Anglicans Online News Basics Worldwide Anglicanism Anglican Dioceses and Parishes
Noted Recently News Archives Start Here The Anglican Communion Africa Australia BIPS Canada
Search, Archives Official Publications Anglicans Believe... In Full Communion England Europe Hong Kong Ireland
Resource directory   The Prayer Book Not in the Communion Japan New Zealand Nigeria Scotland
    The Bible B South Africa USA Wales WorldB
This page last updated 28 January 2019  

Letters to AO

EVERY WEEK WE PUBLISH a selection of letters we receive in response to something you've read at Anglicans Online. Stop by and have a look at what other AO readers are thinking.

Alas, we cannot publish every letter we receive. And we won't publish letters that are anonymous, hateful, illiterate, or otherwise in our judgment do not benefit the readers of Anglicans Online. We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters. We edit letters to conform with standard AO house style for punctuation, but we do not change, for example, American spelling to conform to British orthography. On occasion we'll gently edit letters that are too verbose in their original form. Email addresses are included when the authors give permission to do so.

If you'd like to respond to a letter whose author does not list an email, you can send your response to Anglicans Online and we'll forward it to the writer.

Letters from the week of 21 - 27January 2019

Like all letters to the editor everywhere, these letters express the opinions of the writers and not Anglicans Online. We publish letters that we think will be of interest to our readers, whether we agree with them or not. If you'd like to write a letter of your own, click here.

There are often comments about our front-page letters on the Anglicans Online Facebook page. You might like to have a look.

An age old question

In last week’s news items you included one from Church Times that suggested young people may be leaving the church at least partly because of "obscure church language and vocabulary."

The real difficulty is that we old-time church folk often use liturgical and theological language out of sheer habit, without ever thinking deeply about what we are saying or how it may sound to a young ear unaccustomed to our familiar idiom.
An example: at the (American Episcopal) Eucharist I attended on the First Sunday in Advent (2017) the celebrant (very properly) used the Exhortation, the Ten Commandments, and the Prayers of the People, Form I. No part of the service was extravagant or unusual or extra-canonical in any way.

But when the service was finished, I went back and counted—and during that Eucharist our congregation had said, "Lord, have mercy" thirty-one times times in about thirty-five minutes!
What must that say about the nature of a God who must be implored for mercy once a minute? For most of us in that congregation that was no issue—we were all used to that familiar liturgical language and were not much consciously stirred by it.

But it raises two questions: what theology would visiting strangers gather from this endless entreaty for mercy? What kind of a God would they think we worship? Some merciless Divine Beast who demands endless breast-beating to withhold some horrendous retribution?

And, perhaps even more important, what does that kind of excessive, disproportionate, hyper-penitential language do to us who are praying it? How does that unconsciously seep into our own notion of a grisly, wrathful, punishing Divinity who must be placated by endless pleas for compassion—Instead of a God who is Compassion itself and can never be anything other than merciful?

And even if Prayers of the People, Form IV had been used, it would have meant saying "Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer" six times in about ten minutes—when any novice theologian knows that no prayer of any kind can ever be "unheard” by God?

So, it is not only the old-fashioned (sometimes Jacobean) literary stance that may be a hindrance to young seekers, but the actual often un-thought-out meanings of the words themselves (occasionally sounding downright pre-Christian) which may be a serious impediment even to our own spirituality.

The solution? Avoidance of some of that kind of verbiage where possible—and a weekly dose of strong theological preachments—and not in the Edwardian style of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."

Fr.John-Julian, OJN
The Order of Julian of Norwich
Hartland, Wisconsin, USA
21 January 2019


"Is Christian language to blame for falling church attendance?" (Jan. 21) is just one of many questions that can be—and are asked—on that subject.

It may be a conttributing factor—but probably only at the margins. As acknowledged in the article so many 'groupings' have their own language "understanded" by those 'in' people but gobbledygook to the unsubscriber.

In many Diocese' (who knows what that means?) there has been much re-writing of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer with the aim of making services of worship —explain what that means to an unbeliever—'contemporary.' This has meant a re-writing almost every decade as contemporary becomes old fashioned pretty quickly.

That many books are being written about the issue of "falling church attendance" would seem to suggest the solution has not yet been found- and that of the "making of many books (on the subject) there will be no end". Maybe trying harder to bring about a more ready acceptance by the relcalcitrant of the 1662 BCP might be worth the effort.

Trevor Cowell
Christ Church, Illaarra, Parish of Longford
Perth, Tasmania
22 January 2019

We launched our 'Letters to AO' section on 11 May 2003. All published letters are in our archives.

This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact <a href=""></a> about information on this page. ©2000 Society of Archbishop Justus