ERD Sunday encouraged, liturgy for companion animals proposed

July 14, 2009

The Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music committee on July 15 approved a long list of resolutions for consideration by the House of Bishops.

Among others, the resolutions recommend establishing an Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) Sunday during Lent; referring resolutions to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) that propose an alternate Baptismal Covenant and various calendar commemorations, including a possible creation season; directing SCLM to develop a rite to observe the loss of a companion animal; and directing the commission to confer with the Standing Commission for Constitution and Canons about matters affecting liturgical translations.

Resolution A178 originally asked for the first Sunday in Lent to be designated ERD Sunday, but several committee members objected either to designating a Sunday or to specifying that particular Sunday.

"I think it's really important for us to remember our liturgical calendar and how primary that is for us," said the Rev. Ruth Meyers (Chicago), adding, "I fully agree that Lent is an appropriate time for us to be remembering the work of Episcopal Relief and Development and give special attention to supporting it."

"I really don't like naming a particular Sunday," said Chicago Bishop Jeffrey Lee. His preference was for "during the season of Lent" or, if specifying a Sunday, making it the fourth Sunday of Lent, he said. "The first Sunday of Lent is such a major feast of our year."

Luke Fodor of ERD told the committee, "The whole idea is just to underscore the work that Episcopal Relief and Development does, and Lent is an ideal time to do that. I know having one particular Sunday is easier to do resourcing for it, but I think having a Sunday in Lent works easily as well."

The amended resolution the committee recommended would "encourage dioceses, congregations and individuals to remember and support the lifesaving work of Episcopal Relief and Development during Lent through prayer and a special offering."

The committee also recommended referring to SLM an amended version of Resolution D005, which proposes an alternate Baptismal Covenant for possible inclusion in supplemental prayer book materials. The proposed rite rephrases the format of the affirmations so that those making the vows, rather than the celebrant, state the content of the affirmations. For example, the celebrant would ask, "How will you each remain faithful to these things you believe?" and the people would reply: "With God's help, by continuing in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers."

Some committee members praised the alternate form as a way for adults joining the church to claim the words of the covenant and, as Cynthia Bartol (Virginia) stated, "take responsibility for what they are promising."

Several members, however, urged caution.

"What we have to consider," said Bethlehem Bishop Paul Marshall, "…is that even in the Rite 3 marriage service you have to use the vows in the regular marriage service based on the idea that everybody in the church who makes that fundamental life commitment has to use the same words … so it's a big step to say that in an even more fundamental commitment, there is a choice about how you say the words. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I'm just saying this would be a serious step."

Lee said, "I would find it a very helpful catechumenal resource. I think it is a very big step to offer it as an alternative."

"With due regard for some very creative work, I will be voting against this resolution," said Missouri Bishop George Wayne Smith, bishops' committee chair. "The precious unity that we have achieved around the Baptismal Covenant in its current form is something that I'm not willing to sacrifice."

Further resolutions the committee recommended for referral to SCLM address establishing a liturgical Creation Cycle for use during the season after Pentecost and adding to the church calendar commemorations of: the first ordinations of women to the priesthood in the church; the Rev. Pauli Murray; John Jay; Brother William West Skiles; the Rev. Frederick B. "Ted" Howden; St. Andronicus and Junia; Manteo; Virginia Dare; Archdeacon James Solomon Russell; Bishop E. Thomas Demby; Dr. James Markham Ambler; Thecla; and Gifford Pinchot.

Another resolution seeks to allow for more poetic and less literal translations of liturgies into other languages, explained the Very Rev. Ernesto Medina (Nebraska). "I believe it to be profoundly important."