Free “Gift of Lent” Resource for Churches and Individuals

We are familiar with prayer, but in some quarters of the church “Almsgiving” during Lent has fallen out of focus.  Almsgiving is defined as the practice of giving money or food to the poor.

As explained by Archbishop Foley Beach, “Throughout the Church’s history, Christians have given alms as a Lenten discipline, following Christ’s command to love the lost and least. During Lent, the Anglican Church in North America encourages you to make giving to the poor central to your Lenten fast.”

The Anglican Church in North America has collaborated with The Anglican Relief and Development Fund, the Matthew 25 Initiative, and LeaderWorks to provide GiftofLent.org to help you enter into God’s chosen fast as described in Isaiah 58:6-7: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”

For Anglicans, this biblical discipline is reflected in the 38th article of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion that “every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.”

On this resource website, you will be greeted with a video message from Archbishop Beach that further explains almsgiving, and that you can share in your congregation.  You will also find daily readings of morning and evening prayer, see stories of disciples from around the province living into this chosen fast, and experience Lent through featured artwork. To cap it off, each week you can hear amazing stories from ministries living out the Isaiah 58 fast and have the opportunity to join in the ancient almsgiving tradition by donating to your ministry of choice.

On February 14th, Ash Wednesday, Lent begins, a season of fasting. Each day, a new story from around the province will be posted. Each week, a new piece of art will be featured. Daily, morning and evening prayer will be offered. You are encouraged to sign-up here for weekly emails highlighting these featured content updates.

The website is live now. Click here to begin exploring this Lenten resource, GiftofLent.org.



Report from the ACNA College of Bishops

January 8-12 marked the tenth time that Sally and I, with Bishop Quigg and Annette, have gathered with the ACNA bishops and wives for fellowship, teaching, and daily worship, and to do our collective work in council together. By now, it has become a bi-annual reunion of good friends and colleagues, a familiar and blessed collegium.

The regular pattern includes a daily Eucharist and lots of reports during the week. We hear from the archbishop, leaders of major categories of our collective ministry (e.g., ecumenical affairs, international activities, etc.), leaders of specific task forces and initiatives (catechism, liturgy, youth ministry, etc.), and leaders of core operational systems (communications, finance, etc.). Many of the reports call for on-the spot discussion, prayer, decision, and action. Imagine a parish annual meeting, or a Diocesan synod, on steroids, stretching for 3½ full days, in a retreat setting, surrounded by huddles of people talking about issues.

I know, many of you read that and think “I’d rather have three root canals!” But hold on. Take the “most boring” aspect of such a scene – dozens of reports. These reports come from people who have a deep passion and calling to specific ministries. Each of them represents teams of people who have put in countless hours to do the work of God in our Province. Almost never has any report, in any area, dipped into procedural swamps or bureaucratic mazes. They come with heart and love for Jesus and his Gospel. They are about people, by people, for the sake of people. They are filled with stories of answered prayer, or calls for renewed and strengthened prayer in the face of challenges.

Something else that always happens is teaching. This January, we had our minds opened by a presentation on the history of racism and the church from Dr. Albert Thompson, an African-American academic who attends an ACNA church. If you want a new (and biblical) way to see this issue, take time to watch this: http://anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/1594 

Let me tell you three stories that give more flavor of our meetings. On one end was one of our most “spiritual” activities – electing (or not) an assisting bishop for the Special Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy. We committed a ½-day to this crucial responsibility. The examination of the candidates was friendly but pulled no punches. The testimonies of the two men were powerful, but what about core issues of theology? What about their vision for their work? How do they understand and articulate this call? What happens if the other is elected?

At the end of the 2+ hours of examination, the College continued in discussion and prayer for another 90 minutes. Through our examination, we had come to realize the profound need to care and equip chaplains who serve in military bases scattered all over the world. We heard stories of chaplains ministering in cases of extreme PTSD or serving families whose spouse / parent is lost or permanently disabled by enemy fire. We heard two men whose love and commitment to the chaplains is clear. As we prayed, there was a genuine move of the Spirit. We were surprised at what unfolded, but we were completely united: we decided to elect both – two assisting bishops rather than one. We rejoiced, celebrating the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit among us.

Go to the other extreme of our work, being schooled on congregational reporting from every church in each Diocese. (I hear the groans.) But the heart of Canon Andrew Gross to see the stories and messages behind the statistics, and to enable us to connect and communicate well, reflects the heart of Jesus. Andrew’s humor made even that work fun, and out of it came a discussion (stories) about encouraging clergy to finish this work well. (I am proud that the Diocese of Christ our Hope is one of the Dioceses that does best at this. Kudos to our team!)

Finally, a third story: We heard reports from three bishops who had to intervene in crises of clergy failure. These were hard, sad stories, laden with warnings to all of us about proactively guarding and protecting the Church. Nevertheless, as tough as this was, faithful intervention of godly bishops brought redemptive grace and protection for victims and sufferers, peaceful order to local churches, and in most cases the opportunity for repentance and a meaningful future (out of the ministry) for those who had failed. Altogether these reports united the College in renewed determination and prayer for holiness and integrity.

I share this report to encourage you that we are part of a Province that does good, godly Gospel work from the local parish to the College. The bishops of the ACNA are honest and committed enough to be agents of growth and healing amongst ourselves, as a College, and to carry health into every aspect of the leadership of our Dioceses. They are trustworthy, godly men who take the call to shepherd Christ’s flock with eternal seriousness.

