Daily Offices

16 January 2008

The Book of Genesis

The Morning Office readings this week are from the very beginning of the Bible - perhaps a little too late for connections with the start of the New Year.

But it has struck me what a "shame" it is (literally) that the wonderful words of the early Chapters have become a battle ground between Christians who interpret the accounts literally and those of us who understand them metaphorically.

These early chapters contain words and images which are beautiful in literary sense ( and praise God for that) and also profound in their description of (or search for) the creative nature of our God.

What has struck me is that they have a divine value whatever our choice of human interpretation.

02 October 2007

The Spirit of God within

One of the continuing mysteries of being involved in spiritual direction is that people do not really believe that God loves them without condition.

The greater mystery is that it is the most gifted, talented and inspiring people who lack the self-confidence to believe that God loves them and works through them.

The Roman Catholic priest Honoriusz Kowalczyk was one of the martyrs of the Polish Solidarity revolution dying in a 'car accident' in 1983, but I regularly offer one of his poem/prayers to people:

the hope we carry with us
is within

the faith we offer life
is within

the love with which we conquer life
is within

the truth on which we found life
is within

the road we ever seek in life
is within

and what if
we should tear ourselves away and step
deeper within?

For introverts in particular this insight is a vital gift which confounds many traditional "external" expressions of finding faith - tears of joy trickled down G's face this afternoon as he read this poem.

04 July 2007

Alan Johnston released

image I found myself close to tears this morning as I travelled along the M62 at 7.30am this morning and heard Alan Johnston speaking of his release.

Each day since his capture, prayer for his freedom has been a feature of my Morning Office - and it is interesting to reflect how this brings concern for him deeply into one's emotional and spiritual bloodstream.

Reflecting later today I realise that part of my response was conditioned not just with delight for Alan and his family, colleagues and friends, but also for the wider significance for the Palestinian people and justice in the Holy Land.

While Hamas is understandably making some half-baked political capital over their successful intervention, but this is minor compared with the consequences for the Palestinian people if the situation had dragged on, or heaven forbid in a moment of madness Alan's captors had killed him.

He has done more than any other Britain to bring to world's attention the continuing plight of ordinary Palestinians suffering under Israel's oppressive policies and the political failures of their own leadership.

What is so utterly remarkable about the man himself is his ability to reflect so coherently and gently on what has happened to him over the past weeks.

My prayers will be that he is now granted the space and freedom to work through the long term consequences which must surely follow from this experience.

I shall be praying that this may also set a precedent which might lead to the release of Gilad Shilat, the Israeli corporal being held by Hamas.

04 June 2007

Daily Prayer + Sabbatical Prayer

I have laid aside Common Worship Daily Prayer order for the duration of my sabbatical and moved back to my rather battered Taize Office Book "Praise in All our Days".

For people not familiar with the nature of Anglican priesthood the Daily Office has a dual integrity:

1. it is offered in a public Vicar type role (offered publicly, and often collectively with others, in the Church building and within the Church of England this practice is a requirement of the office of a Vicar or parish priest )

2. it is also offered as a personal commitment or discipline of being a priest - a reminder that as a priest we pray as would any other Christian, but also as part of the universal Church.

Changing the form of the office makes clear that for the time being it is the latter personal commitment which I am maintaining, while laying aside the public role as I have in all aspects of my ministry for the period of the sabbatical.   

For people not familiar with the life of The Taize Community see here

A flavour of the office can be read online here.

The more contemporary form of the office can be purchased as Prayer for Each Day (ISBN: 1579990290. GIA Publications, Decani Music)

I have been using the Community's short daily readings for evening prayer for the past six years so there is a familiarity with the single verse approach.

But using the Taize Office feels like returning to familiar territory since I used this order throughout my ordination training and for Evening Prayer until a couple of years ago.

One of the features which really strikes me is how confidently religious the language is - it makes no pretence at accessibility - you have to understand/explore the language for it to have meaning.

To this I am adding the Daily Meditation each morning.

(I have offered this extended explanation because of some interesting overnight emails - most of them make reference to this US site Taize Exposed which many worldwide Christians will find intriguing - I had not realised that Taize was controversial in this way in the US.)

