Easter 2024

30 May 2018
Worship at General Convention: what ever happened to Rite I?

The primary governing body of the Episcopal Church is the General Convention, which meets every three years.

The first meeting of General Convention was held in 1785 in Philadelphia. The second meeting of General Convention was held a year later, in 1786, also in Philadelphia (they hadn't quite worked out the every-three-years thing yet).

The list is pretty nifty, and it's on Wikipedia: List of General Conventions of the Episcopal Church

When Episcopalians from all over gather at one of these General Conventions, they not only pass legislation relating to our common prayer, but they also worship together.

So, I find myself thinking particularly about the worship history of General Convention specifically as it relates to worship.

Worship at recent General Conventions is a veritable smörgåsbord, with a little of this liturgy, a little of that rite, some of this music, and a whole lot of that...

It reflects the diversity of our liturgical rites, styles, and musical traditions.

But should it?

Because surely it has not always worked this way.

The key piece of legislation for the modern Episcopal liturgical era is here: Resolution 1979-A133. This is the resolution that authorized the present Book of Common Prayer. It was the second reading of this resolution. In order to change the prayer book of the Episcopal Church, the resolution must be passed at two successive General Conventions. It's a serious decision, so the founders of the church built in a three-year waiting period.

So, what does this mean for the worship at General Convention historically?

In broad strokes, it means this: Rite I was used exclusively for the first 60 General Conventions of the Episcopal Church.

I'm using the term "Rite I" to loosely refer to the rite which was continuously revised by the General Convention in American prayer books up through the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

And I'm being slightly conservative here, I think.

Trial materials leading up to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer were only published in earnest in 1967 (the eucharistic rite) and 1970 Services for Trial Use (the "Green Book").

Is it possible that some of these trial liturgies were used in worship services at General Convention before then? I think it's possible, but I can't know for sure. The Episcopal Church has very thorough records of the legislative proceedings of the convention, but no records on the nature of the worship that has occurred.

This is an interesting thing to consider: the bishops and delegates at General Conventions past: how did they worship? who made the decisions about how they would worship? to what degree were trial liturgies used in the worship held at General Convention?

Among the many steps toward the 1979 Book of Common Prayer was a resolution at the 1964 convention right here in St. Louis:

The time seems ripe to many in the Church to undertake a revision of the Book of Common Prayer in this Church so that the language may be more easily understood of the people, and the forms of services more suitable to the present age; … …with a special view to making the language and the form of the services more relevant to the circumstances of the Church's present ministry and life.

Journal of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America 1964, p. 349

Is it possible that by 1964 trial liturgies were being used at the plenary worship of the General Convention? Yes, but without accounts of the worship, or orders of service themselves, I have no way of knowing for sure.

But lets assume for a minute that 1964 is when it happened, that a new – let's call it "Rite II" – service was introduced as a form of worship for that body.

That means that for 60 General Conventions, from "I" Philadelphia to "LX" in Detroit, Rite I was used exclusively.

From then, only at the past 19 General Conventions (and I'm including the "Special" unnumbered convention held in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1969), the worship has been more "Rite II".

In recent General Conventions, however, we have seen a move to represent nearly all of the possible modes of eucharistic liturgical expression – with the seeming exception of Rite I. Rite I was not used at the 2015 General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City

It was the sole liturgy of this Church from 1785 to 1976. It would have been the language of worship used at the first 60 General Conventions.

If those who design the liturgy of General Convention are so deadset on giving us (seemingly) all the liturgical options at one point or another, why is this option never given?

It seems to me that if you look at the two most frequently used liturgies in our church, they would be the 1) Holy Eucharist, Rite II (done as the principal service in most parishes), and 2) the Holy Eucharist, Rite I (done as the early service in most parishes).

The inclusion of Rite I was deliberate in our rather daring 1979 Book of Common Prayer. This volume binds the old together with the new, so that both may inform each other in our common life.

The quest to represent all the diverse interests and experiences in worship at any Episcopal Church gathering is a tall order, nowhere more so than at our ultimate ecclesiastical conclave. But surely it is a mistake not to include one of the most commonly experienced liturgies in our church.

To omit Rite I is disingenuous to the liturgical reality of the Episcopal Church – the very Church this body is gathered to govern. Furthermore, it disconnects General Convention from its own history, which is the history of this Church.

Many of us may be a modern people who need "a language more easily understood," but for many Episcopalians, the most understood language is in the form of Rite I.

How many Episcopalians were baptized, fed, and buried with the language of Rite I? To jettison this language at our triennial gathering proves that we are, in the words of G. K. Chesterton, "the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about."

General Convention is a grand, representative democracy, but should it not also have a bit of the "democracy of the dead"?

So, let me say it loudly for those of you in the back: Bring back Rite I at General Convention!

And maybe a bit of Morning Prayer too.

Labels: ,

Worship at the 2018 General Convention of the Episcopal Church - the first versions

"We invite you to return to this site for the updated service bulletins by June 1, 2018."