Here’s a link to the official communique: http://www.anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/1583 As you read, remember that underneath this clipped summary is a week of great, prayer-filled work by bishops for the glory of Jesus and the sake of his Church. 

Toward a New Anglican Psalter

Have you noticed that the Psalter texts in the Daily Office (Morning and Evening Prayer, Midday Prayer, Compline, and Family Prayer) and the Sunday Scripture inserts are different? Do you have any idea what the Coverdale Psalter is or what any of this means? Do you wonder why there is a change and, even more importantly, why it matters?

Well, this is an incredible project with historical roots and potentially a great future impact.


The Purpose of the Psalms


Every prayer book since the very first in 1549 has used a translation of the Psalter. The Psalter is a very important piece of Anglican liturgies and is an essential part of prayer disciplines worldwide. According to Archbishop Emeritus Robert Duncan, Chair of the Liturgy Task Force, the complete Psalter is the most frequently read book in the Bible and was, historically, read and sung in households and churches every month.

But if you read closely, the translation of the Psalter used in prayer book liturgies, is somewhat different from the English Standard Version (ESV) or New International Version (NIV) translation of Scripture commonly found in our pew Bibles.  These are differences not of substance, but of style. The Psalms were originally composed for worship.  While a word-for-word translation from the Hebrew, such as the ESV, may be best for study, this type of translation can mute the rhythm, meter, and musicality original to the Psalms.  Psalters designed for worship allow the verses to poetically flow or be sung, a quality that facilitates the beauty and wonder of worship often found in the Anglican liturgy.


A (Very) Brief History of the Anglican Coverdale Psalter


In 1539, under the direction of King Henry VIII, Miles Coverdale produced the Great Bible, within which was what became known as the Coverdale Psalter, the liturgical translation in every Anglican prayer book until the 1960s.

In 1963, the Church of England attempted to update the Coverdale Psalms to more modern language – with a committee including notable members T.S. Elliot and C.S. Lewis – but the Cathedral musicians opposed the revision [musical psalters would have to be rewritten] and their update was not adopted.

The older Coverdale Psalter continued to be used until the 1979 Prayer Book when a new liturgical translation was produced. Unfortunately, this translation was a break from the turn-of-phrase of every previous Prayer Book and from the global Anglican language for prayer.  Sometimes even the new translation, while technically correct, was not as comprehensible to contemporary understanding. (See an example below).

Which brings us to the historic moment we as the Anglican Church in North America are currently in. The Lord has blessed us with gifted scholars who are willing to take on the challenge to renew the Coverdale Psalter translation with modern language, clarity, and musicality.


Toward A Renewed Anglican Coverdale Psalter


The Liturgy Task Force Psalter subcommittee, chaired by the Ven. Darrell Critch, a musically trained Anglican Church in North America rector, along with seminary professors and Old Testament scholars Erika Moore (Trinity School for Ministry), Travis Bott (Nashotah House), and John Crutchfield (Columbia International University), is building on the work of Lewis and Eliot to renew the Coverdale Psalter.

Archbishop Duncan detailed that “when we renew a Psalm, the scholars look at the Coverdale and ask ‘is this an accurate or reasonable translation?’ Then, they determine if it is understandable in modern English.” Then they compare it to the 1963 version. They renew the translation accordingly.

Rather than creating a new translation, like the 1979 prayer book, the Task Force is seeking to update the Coverdale. Unlike the Church of England committee work in 1963, this edition replaces the “thees” and “thys” and 16th century verb forms with contemporary language.

The Renewed Coverdale Psalter is historic. And like the recent release of the Catechism, the Liturgy Task Force and the College of Bishops believe it will be “a gift to the whole Anglican world,” said Archbishop Duncan.

The Task Force encourages you, the members of the Anglican Church in North America, to follow along with the renewal of the Coverdale Psalms. As of January 15, 2018, the Psalter subcommittee has produced 34 renewed Psalms. The scholars meet every week by conference call to review and produce two to four more renewed Psalms, prioritizing those that are most used and following the order of the Sunday lectionary (the leaflet Scripture inserts can be found here: http://www.anglicanchurch.net/index.php/main/tcp_leafleat_yearb/).

If you would like to send your feedback on your experience of the Renewed Coverdale Psalter, you can email the Liturgy Task Force at liturgytaskforce@anglicanchurch.net. The Task Force carefully reviews all comments received.



An Example From Psalm 95


Commentary from Archbishop Duncan: The 1979 Book of Common Prayer’s translation of Psalm 95:8 refers to Meribah and Massah, which are names of places meaning, in Hebrew, provocation and temptation. As one submission of feedback pointed out, “provocation” and “temptation” are the way the Letter to the Hebrews refers to these places – just as Coverdale did. In the 21st century, (just as in the 16th) these terms are more readily comprehensible to the lay person reading the psalm than “Meribah” and “Massah.”

English Standard Version

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test

1979 BCP

Harden not your hearts, as your forebears did in the wilderness, *
  at Meribah, and on that day at Massah, when they tempted me.

Coverdale

To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts *
as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness;

Renewed Coverdale

Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts *
as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness.

To learn more about the Liturgy Task Force and providing feedback, click here.