Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Morning and Evening Prayer for Eastertide

Dear Friends,

Forgive this belated draft of Morning and Evening Prayer for Easter.  It is part of the on-going project of the Liturgy Task Force of the General Synod.

I welcome your comments.

Click here for a PDF of 'Morning and Evening Prayer for Easter'.

Blessings to you all,


Saturday, April 26, 2014

What Is the Question? (Easter 2A 27 April 2014)

Easter 2A
27 April 2014

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Focus Text:  John 20.19-31
         On the 21st of December 1981 I was ordained to the priesthood after six months as a transitional deacon.  In The Episcopal Church the 21st of December is celebrated as the feast of Saint Thomas.  After all, it is the shortest day of the year and, in some cultures, rituals were held on this day to coax the sun to return and warm the earth in time for the spring planting.  It seems a fitting day to remember a saint who is sometimes called ‘doubting’ Thomas.
         I had been experiencing my own bout of doubt.  My position on the staff of the diocesan office was a temporary measure and the Bishop had been searching for a curacy.  Just before my ordination, the word came that I was to become the curate at Christ Church in Denver, one of the larger parishes with a congregation that included ‘high church’ Anglicans, Evangelicals who wanted the richness of Anglican liturgy and members of the so-called ‘charismatic’ movement.  One of the constant challenges for the Rector of Christ Church was maintaining a balance in the clergy staff and I was to represent the modern face of the ‘high church’ tradition.
         As it often happens in Anglican parishes, the newest member of the clergy staff, especially if he or she is younger than the other clergy, is given responsibility for the children and youth programmes.  So one of my first responsibilities was the preparation of a large group of teenagers for confirmation.
         Christ Church had a long history of lay involvement in the confirmation programme.  Married couples, young and old, were recruited to be small group leaders.  A detailed curriculum had been prepared with learning modules as well as question and answer sessions.  Most of the learning modules were based on the memorization of certain facts and teachings.
         I really liked the four couples who had volunteered to be mentors and I was looking forward to working with them and the young people.  But I hated, absolutely hated, the curriculum.  Now don’t get me wrong.  There is some value in learning about the church’s traditions and practices; confirmation is simply not the place for that kind of learning.  Confirmation, whether of younger or older people, is about exploring our faith and deciding how we are going to live that faith in the world.  In confirmation, those who were baptized as infants or young children make a commitment to live their lives as baptized members of the Christian community.  We choose to follow Christ and need to learn what following Christ really means for me and for the community in which I live and what following Christ costs in today’s society.
         I filed the curriculum away and drew up a new programme based on the promises of the Baptismal Covenant, those eight, now nine, affirmations and promises we make at baptisms and on those occasions when we all renew our commitment to following the way of Jesus of Nazareth.
         At my first session with the teenagers, I asked them what they thought it meant to say, ‘I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.’  All of these kids were product of North American education.  They knew more about science than I did at their age.  They were familiar with the theory of evolution and the ‘Big Bang’.  Half of the group came from single-parent families and of those families two-thirds were headed by the mother.  I was not interested in those days with a feminist critique of male-gendered language for God nor was I interested in participating in the tiresome debates about whether belief in evolution contradicts the witness of the Christian scriptures.  I simply wanted them to think about how God is and is not a father, to consider how our earthly fathers show and do not show us the loving face of our Creator, to ponder not how the universe came into existence but why it came into existence.
         The small group discussions were lively and the four couples thanked me for the opportunity to talk with the kids about something important and relevant.  There was no ‘fill in the blank’ answer sheets as in previous years; there was only adults and young people talking about their faith and about their uncertainties.  That night I sent the kids home with an assignment:  Have the same discussion with your parent or parents.
