Here is the tension: the balance between missional liturgy and breaking the law. The established nature of the Church of England sets out rigidly defined forms of worship, and enshrines the principle of lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi – the way we pray is the way we believe is the way we live, at the heart of our Church. If we are therefore tied to forms of prayer which are designed by committee and authorised by Synod after a long and lengthy process, how can we respond to the needs of the people before us… in our pews, in our communities, in our schools?
Every time Blesséd gathers on one level it is breaking the law, and the moment I post a video of a Mass offered in a local school those more erudite than me immediately note that I am required to “use only such services as are authorised or allowed by canon”. My response is that all Fresh Expressions work (of which a missional eucharist in school is the highest example of mission-shaped church) is canonical under the following:
1. The minister who is to conduct the service may in his discretion make and use variations which are not of substantial importance in any form of service authorized by Canon B 1 according to particular circumstances.
2. The minister having the cure of souls may on occasions for which no provision is made in The Book of Common Prayer or by the General Synod under Canon B 2 or by the Convocations, archbishops, or Ordinary under Canon B 4 use forms of service considered suitable by him for those occasions and may permit another minister to use the said forms of service.
3. All variations in forms of service and all forms of service used under this Canon shall be reverent and seemly and shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter.
4. If any question is raised concerning the observance of the provisions of this Canon it may be referred to the bishop in order that he may give such pastoral guidance, advice or directions as he may think fit, but such reference shall be without prejudice to the matter in question being made the subject matter of proceedings under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963.
5. In this Canon the expression ‘form of service’ has the same meaning as in Canon B 1
Especially I would draw the ecclesiatical lawyers to “all forms of service used under this Canon shall be reverent and seemly and shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter” – the shape of the Eucharist is more important than the form of words used, the intention of the worship to point to God and draw others on a missional journey and to express the sacramental forms in ways which are appropriate for the needs of the people to whom we are ministering.
Christ himself took a familar set of Berakah prayers shaped from the Passover meal and transformed them by their application to him, he varied the usual forms of prayer to draw the disciples into a new and mystical relationship with God. Far from being a loophole through which anything goes: for some churches choose to throw away everything Anglican and use B5 to make “Praise Worship” their staple diet, whilst others implement full Roman Rite (even in Latin!), we can see that B5 actually makes us work harder to establish Anglican identity and authenticity. I believe that what Blessed offers, and what is offered in this community conforms fully to the spirit and intention of Canon B5 whilst being overwhelmingly missional.