Bringing the Old Language into the New Rite

Like a great many United Methodist clergy, I regularly lead in celebrating Holy Communion using the rite in The United Methodist Hymnal (p. 12-15) called Word and Table II (or Rite II, presented in part below).  This rite gives a "standard" format for celebrating the Lord's Supper, while also allowing for variation at four points that marked by an asterisk ( * - you will see these in the presentation of Rite II below).  Thus we Methodists stay true to our Anglican liturgical heritage (Rite II reflects the 1979 Book of Common Prayer liturgy) while also staying true to our evangelical heritage of flexibility and openess to the Holy Spirit.

Word and Table Rite I and Rite III are variations of the same rite; Rite III is a more "bare bones" rite requiring the celebrant to "fill in" several parts of the prayer with pre-selected or sponteneous words (Rite III requires additonal words beyond simply what is written), allowing for even more flexibility and adaptation, while Rite I is the same rite completely 'fleshed out' and is to be prayed exactly as written.  Churches that use the Great Thanksgiving Prayers for the various liturgical seasons and holy-days of the Christian year in our Book of Worship (p. 54-79) will generally have the congregation follow Rite II.

While Word and Table I-III are basically longer and shorter versions of the same Rite, our Hymnal and our Book of Worship also contain a very different rite for celebrating the sacrament called Word and Table IV (Rite IV) which gives us the older "King James English" of John Wesley's Sunday Service Book and of the classic 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican tradtion.
In the Book(s) of Common Prayer of the Anglican tradition, just before the Sanctus there is a "Proper Preface," a part of the prayer that changes seasonally, recalling an aspect of who God is and what he has done that evokes our praise and thanksgiving.  The "old English" rite in the Methodist liturgy (Rite IV) also contains these seasonal prefaces (see The United Methodist Book of Worship p.46-48).   

In the classic Anglican rite the portion of the prayer immediately following the Sanctus ("Holy Holy Holy..."), which recalls the Father sending the Son as redeemer, is always the same going back to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer's original Book of Common Prayer of the mid-1500s.  This part of the prayer is also maintained almost without change in the "old language" rite (Rite IV) in the Methodist worship books.  Many of us who value our Anglican liturgical heritage may find ourselves wanting to use Rite IV more often precisely because the precise wording does more perfectly reflect the Book of Common Prayer liturgy of the last 500 years; however this desire runs somewhat counter to our desire to celebrate the sacrament in a language understood by contemporary people. 

However, with only a little bit of planning ahead, the classic language of the Anglican liturgy contained in Wesley's Sunday Service Book and in Rite IV can be integrated into the newer rites in a way that does not run afoul of the 'rubrics' (the instructions printed in red italics).  What follows is Rite II in regular font with wording based on Rite IV (the old liturgy) inserted in italics as the "appropriate words" that the pastor may addThis approach not only preserves the old language, but also marries the strong theology of the cross emphasized in Rite IV with that of Christ's presence in the Supper which is more emphasized in Rite II (note: the responses of the congregation are in bold).
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.*

And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.  Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the Highest.

Holy are you, and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ.*

Almighty Father, in your tender mercy you did give him, your only Son,
to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption:
He made there, by the one offering of himself,
a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world;
He did institute, and in his holy gospel command us to continue,
a perpetual memory of his precious death until his coming again.

By the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection you gave birth to your church, delivered us from slavery to sin and death, and made with us a new covenant by water and the Spirit.*

On the night in which he gave himself up for us he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples and said: "Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me."
When the Supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said: "Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with christ's offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine.  Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.*

By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory, and we feast at his heavenly banquet.
Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy church, all honor and glory is yours Almighty Father, now and for ever.  Amen.

The resulting rite would be shorter than Word and Table I (the congregation could follow Rite II in the Hymnal) and would also contain more of the classic language and theology that we Methodists inherit from the larger Anglican tradition, without using an English idiom that (while quite beautiful) will strike some hearers as archaic or difficult to understand. 

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