03 January 2007

Daily Office Collect for Epiphany

The Daily Office which I will be using during the season of the Epiphany ends with this wonderful Collect prayer:


Almighty God

In Christ you make all things new.

Transform the poverty of our nature

by the riches of your grace


in the renewal of our lives,

make known your heavenly glory

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


I love the structure of collects which address God personally then add a statement of faith, then pray that this may have implications and consequences for how we live our Christian lives.

Direct, simple and profound.

11 December 2006

Time to Pray update

Common Worship: Time to Pray cover imageIn an update to this post on Daily Prayer, I am now told that the Church of England are releasing a paperback version of the book at £3.95 anytime now  so if want something to try out before committing yourself then this would be a cheaper option.

08 December 2006

Daily Office . . . Liturgy . . . Prayer

From Monday I am changing the pattern of the weekday worship in Church within the parish which I have summed up as follows:

I have been reviewing my pattern of offering the Daily Offices within the Parish. Among other questions which has arisen is the need to make more explicit the purpose by reverting to calling it Daily Prayer. This makes it clear that free intercessional prayer is offered for the life of the Parish, and the needs of individuals, which are drawn from the Prayer Boards, and from personal requests.

I would like to develop this further and make it more widely known that if you know of prayer request please ring me at the Vicarage and leave a message if need be.

 I shall also be changing the time of Morning Prayer to 8.30am which now represents the start of my working day. Bryony Partridge has agreed to offer Morning Prayer on Friday mornings (which is my usual day off) starting on Friday 15th December. You are welcome to join us on any day for what is a simple easy- to- follow pattern of prayer. But please check the Weeksheet for any variation in a particular week. 

Common Worship: Time to Pray cover imageNow those that know me well ( the world's most morning adverse 'owl' that the good Lord ever created - but absolutely brilliant and creative at midnight!!) will know that the change of time will be something that needs working at - but it actually has an important liturgical purpose. My understanding of a offering the Daily office in Church is that it is the first formal work which I undertake each day - and at the later time of 9.00am I have found myself sneaking phone-calls and emails etc before going down to Church. 

It is interesting to read of other changes to patterns of Daily Prayer at Way out west Richard's blog and Jason Clark ( sorry couldn't find a permanent link for this last post so whiz down his posts to Celtic Daily Prayer) 

The Church of England has offered a new resource Time to Pray for Daily Prayer using the Morning and Evening offices of the Common Worship and a collection of prayers and offices - not altogether I sure that I would describe it as portable ( in the sense that Celebrating Common Prayer Pocket Version is) but at least it is good value at £12.99 for a well-bound edition

04 October 2006

Psalm 77

In a slightly brain-dead state at the Daily Office this morning and managed to read the readings set for next Wednesday. It will however provide us with the opportunity to revisit Psalm 77 again next week - it seems to sum up the lament and anger element of psalms so well:




Psalm 77

1 I cry aloud to God; I cry aloud to God and he will hear me.

2 In the day of my trouble I have sought the Lord; by night my hand is stretched out and does not tire; my soul refuses comfort.

3 I think upon God and I groan; I ponder, and my spirit faints.

4 You will not let my eyelids close; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

5 I consider the days of old; I remember the years long past;

6 I commune with my heart in the night; my spirit searches for understanding.

7 Will the Lord cast us off for ever? Will he no more show us his favour?

8 Has his loving mercy clean gone for ever? Has his promise come to an end for evermore?

9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he shut up his compassion in displeasure?

10 And I said, ‘My grief is this: that the right hand of the Most High has lost its strength.’

11 I will remember the works of the Lord and call to mind your wonders of old time.

12 I will meditate on all your works and ponder your mighty deeds.

13 Your way, O God, is holy; who is so great a god as our God?

14 You are the God who worked wonders and declared your power among the peoples.

15 With a mighty arm you redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.

16 The waters saw you, O God; the waters saw you and were afraid; the depths also were troubled.

17 The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side;

18 The voice of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the ground; the earth trembled and shook.

19 Your way was in the sea, and your paths in the great waters, but your footsteps were not known.

20 You led your people like sheep by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

07 September 2006

Daily Office - reflections

Guess that it must be settling back into the routine of daily life and the discipline of the Daily Office that has produced several excellent posts on the Daily Office in recent days read Nigel Wright here and Storyteller Tony Price here.