         A few days later the Rector called me into his office.  He had been overwhelmed by telephone calls and in-person conversations with several parents of the young people in the confirmation preparation programme.  ‘What kind of crazy curate have you hired?,’ was the theme of these conversations.  The parents wanted their kids to learn the answers about being an Anglican, about navigating the prayer book and such, not plague their parents with uncomfortable questions about one’s relationship with God!  Fortunately, the Rector supported me and the crisis was weathered.
         For far too long people, both religious and non-religious, have assumed that religious life is about answers rather than exploring the questions of our lives in the company of others.  Some of those others we can touch and see every day, while others we can only know through their experiences as recorded in the Christian scriptures, in the theologies and histories they wrote and in the stories of their own struggles to live in relationship with the Holy One of Israel who sent the Word into our midst and who continues to guide us through Holy Wisdom.
         What this fascination with ‘answers’ rather than a commitment to loving the questions that our relationship with God raises has accomplished can be quickly stated.  On the one hand, it has led to people leaving communities of faith when they begin to ask questions about the tradition.   Perhaps this is why so many young people leave the church, not just because they become more and more involved in various activities, but that we do not take their questions seriously and compassionately nor do we share with them our own questions and uncertainties.  I once suggested a replacement liturgy for confirmation; I called it the ‘Rite of Questioning’. 
         When a child turned twelve or thirteen, I suggested that we invite them forward during the eucharist for a very brief ceremony.  I would begin by telling them the story of Saint Thomas.  Then I would say, ‘You are now entering a time of your life when your job is to ask questions about everything, even God.  I ask you to make only one promise.  When you have a question about God or Jesus or the Spirit or the church or anything else about the Christian movement, I want you to promise that you will ask one of us first.  We promise to take your question seriously and to be honest when we do not have an answer or are unsure ourselves.  Will you promise to do this?’  No one has taken me up on this suggestion yet.
         On the other hand, our fascination with answers rather than questions has given rise to both conservative and liberal fundamentalisms.  Fundamentalists have answers for all the questions you or I may have about any aspect of our faith.  Since fundamentalists rapidly lose patience with people who have questions or doubts, they also contribute to the growing number of people I mentioned above who leave the community of faith when they realize they and their questions are not welcome.
         I love today’s story of Thomas; every time I hear it, I become more convinced that the role of the Christian community is to embrace those who have questions and those who have doubts.  In this story I see a model for our own times.  The apostolic community has just experienced the complete re-orientation of their world and their expectations.  Even first-century people knew that no one rises from the dead, yet here in their midst was Jesus, their teacher and, by his own words, their friend.  That experience was not ‘an answer’ but an invitation to live life in a new way, a way that would lead many of the early community to the farthest boundaries of the world as they knew it.
         Even Thomas could not stay away from this community, despite his not having shared their transformative experience on Easter.  And he was welcomed into their midst, with all his doubts, with all his questions.  Why?  Because even though the first witnesses to the resurrection had seen Jesus, they also had doubts and questions.  They also were uncertain as to what the future might mean for them.  But together, doubter and witnesses, they could face that future.  In prayer and study and conversation they could explore what the resurrection meant for them and for the world in which they lived.
         I hope that we are just such a community that welcomes the questioner and the doubter, a community that is willing to share our own uncertainties.  But let us also be a community that is committed to following the way of Jesus together, committed to the truth that God is not yet finished with us nor with our world, committed to living compassionately, generously, courageously even when we are uncertain as to what lies ahead.

