Volume 19 1949

Second Thoughts on the Book of Common Order

The Rev John Wilson Baird, DD, St Machar’s Cathedral, Old Aberdeen

The Presidential Address begins with a useful resume of the history of service books in the Scottish Church. It traces provision from the Book of Common Prayer, through Knox, the Westminster Directory, to Eugologion, noting en route the work of the UF Church, to the 1940 Common Order. Baird was clear that the Church was at no time laying down what must be said in worship but was rather showing what sort of services the Church approves. He refers to the breadth of its acceptance across the English speaking world, but is not uncritical of some of its content. Inevitably, one feels, some of his reservations are personal though he does plead that prayer language should be accessible to the worshipper. Nevertheless, he finds, as many of us do, that it is generally easier to criticise wording in liturgy than it is to find suitable alternatives. He addresses lectionaries and their use, and with particular reference to the one here compiled.

The number and the form of services for Holy Communion are considered with some pertinent insights.

He concludes by expressing relative satisfaction with the volume in spite of the shortcomings to which he alludes.Perhaps his most telling comment comes in the last paragraph in which he reminds his hearers/readers that in the early Church it appears that everyone in the congregation ‘assisted’ in the services. Our real aim, he says, and that of the Society, should be not to make the services more aesthetically pleasing, but rather to make them services which will hold the imagination of all who take part.

The Liturgical Movement in the Reformed Church of the Netherlands

W Vos, of Groningen, Holland: Secretary of the Liturgical Society, and Assistant Secretary of the Commission on Ways of Worship, World Conference on Faith and Order

This is a concise, compact account of the changes which have taken place in the liturgy of the Dutch Reformed Church, starting with its history then tracing the developments which took place under the aegis of the Liturgical Movement which came into being towards the end of the 19th century.


Scottish Ecclesiastical Dress

The Rev William McMillan, Ph D, DD, St Leonard’s Church, Dunfermline

The reader is reminded that there was almost no instruction as to the dress of post-Reformation clergy. The wearing of a black gown seems to have been carried on from medieval times and both Knox and Calvin were thus attired. James IV issued a proclamation in 1610 ordering all ministers to wear a gown when officiating and this seems not to have been found controversial.

Inevitably the turmoil which ensued during the course of the two periods of Episcopacy in the 17th century extended well into the area of ecclesiastical dress, though when the Kirk entered into a much more influence amongst their people if they wore “something of an ecclesiastical habit.” In 1696 the Synod of Dumfries passed an act recommending the brethren to adopt the earlier custom of black gowns and bands adding that they should “study gravity in their apparel and deportment in every manner of way.” McMillan notes that practice throughout the country varied enormously though he quotes Patrick Walker, a Covenanter commenting that there were many “toom” pulpits in Scotland i.e. the gown did not necessarily ‘make’ the minister.

The article contains a very rich vein of illustrations and quotations gathered by the author as the arguments for and against robes and special clothing flourished in this so very disputatious period of Scottish church history. The interested reader may peruse these at leisure while the serious student will be able to follow up a wealth of information.

A Plea for the Absolution in the Reformed Churches

The Rev James R Thomson, MA, St Margaret’s Parish Church, Barnhill, Broughty Ferry

The use of the word 'plea' in the article is an accurate foretaste of what is to come. Thomson lists a number of scriptural warrants in support of his case while acknowledging that there is debate over their interpretation, and restating the Reformed position over the need for repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He cites also, the relevant passages from the Westminster Confession of Faith (Ch. xxx) in making his case.

He notes the section in the Book of Common Prayer devoted to the visitation of the sick while reminding the reader that it is not only the sick who are in need of assurance of pardon. The arguments for and against specific wording are well rehearsed in the sphere of both private devotions and corporate worship. He defines three forms of absolution in relation to worship, namely the prophetic form, the priestly form and finally the liturgical, for which he indicates a clear preference and which he sees as sitting well in the Reformed tradition.

The penultimate paragraph directs the reader to the blessing at the climax of every service, in which God’s peace (and wholeness and forgiveness) are conveyed. The last paragraph is worth quoting verbatim. “This plea for a re-consideration of the Absolution is offered, therefore, against a background of Scriptural warrant, and Confessional authority, of Reformed practice both traditional and contemporary. Human need and divine grace met at the Cross. The redemption there won may well be sealed to the people of God when we fulfil our ministry of reconciliation through the ‘liturgical absolution’.”

Proclaiming our Belief

The Rev R H W Falconer, MA, Religious Broadcasting Organiser for Scotland: British Broadcasting Corporation

There are so many churches now in which the Creeds are never heard other than at Presbytery services of ordination and induction. Falconer simply tells the story of the introduction and use of the Apostles’ Creed at every service of worship in one Scottish parish (Trinity Coatdyke) in the early years of the 20th century during the ministry of his predecessor there. It was used not only in worship but in every conceivable area of the congregation’s life. In addition to telling the story, Falconer includes extracts from written submissions given to him by members of the congregation which amply illustrate the significance of the Creed for them and for the development of their faith. It is a spare but informative and deeply appreciative piece of writing.


Various Contributors

Concerning Worship by WD Maxwell BD PhD OUP

Prayers for Parish Worship by Colin Miller BD OUP

Service Book for the Young Committee on Public Worship and Aids to Devotion OUP and Book of Common Order for Use in the Sunday School comp. W McMillan PhD DD

The Worship of the English Puritans by Horton Davies Westminster: Dacre Press

A Book of Public Worship - various contributers OUP

Draw Near to God: a Book of Meditations by D H Southgate OUP

Notes and Comments

No Author Specified

These make passing reference to a number of the foregoing articles, including ministerial dress.
There is an additional comment on the giving of the Benediction at the close of worship.



Illustrations in this volume

(All between pages 32 and 33)

St Cuthbert’s Parish Church, Saltcoats
St Cuthbert’s Parish Church, Saltcoats: Nave and Chancel, looking eastward
St Cuthbert’s Parish Church, Saltcoats: The Chancel
St Cuthbert’s Parish Church, Saltcoats: Pulpit, Organ and Choir Stalls