Before the holiday I was helping one lay person and one priest colleague wrestle with the issues of keeping fresh in the Office and dealing with distractions respectively.

My solutions for avoiding staleness is to once- in- while make the conscious choice of leaving aside the obligation of the Office for a time or- to use a different form of the Office ( say Taize or the Franciscan Celebrating Common Prayer). On a daily basis I use Common Worship in the morning, and the Taize office in the evening.

On Wednesday morning I was personally brought up short by being utterly distracted myself - not by anything individually pressing, ( ie one big problem which demands attention) but by 20 minutes of butterfly thoughts which meant that I started the psalm on three occasions

Bible - like "what was the third thing which I had to ask the garage to attend to when they service the car next" I knew that on Tuesday I had made a mental note of three things - but what was the third thing!. Other peoples holidays mean that I am currently saying the Daily Office in Church on my own - so there seems to be the additional potential for distractions.

I would be interested in suggestions of how to deal with distractions because although I can suggest some almost by definition a few approaches can themselves become distractions.

I am in the process of linking all my previous posts on the Daily Office into the category of the same name and they should be linked in the next couple of days- and this includes the oft requested re-run of "subversive approaches to the Daily Office" which I posted in my Blogger days - it can be found at the bottom of the posts and click on the extension for the original post.

I think is one of the wonders of the renewal of the Church that what had declined into the preserve of  Anglican clergy has assumed such an enourmous resurgence not least among many emergent Christians in the States.

Do please post your responses to distractions - but please no simplistic " well its a matter of discipline" which is a bit like telling a depressed person to " snap out of it"

16 January 2006

Daily Office Aesthetics

Since late November I have been using the Common Worship pattern of Daily Prayer full-time - having left behind the Taize office for Night Prayer and Using Celebrating Common Prayer (the Fransciscan Daily Office) for Evening Prayer.

I have tried this more consistent and easier pattern (single book and consistent readings etc) before but returned to the varied sources with a sense of disatisfaction - so I have been reflecting on why the change has been achieved this time:

1. Some of the rough edges of draft CW Daily Offices have been smoothed in the final format which was released last year - not least in the more flexible format and the available options - still think it is a little to wordy and to assume a responsorol format ( ie two+ sharing in the Office) but lessons seemed to have been learned about layout and content with some of the best from Celebrating Common Prayer skilfully integrated as well.
2. It great to have a good selection of fixed ribbons again in the Daily Office book - much missed in the paperback draft format - so much easier to find the familiar and the resource materials especially on the days when tiredness and dislexic need for struture are at their worst.
3. I have two copies of the Office book and am growing to love and appreaciate ( with apologies to any vegan readers) the leather bound edition which I was given but which is a rather heart stopping £30 or so to buy. Nevertheless there is something very comforting and pleasing about the simple act of holding such a good feeling book while praying.

All this reminds me how important the practical and aesthetic are in their contribution to developing a pattern of the Daily Offices - and how often when talking with others who are struggling with the discipline a practical suggestion about changing something as simple as the seat or room can bringing a refreshing start to offering the Daily Offices.

Tony has also over some period of time offered some thoughts and rants about CW Daily Office which are worth reading here if only to see how issues can be worked through.

For those who have asked or expressed impatience I am up to post 8 of a proposed pattern of 10 in pre-writing the series on "progressive Anglo-Catholic spirituality and practice" - it is inevitably taking longer that intended - but it will appear in a series in February. I continued to intrigued with the obvious connections with emergent church at least in its UK sense.

05 January 2006

Daily Office

"I returned to work" yesterday after my Christmas break having had a lazy holiday with little travel. It was a pleasure to offer the Daily Office, and to preside at the Mid-week communion.

As I have previously written during personal holidays I lay aside my priestly obligations including the saying of the Daily Offices (morning and evening prayer) - and this has produced both positive responses and priestly expressions of horror.