         As the American expatriate author Gertrude Stein came to the end of her life, she asked her long-time companion, Alice B. Toklas, ‘What is the answer?’  When Toklas remained silent, Stein is said to have laughed and said, ‘In that case, what is the question?’  The life of faith is filled with questions and we are rewarded, from time to time, with insights that satisfy our longing for God and our longing for the coming of God’s promises.  But it is in the courage to question within the community of faith and to welcome the questioner and the doubter that the insights come.  Amen.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Maundy Thursday and Easter Vigil Sermons

On Maunday Thursday, the Rev'd Andrew Halladay, Priest in Charge of Saint Augustine's Marpole, preached at the Maundy Liturgy jointly celebrated by the the Parishes of Saint Faith and Saint Augustine.

On Easter Vigil, the Rev'd Christine Wilson, Deacon of Saint Faith's Vancouver and Pastoral Care Advocate of the Kerrisdale-Marpole Community Pastoral Resource Centre, preached at the Vigil jointly celebrated by the Parishes of Saint Faith and Saint Augustine.

Blessings to one and to all.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Do Not Be Afraid! (Easter 20 April 2014)

RCL Easter A
20 April 2014

Saint Faith's Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

            When I was in grade 7, I went swimming with a neighbour, a year or so older than I, at a local high school pool.  At that time my swimming skills were minimal, but I enjoyed being in the water.  I usually kept to the shallower end of the pool, never venturing close to the 'drop off' where the deeper water began.
            After being in the shallow end for a while, my friend, who was a better swimmer than I, said he was going to the deeper end of the pool.  For reasons I cannot remember, perhaps boyhood bravado, I followed him.  He dove in and I did the same.  He surfaced and I didn't.  I knew that I was drowning, but I could not prevent it.  I panicked and struggled without success towards the surface.  Just as I was about to breathe in a lungful of water, a hand reached in and pulled me to the surface.
            When I recovered my senses, I looked up at the face of my friend.  He was laughing.  I think he said something clever like, 'So, now you know what it means to get in over your head,' but all I could think of was the fear.
            In the years following I took a number of swimming classes and improved my skills considerably.  I knew that I would never be a great swimmer, but I knew that I could survive long enough to reach safety with the smallest shred of dignity!  But my fear of water was always there, perhaps a good fear, but fear nevertheless.
            So you can imagine my parents' surprise when, at the end of grade 10, I announced that I was joining the rest of my Explorer post, the senior branch of scouting in the United States, for a white-water rafting trip down the Yampa and Green Rivers in north-western Colorado and north-eastern Utah.  'Are you sure,' my father asked, 'we're talking white water here not a pool!' 
            The trip was glorious through canyons very similar to the Grand Canyon.  Two days before the trip ended, we prepared to navigate the roughest rapids on the Green River.  It was my turn to be in the smallest raft, four Explorers and a guide in the stern.  We planned our route, packed the raft and waited for our turn to enter the rapids.  The other larger rafts had already gone through the rapids and we could hear the cheers of our friends.  Their plan was to tie up to the riverbank, take an easy climb to some high ground to watch us pass through the rapids.
            The time came for us to cast off.  We knew that we were to avoid the centre of the rapids where there was a phenomenon that our guide simply called 'The Hole', a place where the water was travelling so fast and so powerfully that it created a space that would swallow a small raft such as ours.
            We had honed our skills in paddling and knew how to follow the directions of the guide.  We entered the rapids just as planned, but a sudden bump sent a hard plastic storage container into the air and into the head of our guide who was stunned by the impact.  Without our guide to direct us since he was the only one looking downriver, we were caught in the current and went directly into 'The Hole'.
            It swallowed us.  Water washed over us.  We clung on for our lives, literally.  We knew that our life vests were no match for the weight and power of the water.  And I thought, 'Well, this isn't as bad as the first time I drowned!'  In fact, I was calm and peaceful.
            Before we knew it, 'The Hole' spat us out and we found ourselves on the surface of the river and floating towards the riverbank where the other rafts were tied up.  Our friends had raced down the hill when they saw us pop out.  They treated our guide's head wound and they wisely left the other four of us sit in silence for about an hour.
