May 5, 2013: Notes for 1789 Services

Teaching Notes
The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Sixth Sunday of Easter

On Sunday, May 5 as part of St. Paul’s 175th Anniversary celebration, worship was conducted in the style and from the Prayer Book that would have been used by our founders. We approximated the time to be the late 1850’s. Mr. Benson prepared a wonderful music supplement with historical notes about each hymn. Many St. Paul’s people came dressed in hats, dresses, suits of the day. Representatives of the West Side Soldiers Aid Society were present, portraying St. Paul’s members of the Civil War era. Members contributed food for after-service Fellowships, people of that day would be eating. St. Paul’s rose up in fine Anglican tradition and hospitality, with great joy, energy and holy worship that guided our ancestors. Rather than a sermon, educational background was given about Morning Prayer, the Ante-communion and Holy Communion services from the 1789 Book of Common Prayer. The notes from that presentation are below.

Notes for 1789 Services

The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Minister

St. Paul’s Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Before moving to the Holy Communion, I have a few comments to note in the Morning Prayer liturgy this morning. In Morning Prayer, the Psalm would follow the Venite and a Canticle or hymn would follow the first lesson. That is a modification for the sake of time – mainly for the second service.

In the post-Revolutionary War American Anglican church, the 1789 Prayer Book was quickly adopted. It is modeled on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the major concern for a Prayer Book for the post-colonial church was prayer for the King, and any swearing of allegiance to the throne of England. Many may remember Morning Prayer as the principal Sunday service in earlier years. The Eucharist would have been celebrated once a month. We had the Exhortation, General Confession, and Absolution in Morning Prayer, so we will not duplicate that in the Holy Communion.

The Ante-communion service was a complete service, meaning the Holy Communion did not have to follow it. It looks very similar to the order of the 1979 Holy Eucharist, first part – the Word of God. Morning Prayer or the Ante-communion service could precede “The Holy Communion.” A seriously devoted soul on some Sundays would experience all three.

Prior to administering the Holy Communion, the priest was charged with making sure any receiving were not engaged in notorious evil living, and people who weren’t getting along were reconciled. If any were present, they were “advertised,” and would not come to receive Communion.

(Invite any who live in such conditions to come to the front, declare repentance and amendment of their ways.)

The Holy Communion – The minister stands at the right, or North side of the Altar. He begins by saying the Lord’s Prayer, followed by the Collect for Purity, all kneeling.

The Ten Commandments would be recited in a litany between minister and people, followed by a collect for purity and collect of the day.

The Epistle would be read, followed by the Gospel. The Creed would follow if one had not been said earlier at Morning Prayer. Then came announcements and a sermon.

The Offertory sentences are read while the alms for the poor are received. They are brought to the table, after the Priest/Minister places the bread and wine on the table – nothing fancy, plain and simple.

The Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church Militant follows.

After the Prayer comes a warning of when the next Holy Communion will be celebrated. The priest gives a warning against receiving the sacrament unworthily, calling people to self-examination, bewailing sins, reconciliation and restitution with neighbors, forgiveness of others – and to come in trust of God with a quiet conscience (not troubled). The second option of a warning is to the negligent – those who refuse, or have something better to do, they are warned – You’d better be here.

Then the Exhortation to confession is read by the priest. Those who repent and are in love and charity with their neighbors are invited to take the Sacrament, but before doing so, make your humble confession to Almighty God – DEVOUTLY KNEELING. The Confession is made, the Priest stands and pronounces the absolution and reads the Comfortable Words, which is in Rite One of the 1979 Prayer Book.

Holy Communion begins with the Sursum Corda, followed by the Prayer of Humble Access, spoken only by the Priest in the name of all who shall receive the Communion, while kneeling at the Table. The Prayer of Consecration begins. The Priest and ministers commune. After all have received communion, all say together the Lord’s Prayer.

The Gloria is sung – a Gloria from the 16th Century – the Blessing and we shall sing a final hymn.

Please note, there is not a processional, nor a processional cross or candles. The vestments are simple. In this time, St. Paul’s would have had no trouble being considered a “Low Church,” and the reactions against High Churchmanship, or High Church that was part of this Diocese. We tend to think of High Church as more formal, with ornate ceremonials, vestments, and gestures. Actually High Church had more to do with ecclesiology, and attitudes toward the Bishop, his power and control of money, and whether a church tilted more toward the Reformation or Rome.

I don’t think the two are related, but Paul Haubrich tells me the women of this parish were leaders in the teetotaler movement. Maybe the opposition to High of any kind was that strong. Fortunately, the church amended its opposition to every sort of high.

Today our worship reminds us we are religious, not just spiritual. We inherit a Prayer Book whose roots go back farther even than the first Episcopalians who gathered for prayers in 1836 in Milwaukee and formed St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. We are religious as we maintain a certain order of worship, one that extends through the life of this parish, back to England, and to the synagogue worship of Judaism.

Today I believe people yearn to be tethered to something that is solid, time-tested, and stirs their hearts and souls. We continue the faithful tradition of worship our ancestors at St. Paul’s have given us. When done well, with our hearts and minds affixed upon God, it’s not just us, but we join our voices with those who have gone before us – with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. When done well, it’s not a performance, but an offering of ourselves, living sacrifices to God, that we may transformed and changed into more Christ-likeness for the sake of the world. We welcome and invite all to join us before God. For our mission is not primarily to ourselves, but to the world. Worship begins, not ends, when we leave – and we take the light of Christ to the world, as witnesses to the Lord who meets, forgives, nourishes here in our worship. Let us give thanks this day, not just for the past, but the great days into which God’s Spirit continues to lead us.


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