reverent and seemly and shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of, any departure from the doctrine of the Church of England in an essential matter."

The Bishop is the judge of this and is ready, through the resources of the Diocese, to offer advice and critical reflection in what parishes are seeking to achieve in these matters. Nevertheless, clergy have discretion to change the words of authorised services according to pastoral need, and subject to the above - see Canon B5.1