            Fear is a real force in our lives.  Sometimes it is healthy and protects from harm.  But sometimes it prevents us from becoming who we are truly meant to be and to become.  Sometimes fear arises from within us, perhaps springing up from a deep source of hurt, uncertainty or unhappy memory.  Sometimes fear comes upon us from external sources as a means of influencing and controlling us.
            Twice in today's gospel we hear the words, 'Do not be afraid.'  The first time they are spoken, they are spoken by the angel to the brave women who risk arrest and possible death to visit the tomb where Jesus was laid.  The angel then reveals to them that Jesus has been raised from the dead and that they must share this message with the disciples.  They become the apostles to those who would later be called 'the' apostles.
            The second time the women hear these words, they hear them from Jesus.  This time, however, there is a difference.  It is not the fear of arrest or of death they face; it is the fear of sharing a message, a message that will change their lives and the lives of others.  They will have to tell the disciples that the world is not what they thought it was.  The power of death has been broken.  The most powerful empire the world has known cannot silence a Palestinian rabbi who preaches peace, compassion and self-giving.  Who is going to believe these women?  Why would they risk ridicule and accusations of hallucinations and so-called 'women's fantasies'?
            But these women have learned how to swim in these waters.  They know that they are entering rapids that are powerful and will carry them far beyond any expectations they may have had of what life would be.  They may be afraid, but they know that courage is not the absence of fear but the choice to carry on despite one's fears.
            My friends, on this Easter we awake to a world in which fear is all around us.  Some of this fear has reasonable causes:  political unrest, environmental change, economic crises.  Such fears have the power to control our lives and the lives of other communities throughout the world.  We can become paralyzed and simply await the coming catastrophe passively, whatever form is it supposed to take.  Just let the fear wash over us like the white waters of the Green River, taking us down into the deeps.
            But those who have heard the message of the Resurrection have the same vocation as the women who went to the tomb so long ago.  We have good news to proclaim to the poor and to the rich, to neighbours, friends and families.  We have a message to share, a message that can help people navigate the turbulent waters of this life with justice, with compassion and with our sisters and brothers, whether of our faith or not.
            We proclaim that Jesus of Nazareth is not dead, simply a person of the past whose dust has mixed with the soil of ancient Palestine.  We dare to say that Christ is risen and that he continues to achieve God's purposes for us and for all of creation through communities of faith such as ours, some larger, some smaller, some able to practice their faith freely, some only able to do so covertly.
            These communities bring good news to the oppressed, those who oppressed by their riches as well as those oppressed by their poverty.  These communities bring healing to those who are broken in body, mind and spirit.  These communities break the bonds of those who are held in prisons, whether those prisons are made of concrete and steel or made of the hurts and fears that imprison the heart and the soul.
            But these communities, especially those in North America, are often afraid to share this good news.  We are uncertain of how our message will be received and how our friends, neighbours and families will think of us.  The generous, compassionate and future-oriented Christian faith in which many of us have been raised and nurtured is overshadowed by our wider society's perception that all Christians are narrow, judgemental and living in some mythical past.  So long as we remain silent, so long as we keep our story entre nous, this false perception will take the day.
            Friends, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!  The powers of his world and time that feed on fear are active in our own world and time.  But they cannot overcome the life that is Christ's --- and that is ours in Christ.  The message that these powers sought to silence two thousand years ago cannot be silenced for it is the Song of the One who made all things, it is the 'deep magic' that is at work around us, in us and through us.
            Just as the women left the garden and entered into the fast-flowing river of their time, daring to share with the world the message of the Resurrection, let us go forth into our river, into our rapids, facing our fears and sharing the good news of God in Christ.

