Daily public prayer

1. Morning and Evening Prayer shall be said or sung in every parish church at least on all Sundays and other principal Feast Days. Each service shall be said or sung distinctly, reverently, and in an audible voice.

2. On all other days the minister of the parish, together with other ministers licensed to serve in the parish, shall make such provision for Morning and Evening Prayer to be said or sung either in the parish church as may best serve to sustain the corporate spiritual life of the parish. Public notice shall be given in the parish, by tolling the bell or other appropriate means, of the time and place where the prayers are to be said or sung.

Canons of the Church of England – B 11 Morning and Evening Prayer in parish Churches

The threat of 'relevance'

It is one of the most deeply rooted superstitions of our age that the purpose of education is to benefit those who receive it. What we teach in school, what subjects we encourage in universities and the methods of instruction are all subject to the one overarching test: what do the kids get out of it? And this test soon gives way to another, yet more pernicious in its effect, but no less persuasive in the thinking of educationists: is it relevant? And by “relevantâ€? is invariably meant “relevant to the interests of the kids themselvesâ€?.

From these superstitions have arisen all the recipes for failure that have dominated our educational systems: the proliferation of ephemeral subjects, the avoidance of difficulties, methods of teaching that strive to maintain interest at all costs – even at the cost of knowledge. Whether we put the blame on Rousseau, whose preposterous book Emile began the habit of sentimentalising the process whereby knowledge is transferred from one brain to another, on John Dewey, whose hostility to “rote learningâ€? and old-fashioned discipline led to the fashion for “child-centred learningâ€?, or simply on the egalitarian ideas which were bound to sweep through our schools when teachers were no longer properly remunerated – in whatever way we apportion blame, it is clear that we have entered a period of rapid educational decline, in which some people learn masses, but the masses learn little or nothing at all.

True teachers do not provide knowledge as a benefit to their pupils; they treat their pupils as a benefit to knowledge. Of course they love their pupils, but they love knowledge more. And their overriding concern is to pass on that knowledge by lodging it in brains that will last longer than their own. Their methods are not “child-centredâ€? but “knowledge-centredâ€?, and the focus of their interest is the subject, rather than the things that might make that subject for the time being “relevantâ€? to matters of no intellectual concern. Any attempt to make education relevant risks reducing it to those parts that are of relevance to the uneducated – which are invariably the parts with the shortest life span. A relevant curriculum is one from which the difficult core of knowledge has been excised, and while it may be relevant now, it will be futile in a few years’ time. Conversely, irrelevant-seeming knowledge, when properly acquired, is not merely a discipline that can be adapted and applied; it is likely to be exactly what is needed in circumstances that nobody foresaw.

Roger Scruton Culture Counts

Challenged to make the difference

If the Catholic community is engaged on these issues, working closely with evangelical Christians, observant Jews, and people of goodwill and sound moral judgment of other faiths and even of no particular religious faith, grave injustices and the erosion of central moral principles will be, to a significant extent, averted. Indeed, with respect to both marriage and the sanctity of human life, earlier reverses may themselves be reversed. If, on the other hand, the Catholic community compromises itself, abdicates its responsibilities, and sits on the sidelines, the already deeply wounded institution of marriage will collapse and the brave new world of biotechnology will transform procreation into manufacture, and nascent human life into mere disposable “research material.â€?
An alert and engaged Catholic community would recognize that these issues are in our hands. We cannot do it by ourselves; but our allies cannot win without us, nor can they lose with us. Our activity in the political sphere and in other dimensions of the culture will make the critical difference. I believe that Catholics need to be told so by the leaders of the Church in no uncertain terms. We faithful need to be challenged to make the difference we can make—by the example we set in our own lives and by carrying out our duties as citizens of a democratic republic. God, in his wonderful and mysterious providence, has set before us an opportunity for a special kind of greatness, the greatness that comes only in times of the most profound danger.

This is no time for Catholics to be looking inward, gazing at our navels, too embarrassed (or desirous of the approval of cultural elites or fearful of their disapproval) to speak to the moral crisis of the culture. On the contrary, now is the time to bring our Christian witness, the very practical and effective love of Christ, unabashedly to the culture. Bishops need to lead on this, but not by becoming politicians; the primary responsibility to work in the political sphere falls to the laity. But bishops and clergy do their part when they challenge those of us in the laity to fulfill that great responsibility. Their role is to encourage, exhort, and even cajole us to do the right thing. Moreover, they should never hesitate to reprove us when we fail in our obligations to defend human life, marriage, and the common good, as far too many Catholics, including Catholics prominent in public life, have done and, alas, are doing.