For me personally it does enable me to return to them feeling refreshed - often with a positive acknowledgement that I have missed them. During the Christmas period there is the wonderful Collect which seems to sum up for me what the Christian faith is about:

Almighty God,
who wonderfully created us in your own image
and yet more wonderfully restored us
through your Son Jesus Christ:
grant that, as he came to share in our humanity,
so we may share the life of his divinity;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Last night on a rare free evening I caught the "Parish Priest" programme which has followed the life of the village of Boscastle following the flood. The message from the village was one of hope emerging from the tradgedy. The presentation of the local church and its vicar was also very positive - apart from a plaintive interjection from her husband that she was hardly ever at home. One would have hope that given the demands of the situation one of the things that the Bishop would have been checking was that she was not neglecting her personal needs and those of her family.

Then we saw the reason why with the coverage of the Diocesan Bishop - not least the filming of the Staff meeting which included reviewing his diary - and two rather plaintive interjections from his wife that in two successive weeks he did not have a proper day off - which he simply brushed aside - he the Bishop with the heart pacemaker. How sad that a senior figure is once again presented as being unable to lay aside the role, and to allow personal time for himself and his family.

How sad that the programme ended with the Vicar of Boscastle considering moving on just at the time when she needed to stay.

Holidays and days off should be as big and obligation on clergy as the Daily Office.

09 November 2005

Nehemiah and the Daily Office

Thank you to those who recently alerted me to the person who was slagging me off in the comments column because I had blocked his/her contributions from my blog.

Said person had somehow or other somewhat perversely gained the notion that I was a lazy priest who was negelecting the Daily Office. As more intelligent readers of the blog and those who know me personally The Daily Offices are something which I value greatly, and something which I encourge people ( lay and ordained) to engage with.

GuiverIn the early part of November the readings set for the Morning office came from Nehemiah, and from several conversations and emails it is apparent that this was many Office keepers first real meeting with this remarkable book - or at least the first time that they had read it from start to finish. There-in lies one of the greatest values of the Daily Office - the systematic giuded reading ( and reflection on) the Scriptures.

One of the most creative books on this topic is George Guiver's book "Company of Voices" which addresses the challenges of the Office as something more than a daily chore which (some) clergy do out of a sense of obligation.

I have included the initial post from my old blogsite in the extended section for those who want to read and learn more

Continue reading "Nehemiah and the Daily Office" »

05 May 2005

Ascension and Elections

It struck me today during the Daily Office what an extra-ordinary vote of confidence in human beings (or the disciples at least) the Ascension is. God having sufficient confidence in just a few men and assorted other "witnesses" who were mainly female to leave them to get on with task of creating the Kingdom here on earth. Tonight I have tried to remind folk that Pentecost ( to which we now look forward) was 'a' gift of the Holy Spirit ( ie one among many in the history of humity and creation) and not THE gift of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you for the prayers during this particularly strange election in the Keighley consitituency - with the presence of the BNP's Leader offering a new dimension to British politics including his own security teams around the village. The count tonight has been moved to Ilkely ( the other major town of the constituencey) and only a small number of representatives will be allowed in the main hall to ensure the safety of the general public. I am told that there has been a higher than average turnout - which will hopefully ensure a low percentage of the overall vote for the BNP - but I am not hopeful.

And yes I as a lifelong Labour voter have finally voted Liberal Democrat (which has pleased my son who stood in the school elections for the Liberal Democrats and won by a huge majority - not bad for a 13 year old and his campaign team drawn mainly from year 8s!), but it has to be said more out of protest than conviction - and I was still undecided as I walked to polling booth. I have huge respect for Ann Cryer our Labour MP, but less and less for central politics.

I will continue my family tradition of staying up very late on election night - and look forward to ham sandwiches at about 2am - another tradition started by my grandfather who was Tory to the core. Seems like we are switching parties in each generation!

29 April 2005

Subversive approaches to the Daily Office Re-run

Haven't set up any sensible links to my Blogger material yet and this is one of several posts which I am being asked for so here is a rerun on the current site. As the title suggests this is a provisional sharing of experience rather than an attempt to make definite statements. May be I will get the time next week to write an update and further thoughts in response to any comments. Can I emphasise that while it is written from my personal clerical perspective it is equally applicable to any lay people:

Continue reading "Subversive approaches to the Daily Office Re-run" »