That's how the website for worship at this summer's 2018 General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas reads after the draft versions were removed.

So, by this Friday, at the latest, according to the website, we should see the new versions of the service leaflets for the convention.

The first versions caused a stir, to say the least. There was, among other things, a "Silent Song of Praise"

Here are the first published versions which were subsequently removed from the General Convention website.

Labels: ,


©MMXVII a site for fun and prophet

Organ and church music, esoteric liturgics, and a site that changes color with the liturgical year.


Looking for Carol Spreadsheets?

Hungry? Try the Liturgical Guide to Altoids Consumption

Thirsty? Try the Tibia Liquida

The Eric Harding Thiman Fan Page: The greatest composer you've never even heard of.

Infrequently Asked Questions

picture of a chicken

Questions? Problems? email the sexton.


The author of this website is an organist whom the New York Times calls “repeatedly, insisting that he pay for his subscription”. He likes to read parking meters, music, Indianapolis Monthly, and weather forecasts in Celsius, particularly whilst wearing cassock and surplice. He serves lasagna, overhand, as an example to many, and on ecclesiastical juries. He mixes salads, drinks, and metaphors. He takes photos, lots of dinner mints, and a little bit of time to get to know.




Anglicans Online
Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise
Book of Common Prayer
Brain Pickings
The Daily Office
The Lectionary Page
Sed Angli
Ship of Fools
The Sub-Dean's Stall
Vested Interest - Trinity Church in the City of Boston


Andrew Kotylo - Concert Organist
Anne Timberlake
Bonnie Whiting, percussion
conjectural navel gazing: jesus in lint form
Friday Night Organ Pump
Halbert Gober Organs, Inc.
in time of daffodils
Joby Bell, organist
Musical Perceptions
Musings of a Synesthete
My Life as Style, Condition, Commodity.
Nathan Medley, Countertenor
Notes on Music & Liturgy
The Parker Quartet
Roof Crashers & Hem Grabbers
Steven Rickards
That Which We Have Heard & Known
This Side of Lost
Wayward Sisters
Zachary Wadsworth | composer

Archenemies Aviary



Advent (Medfield MA)
All Saints, Ashmont (Boston MA)
All Saints (Indianapolis IN)
Atonement (Bronx NY)
Broadway UMC (Indianapolis IN)
Cathedral of All Saints (Albany NY)
Christ Church (Bronxville NY)
Christ Church (Madison IN)
Christ Church (New Haven CT)
Christ Church Cathedral (Indianapolis IN)
Christ's Church (Rye NY)
Church of St. Stephen (Hamden CT)
Congregational (Belmont CA)
Coventry Cathedral (UK)
First UMC (Lancaster SC)
Gloria Dei ELCA (Iowa City IA)
Immanuel Lutheran (St Paul MN)
Immanuel Lutheran (Webster NY)
John Knox PCUSA (Houston TX)
St Andrew (Marblehead MA)
St Andrew's, Oregon Hill (Richmond VA)
St Bartholomew the Great, (London, England)
St James's (Lake Delaware NY)
St James's (Richmond VA)
St James Cathedral (Chicago IL)
St Mary's Cathedral (Memphis TN)
St Matthew and St Timothy (NYC)
St Paul's (Cleveland Heights OH)
St Paul's (Indianapolis IN)
St Paul's Cathedral (Buffalo NY)
St Paul's, K Street (Washington DC)
St Peter's (Lakewood OH)
St Peter's ELCA (NYC)
St Stephen's (Richmond VA
St Thomas (New Haven CT)
St Thomas ELCA (Bloomington IN)
Second PCUSA (Indianapolis IN)
Towson Presbyterian Church (MD)
Tremont Temple Baptist (Boston MA)
Trinity (Indianapolis IN)
Trinity on the Green (New Haven CT)


BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong
New College (Oxford, England)
St John's College (Cambridge, England)
St Thomas (New York NY)


Like the site? Buy the shirt.

Areyou . . .

selling diphthongs?
Yes, but they're not the kind you buy on Wheel of Fortune.

the owner of a bower at Bucklesfordberry?
Full daintily it is dight.

interested in touch lamps?
And fountain pens.

this site used to be better:

March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
December 2012
January 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
December 2013
January 2014
February 2014
March 2014
April 2014
May 2014
June 2014
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
January 2015
February 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
August 2015
September 2015
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
January 2016
February 2016
March 2016
April 2016
June 2016
July 2016
August 2016
September 2016
October 2016
November 2016
December 2016
January 2017
February 2017
March 2017
April 2017
May 2017
June 2017
July 2017
August 2017
September 2017
October 2017
November 2017
December 2017
January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018
June 2018
August 2018
September 2018
October 2018
December 2018
February 2019
March 2019
October 2019
December 2019
September 2020
December 2020
January 2021
September 2021
October 2021
December 2021
November 2022
December 2022
March 2023
July 2023
March 2024
April 2024