            My sisters and brothers, do not be afraid.  'Goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death; victory is ours through Jesus who loved us.'  (Desmond Tutu as quoted in Janet Morley, ed., Bread for Tomorrow:  Prayers for the Christian Year 1992, 117).  Amen. 

Prayers with the Dying

Yesterday I received a telephone call from a care facility I regularly visit and celebrate the Eucharist.  A resident is dying and the family wanted to know if I would come and anoint her today.  It turns out she attended Saint Faith's in the 1960's.  Since the rite in The Book of Alternative Services is not liturgically robust, I found that I needed to edit a rite for this occasion using resources from various Anglican sources. 

So, on this Holy Saturday, when God's Beloved rests in the tomb awaiting the Resurrection, I share with you my work.

Prayers with the Dying

Prepared by the Rev’d Dr Richard Geoffrey Leggett
Holy Saturday 2014

The Gathering of the Community


Blessed be the holy Trinity, one God,
the fountain of living water,
the rock who gave us birth,
our light and our salvation.  Amen. [i]

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  
Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
John 11.25-26

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Romans 8.38-39


Let us pray.

Eternal God,
grant to your servant
[and to us who surround her/him with our prayers] 
your peace beyond understanding. 
Give us faith, the comfort of your presence
and the words to say to one another and to you,
as we gather in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. [ii]

The Proclamation of the Word

One or more of the following may be read:  Psalm 23; Psalm 91; Psalm 121; Psalm 139; John 6.35-40; John 14.1-6, 23, 27.

The Prayers of the Community

The Litany

Let us offer our prayers for N, saying,
‘God of compassion, we commend N to you.’

Holy God, Creator of heaven and earth,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

Holy and Mighty, Redeemer of the world,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

Holy Immortal One, Sanctifier of the faithful,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, one God,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

By your Holy Incarnation,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

By your Cross and Passion,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

By your precious death and burial,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

By your glorious Resurrection and Ascension,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

By the coming of the Holy Spirit,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

For deliverance from all evil, all sin and all tribulation,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

For deliverance from eternal death,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

For forgiveness of all sins,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

For a place of refreshment at your heavenly banquet,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

For joy and gladness with your saints in light,
God of compassion, we commend N to you.

Then may be added,

Jesus, Lamb of God:
have mercy upon your servant.

Jesus, bearer of our sins:
have mercy upon your servant.

Jesus, redeemer of the world:
grant her/him your peace. [iii]

The Lord’s Prayer

As our Saviour taught, let us pray,
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and for ever.  Amen.


And now, as our Saviour Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Gives us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Commendation


If so desired, the presider may anoint the dying person using one of the following forms.

Form 1

The presider anoints the forehead of the dying person, saying,

N, go forth upon your journey from this world,
in the name of God the Father almighty who created you;
in the name of Jesus Christ who suffered death for you;
in the name of the Holy Spirit who strengthens you;
in communion with the blessed saints,
aided by angels and archangels
and all the armies of the heavenly host.
May your portion this day be in peace
and your dwelling the heavenly Jerusalem.  Amen. [iv]


Form 2

The presider anoints the eyes, the ears, the nose, the mouth and the hands of the dying person, saying,

N, may you behold the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem.
May you hear the angelic voices singing the praise of God.
May you smell the fragrance of God’s love for you and for all creation.
May you taste the banquet prepared for all the faithful from the beginning of time.
May you embrace once more all those whom you have loved and who have loved you.  Amen. [v]


After the anointing, the presider then says one of the following,

N, go forth from this world:
in the love of God the Father who created you,
in the mercy of Jesus Christ who redeemed you,
in the power of the Holy Spirit who strengthens you.
May the heavenly host sustain you
and the company of heaven enfold you.
In communion with all the faithful,
may you dwell this day in peace.  Amen. [vi]


Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world;
in the name of God the Father almighty who created you;
in the name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you;
in the name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you.
May your rest be this day in peace
and your dwelling place the paradise of God.  Amen. [vii]


Loving and merciful God,
we entrust our brother/sister to your mercy.
You loved her/him greatly in this life;
now that he/she is freed from all its cares,
give her/him happiness and peace for ever.
The old order has passed away;
welcome her/him into paradise
where there will be no more sorrow,
no more weeping or pain, but only peace and joy
with Jesus, your Son, and the Holy Spirit,
for ever and ever.  Amen. [viii]

The Blessing

Then the presider concludes with one of the following,

God grant us to share
in the inheritance of the saints in glory;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be with us, now and always.  Amen. [ix]


May the eternal God,
the Lover who created all things,
the Beloved who shared our humanity
and the Love who unites all creation,
bless and keep us,
guard our bodies,
save our souls
and bring us safe to the heavenly country,
our eternal home.  Amen. [x]

[i] Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 97.

[ii] Common Worship:  Pastoral Services (2001), 222.

[iii] Enriching Our Worship 2:  Ministry with the Sick or Dying; Burial of a Child (2000), 102-103 alt.

[iv] Common Worship:  Pastoral Services (2001), 229 alt.

[v] Composed by the Rev’d Dr Richard Geoffrey Leggett (2014).

[vi] Common Worship:  Pastoral Services (2001), 229.

[vii] The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 564.

[viii] The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 564.

[ix] The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 564.

[x] Common Worship:  Pastoral Services (2001), 233 alt.