Vesting prayer for United Methodist clergy

In my experience most United Methodist clergy wear vestments when leading the divine service, in keeping with the traditions of the Wesleys and our Anglican heritage as well as those of the ancient undivided Church (and indeed, of the Biblical worship of the Old Covenant as well).  I thoroughly endorse this practice (even in services employing 'contemporary' music) as it adds another visual and 'iconic' element to the multi-sensory worship experience, it maintains our connections with the broader liturgical tradition, and it adds a deeper sense of reverence and gravitas to the service of worship.

Today’s United Methodist clergy (presbyters, deacons, and local pastors) likely wear a seasonal stole and possibly a pectoral cross over either a Geneva gown (an elaboration upon the black Cassock developed for the clergy of the medieval academy and used by many Churches with roots in the Reformation) or the still more ancient Alb with cincture.   Some United Methodist pastors, adhering more closely to the Anglican tradition and Wesley's own practice, wear a cassock with a surplice (a flowing white robe derived from the alb) over it, in addition to the stole and pectoral cross (pictured above are United Methodist clergy wearing cassock and surplice with a red stole at Cox Chapel in Dallas). 

In the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches the presbyters say a particular prayer with each additional garment that is put on while vesting (the actual vestments used as well as the prayers said are somewhat different in the Eastern and Latin Churches).  Some Anglo-Catholics use the same prayers as the Roman Catholic clergy.  I generally say an extempore prayer for myself and the people while vesting in my office before the worship service.  I have wanted to compose, or better yet discover in the tradition, a vesting prayer that would be appropriate for United Methodist clergy.  Now I’ve found one!

Students of liturgy likely know that our current United Methodist liturgy is derived from the Sunday Service Book of John Wesley, which itself is a revision of The Book of Common Prayer (1662).  The Anglican Common Prayer Book is, in large part, based upon the medieval Sarum Use of the Latin liturgy.  The Sarum Use was a version of the Latin Liturgy that developed in and around Salisbury Cathedral and became popular throughout England and is thus uniquely British.  I’ve recently discovered that according to the medieval Sarum liturgy, the priest did not say the same vesting prayers used by today’s Roman Catholic clergy, but rather was directed to recite the Veni Creator Spiritus, an ancient hymn beginning “Come, Holy Ghost.”  See the section headed “Preparation” on pages 8-9 of this essay about the Sarum liturgy.

The Veni Creator Spiritus (perhaps followed or preceded by a brief extempore prayer asking God’s mercy and aid for the pastor and congregation) is an especially appropriate vesting prayer for United Methodist clergy for several reasons:

As we've seen, this prayer (already nearly a thousand years old in John Wesley's day) is a part of the ancient British liturgical tradition (in the Sarum liturgy), and as such it was carried forward into the liturgy of The Book of Common Prayer, where it is used in the ordination services.  Furthermore John Wesley retained it in the ordination rite when he revised the BCP into the Sunday Service Book.  So it is part of the medieval catholic, the Anglican, and the Wesleyan liturgical heritage.  More than that, in keeping with Wesley’s Sunday Service Book, the Veni Creator Spiritus is still called for in our contemporary ordination rites (see for example The United Methodist Book of Worship page 690, the first rubric) and it is found at 651 in The United Methodist Hymnal so that our clergy can have it near at hand while vesting.  So we too have in our own Methodist liturgical tradition a wonderful vesting prayer for our clergy to use, that recalls the charge and gifts we received at our own ordination.

In case you don't have your Hymnal handy, the words are to be found
here (search for hymn 651). 

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hymn 651 is not avaiable on HymnSite.com

2:32 PM, October 17, 2012  
Blogger danielhixon said...

The text and music (midi file) are available. Just click the link, go to the "Hymn search" button on the left side, type "651" and it will give only one result in the center panel, "Come Holy Ghost our hearts inspire." If you click the hymn title the words will pull up and the music will start playing. I don't know if any of that is affected by your browser, though.

4:45 PM, October 17, 2012  

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