Saturday, 6 November 2010

Full-bodied Anglicanism

Last night here in rural Staffordshire, we had our own impressive display of fireworks... actually the fireworks display was away in town, down in the valley below and clearly visible from our heightened patch. Folk came from all over, parked their people carriers on the side of the road and watched the dazzling display for free. I'm sure the same will happen today and tomorrow as people flock to this part of the county turning the side of the road into a car park-cum-viewing platform. The 5th of November is a well-championed date in the UK's national psyche and one that gets the crowds out and about celebrating. One of the key ways in which the 5th of November was celebrated in the past, was by a service commissioned and promoted by the Church of England. The service was entitled the “Form of Prayer with Thanksgiving, to be used yearly upon the Fifth Day of November for the happy Deliverance of the King, and the Three Estates of the Realm, from the most Traiterous and Bloudy intended Massacre by Gun-Powder”. Sadly this service has been dropped from the Book of Common Prayer in recent centuries. 
Now admittedly, one reason why this service was abandoned was because of its politically incorrect overtones and somewhat forthright language. However, consider the prayer below which introduced the service and wasted no time in exalting the True God and rebuking false religion
ALMIGHTY God, who hast in all ages shewed thy power and mercy in the miraculous and gracious deliverance of thy Church, and in the protection of righteous and religious Kings and States, professing thy holy and eternal truth, from the wicked conspiracies and malicious practices of all the enemies thereof;
We yield thee our unfeigned thanks and praise for the wonderful and mighty deliverance of our late gracious Sovereign King James, the Queen, the Prince, and all the Royal Branches, with the Nobility, Clergy, and Commons of England, then assembled in Parliament, by Popish treachery appointed as sheep to the slaughter, in a most barbarous, and savage manner, beyond the examples of former ages.
From this unnatural conspiracy, not our merit, but thy mercy; not our foresight, but thy providence, delivered us: And therefore, not unto us, O Lord, not unto us; but unto thy Name be ascribed all honour and glory in all Churches of the saints, from generation to generation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Now I'm almost certain that most of our Anglican clergy would suffer a tiny bit of indigestion at saying such a prayer (not least the Archbishop of Canterbury who hosted the Bishop of Rome recently!) but isn't it refreshing to see the utter confidence in God's sovereignty that our forebears displayed? The prayer highlights Guido "guy" Fawkes' capture was not down to our merit, but rather by God's mercy and thus we are led to declare that it is to Him and Him alone, that all glory and honour is due, both now and ever more, AMEN.

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