I love Corpus Christi and over the last few years in Cardiff and Bristol I've struggled to find places which keep it as well as LSM did in Cambridge on the historic date of the Thursday after Easter. For example last year at All Saints', Clifton only the Sanctuary party processed and only around church. So this year as I had two days off (my weekend) and I hadn't been to Cambridge for over 6 months I decided the best plan was a trip to Cambridge. This was only my second trip back since LSM got a new vicar and my first since he started changing things last Advent.
This meant that I had an internal voice noticing, and often criticising, what was different. "They've changed it; it's wrong" being an easy pattern into which to fall, possibly especially with liturgy where the rhythm is in the repetition.
The biggest difference was that rather than a sheet (a6 on a weekday festival) with the propers (references only for readings) and page references we had a service sheet with all we said on it, with explanations of what the priest was doing in other bits (e.g. Eucharistic prayer). I can see why this had been done, but I found the tone slightly patronising, I think because it was in the first person plural and because I've mainly come across explanations like that in material aimed at children. I also found calling the collect the opening prayer odd; it felt like dumbing down and isn't accurate. What about the collect for purity and confession? Aren't they prayers?
I also found it more distracting because like many at LSM I can do the majority from memory so only need the variable bits, which is why the old style sheet worked for the regulars, but I can see it would be hard work for newcomers. But the non head in a book approach was one of the things I love and I worry the different compromise on what we get will decrease the competence of the congregation in doing its part of the mass without having to stick its head in a book.
Another change was that the introit, gospel, offertory and communion sentences had become longer choir only pieces for which we didn't have the text. If we'd had the text to aid following it I would have been happy.
The other big change was the inclusion of the Orate Fratres. This one bugged me not for the actual text but for its connotations for me. It's not CofE liturgy (although apparently it is in the Scottish Episcopal liturgy) and I associate it with Anglo-Papalism which is a tendency I really don't get; if you want to look to the Pope for everything, why not submit to him formally, especially with the option of the Ordinariate? I liked that we were straight CW not borrowing from Rome. Not sure of the reasons, but it makes me wonder.
I also felt there were fewer female servers, none for the mass, though the second thurifer and the person scattering (fake) rose petals were female. This might just be an individual glitch, but I was always aware I was compromising because of its stance of staying on the fence by neither passing resolutions nor having female priests celebrate and after November I'm less inclined to compromise on this and fewer female servers is a step the wrong way. I also noticed that no woman spoke alone during the service. Thinking about this, it probably happened about 50% of the time as the 3 sacred ministers were just about always all male and the subdeacon read the second lesson and the deacon read the gospel & led the intercessions which only left the first reading to a congregation member who might be female. The fact that man read the first lesson didn't bother me until the same man came up to lead the prayers, which makes me think he's an ordinand. I can understand him doing the prayers in position, but would have preferred a woman to read the Old Testament, or at least someone else.
OTOH there was incense and a procession outside round the block and benediction and giving thanks for the Eucharist and a welcome back. I found that I could shut down on the voice and worship. There was a moment in the first hymn when the whiff of incense reached me and it was good. A good congregation processing outside was fun and lovely. We got some interesting looks from those in the pub & the grad pad. It was suggested over dinner that we should have had a beautifully embroidered banner of a QR code which linked to a website explaining what we were doing. There was also Pimms & cake, though I wouldn't recommend Pimms & orange as a combination.
I'm aware that these positives are in danger of bring swamped by the rest of this post, but it's so much easier to articulate the problems and my reactions left me pondering the nature of change and how it is managed and sparked the desire to blog.
If you are in the planning group, change is good; it's progress, doing things properly (ie my way). However, if you're not involved in the decisions or at least if you don't know and concur with the vision, change is bad; it's disorienting and one can wonder what the agenda is.
That was my issue with the Orate Fratres. I don't actually have a problem with the theology of it, but to me it is a romanising change and I would be sad to see LSM go in that direction. The perceived lack of female servers was possibly indicative of the same thing.
At least with the shift to service sheets, I can understand the reason for the change, accessibility. I'm reserving judgement on whether this is successful. Previously, one could juggle the propers sheet and the mass book and have all the text, but most people didn't. Now everyone gets all they need to say in one place, which is much easier if you are unfamiliar, but if say you struggle to hear and find that following the Eucharistic Prayer in the book helps you hear it, that option is no longer available. Phrasing the stage directions as "We stand for" rather than as "stand" is not a style I like much. It's good to explain things, but I found it intrusive and I prefer direct commands to implied ones.
The shift to the longer minor propers I would have been happy with had we had the texts for them because I only caught some of the words. My problem wasn't losing them to the choir, but losing the knowledge of what they were.
Thus some of my gripes were because of the handling of the change - not knowing why and losing something which could have been avoided, But, of course I have to remember that it is no longer my church. I am not a regular worshipper there. The vicar probably has explained why he is making these changes. I have moved on and must allow the church to do so to. Everything changes over time, even if nothing appear to, because the change is then a hardening, a fossilising of how we do things. Anglo-catholicism began as a movement for renewal, which is change, but as with all movements there is a tendency to fossilize what worked in the first generation, rather than to be ever reforming.
We all have a responsibility to think through our responses to change and to be open, rather than reacting negatively just because it is different. But when introducing change we need to understand people's emotional response and be clear in articulating why things are being changed.
One final anecdote. I started praying Morning Prayer regularly with the ASB Shorter form. One of the closing collects had the phrases "you create us by your power and redeem us by your love". I became familiar with the rhythm and liked it. Then we started using Common Worship which has changed it to "you create and redeem us by the power of your love". It was wrong and I didn't like it and tended to revert to the other form. But I've not used it much recently, because it's no longer daily but only used on Tuesdays in Ordinary Time if you don't use the week's collect. Then the vicar used it the week after Corpus Christi and I saw its beauty. Now I prefer it...