Robert George Danger and Opportunity

Well-ordered worship – Anglican canons

1. All persons present in the time of divine service shall audibly with the minister make the answers appointed and in due place join in such parts of the service as are appointed to be said or sung by all present.

2. They shall give reverent attention in the time of divine service, give due reverence to the name of the Lord Jesus and stand at the Creed and the reading of the Holy Gospel at the Holy Communion. When the Prayers are read and Psalms and canticles are said or sung, they shall have regard to the rubrics of the service and locally established custom in the matter of posture, whether of standing, kneeling or sitting.

Canons of the Church of England – Divine Service B 9 Of reverence and attention to be used in the time of divine service

Canons, you ask? What are canons? Canons are the rules that enable Christian discipleship and the freedom that results from it. They enable learning, formation, discipline and the mutual service of Christian love. Ask your clergy how the canons enable us to learn mutual love, and whether they are grateful for the good ruling, practices and traditions of the faith they have received. We don’t need to make this faith up, you see, because it has been given to us. It is a gift, and as we recognise it for what it is, we also pass this gift on, undefaced.

The direction of the service should be removed from the worship leaders,

1) The direction of the service should be removed entirely from the hands of the worship leaders, and solidly and unequivocally returned to, and made the whole responsibility of, the pastoral authority of the church. If a worship leader is retained, he must understand that he is wholly subordinate to that authority, having no standing whatever as such to determine the form or content of the service. (I would also add that giving this person pastoral status and title does not fix the problem. If that is done, one must say explicitly that the responsibility is that of the teaching authority of the church, normally vested in the Senior Pastor.)

2) The attraction of inquirers to the principal service of worship—which, after all, should culminate in a communion in which they cannot yet participate—is to be subordinated to the theological and doxological integrity of the service itself.

3) Words to all music sung in the service must be studied and approved by pastoral authority as theologically sound, and unapologetically rejected when not, no matter how beautiful the music to which they are set, or how beloved by the congregation.

4) The service of worship is not to be conducted as if it were a show in which some of the worshippers are performing for others, but rather all present should be worshipping God in every aspect of the proceedings. Musicians should be placed and used so as to give glory to God rather than themselves, and should present themselves accordingly both in dress and demeanor. Prayers should not, for example, be used as an opportunity to move about or change settings.

5) It must be understood and attended to by the pastoral authority that the service does not take place in a vacuum where it is free to innovate as it will, but participates in the worship of the whole church in heaven and earth, to which it is called not only to add its own unique voice, but to conform that voice to a pattern that lies outside itself. This conformance should be a matter of constant study and meditation on the part of the pastor and elders of the church. To leave it to the tastes of the congregation or to a professional worship leader is a dereliction of pastoral duty.

6) It must be understood and accepted that what results from this, while it should be of firm integrity and deep beauty, may not be a “popularâ€? product for that very reason. No proportion is to be expected between faithfulness in these matters and congregational size.

S.M. Hutchens One Foundational Observation, and Six Rules

What is Hutchen’s one foundational observation? That the Church devote itself to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers (Acts 2:42). There’s lots more on worship at Touchstone

The Eschatological Economy

The Eschatological Economy: Time and the Hospitality of God is a book about Christian theology proper, that is, about the economy of God. In six chapters, Knight discusses the realms of being and becoming from the perspective of the scriptures, historical theology, systematic theology, and philosophy, and suggests a direction in which the Trinitarian doctrine of God defines the world and human existence.

Fundamental to this task is a theory of persons in relationship that unfolds to a series of new analogies for God’s work in creation, the human being, the church, and the modern world. Knight argues that the modern world is based on a truncated economy of nature that is unable to establish its identity. Thus, he offers a manifesto for theological discussion and religious language that places the economy of the one God at the center of the modern understanding of life.

As a result, Knight defines the responsibilities of contemporary theology as restating and reformulating the public and political purpose of the doctrine of God. This challenging book is an ambitious project that engages the powers of the theological discipline by changing the terminology of the discussion and bringing into conversation an almost unmanageable variety of voices and aspects.

The persistent reader is rewarded with a plethora of new ideas that will challenge the modern debate on questions of the continuing significance of theological inquiry, the responsibility of the church, and the understanding of God’s work driven by an eschatological vision of the end, the hope that God has for humanity.

Wolfgang Vondey Regent University Religious Studies Review 33.1 (2007): 42.

A Theology of Public Life

I like the look of

Charles T. Mathewes A Theology of Public Life

What has Washington to do with Jerusalem? In the raging debates about the relationship between religion and politics, no one has explored the religious benefits and challenges of public engagement for Christian believers – until now. This ground-breaking book defends and details Christian believers’ engagement in contemporary pluralistic public life not from the perspective of some neutral ‘public’, but from the particular perspective of Christian faith, arguing that such engagement enriches both public life and Christian citizens’ faith themselves. As such it offers not a ‘public theology’, but a ‘theology of public life’, analyzing the promise and perils of Christian public engagement, discussing the nature of civic commitment and prophetic critique, and the relation of a loving faith to a liberal politics of justice. Theologically rich, philosophically rigorous, politically, historically and sociologically informed, this book advances contemporary discussion of ‘religion and public life’ in fundamental ways.

Introduction: life in the epilogue, during the world

Part I. A Theology of Engagement
1. Life before God
2. Life in the world
3. Life together

Part II. The Liturgy of Citizenship
4. Faithful citizenship
5. Hopeful citizenship
6. Charitable citizenship

Conclusion: The republic of grace; or, the public ramifications of heaven.

Asylum

Working on behalf of the Churches’ Main Committee (representing the spread of Christian denominations in the UK), I have studied a great number of tribunal determinations on asylum claims from across the country, especially claims from people whose conversion to Christianity makes it unsafe for them to return to countries such as Iran.

The adjudicators lack an understanding of the nature of conversion and the differing Christian cultures, whether in this country or in the country of origin. Frequently, ridiculous test questions are asked such as: “What is the number of books in the Bible?â€? and “What is the birth date of Jesus Christ?â€? (You have to say December 25.) Failure to produce the required reply breeds a disbelief which prejudices fair judgment.

Many of these applicants are respected members of their congregations and communities, yet evidence by their bishops, clergy and laity who know them best is swept aside by the tribunals.

Dismissal of appeals has led to dawn arrests and deportations at weekends, when it is hard to get preventive injunctions. Legal aid changes have hugely reduced the professional support which can be obtained. On numerous occasions the Home Office has had its fingers rapped by the courts for its refusal to observe due process.

If Labour does lose the next election, it will be partly because all across the country Christian people have lost faith in a government now obsessed with currying popularity rather than standing for justice.

The Very Rev Nicholas Coulton Letter to the Times

And see the Evangelical Alliance’s Alltogether for Asylum Justice – Asylum seekers’ conversion to Christianity (large PDF)
Asylum seekers are in danger of becoming some of the most vulnerable, alienated and demonized members of society.

Churches are central to community engagement and often provide a first port of call to newly arrived asylum seekers as they provide certain core services such as food and clothing, English language courses, and shelter for individuals at risk. It is for this reason that asylum seekers often become engaged with not only the practical side of church life, but also spiritual aspects. Asylum seekers of other faiths and those of no faith often become attracted to Christianity through the work of churches and Christians offering to help them at times of great need. It is, therefore, unsurprising to hear of stories of asylum seekers who convert to Christianity once in the UK. This, however, can complicate their application for asylum. Having arrived in the UK fleeing religious, racial or political persecution in their homeland and initially applying for asylum on those grounds, a conversion to Christianity can provide reason for a fresh claim to be lodged with the Borders and Immigration Agency.

While there are inevitably a proportion of bogus claims of Christian conversion, there remain many asylum seekers who have genuinely chosen to follow the Christian faith. Having had their asylum application refused, they face being sent back to countries where it is not safe for them to practice their faith.

The case studies included in this report are evidence of a number of asylum seekers who, having applied for asylum in the UK under reasons of political persecution, subsequently applied for asylum on the grounds of religious persecution.

Christian human rights organisations such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Release International know it is often unsafe to return a practising Christian to an Islamic country let alone return an apostate (a convert to Christianity) to an Islamic country where conversion is illegal. Therefore, there are grave implications for returning asylum seekers who have converted to Christianity to countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The report includes case studies:

Mrs S became a Christian three years ago after she arrived in the UK from Iran. Her husband is a Muslim. His application for political asylum has been refused. Her fresh application, on the grounds of religious persecution, was refused. The Judge didn’t believe that she was a Christian. He accused her pastor, a leader of an Arabic Church, of bias towards her. He is an Iraqi Christian, Mrs S is an Iranian convert.

Mrs S would suffer persecution if she were to return to Iran. Her relatives and friends do not accept conversion. She would be unemployable and subject to physical abuse if returned to Iran.

Mrs S has experienced exclusion for the Iranian community in Wales who can’t accept her conversion from Islam to Christianity.

and see Persecution.org