By Robin G. Jordan
Due to the length of the resource paper’s section on the music of the gathering rite I have divided it into four parts.
The Gathering Rite. Everything that precedes the Epistle forms what liturgist call the “gathering rite.” The gathering rite begins in the homes of those who will be celebrating the Holy Communion together that particular Sunday morning at the very moment they awake and concludes with the reading of the Epistle. It is a type of the Great Gathering of which the Old Testament foretells—when people will come from the four corners of earth to worship God on his holy mountain and to which our Lord himself alludes in Luke 13:29, the assembling of the multitude of the redeemed for the marriage feast of the Lamb. It is a sequence of actions, individual and collective, that transforms a loose aggregate of people into a worshiping assembly.
The beginning of the 1928 Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper consist of the prefatory Lord’s Prayer, the Collect for Purity, the Decalogue, the Summary of the Law, the Collect for Grace to Keep the Commandments, the Threefold Kyrie, the Collect of the Day, and any additional Collects. The prefatory Lord’s Prayer may be omitted at the priest’s discretion. The Decalogue may be omitted provide it be said at least one Sunday in each month. Whenever it is omitted, the priest is required to say the Summary of the Law at least one Sunday in each month. Otherwise, the Summary of the Law is optional. If the Decalogue is omitted, the Threefold Kyrie must be said, “said” here also meaning “sung” since the Threefold Kyrie is an integral part of the ordinary of the Mass. The Collect for Grace to Keep the Commandments is optional. The beginning of the service may be preceded by a prelude or special music and an introit hymn.
In planning the beginning of the 1928 Communion Service a good rule of thumb is to keep the beginning of the service as simple as possible. The prefatory Lord’s Prayer, the Decalogue, and the Collect for Grace to Keep the Commandments should be omitted. The addition of material from the Missals should be avoided. The beginning of the service is cluttered enough as it is. The application of this rule of thumb will keep the beginning of the service from becoming so lengthy and so emotionally demanding that it exhausts the people. It also puts into practice the liturgical principle that less is more. With the pre-service music and the introit hymn the purpose of the beginning of the service should be to call the people together and to prepare them for the proclamation of God’s Word.
The rubrics of a fair number of the more recent Anglican service books permit the people to join the priest in saying the Collect for Purity--a prayer asking God to cleanse those praying the collect and prepare them for worship. Cranmer had intended that this prayer should serve as a prayer of preparation for the whole congregation, not just the priest. While the rubrics of the 1928 Communion Service do not make provision for the people to say the Collect for Purity with the priest, they also do not make provision for the people to say the Prayer of Humble Access and the Post-Communion Prayer with the priest. However, it has become customary for congregations of churches using the 1928 Prayer Book to join the priest in saying these prayers. If it is acceptable for the congregation to say these prayers with the priest, it is also acceptable for the congregation to join the priest in saying the Collect for Purity.
The practice of the priest saying certain prayers rather than the priest and people together is hangover from the days before the printed book and widespread literacy. Cranmer rejected the medieval idea that the Mass was a sort of magical formula that only a priest might sing or say, assisted by a choir in cathedrals and larger churches, a view that is the very antithesis of common prayer. In the sixteenth century only men of means owned books and a large segment of the population was illiterate. This limited what Cranmer could do to make the liturgy common prayer—the shared prayer of the entire worshiping assembly.
The Puritans objected to the congregation’s participation in the liturgy and their various proposals for the reform of the Prayer Book reduced that participation to the saying of “Amen” in response to lengthy, verbose prayers said by the minister and the singing of metrical psalms. During the Interregnum they abolished the Prayer Book and replaced it with a Directory of Publick Worship that implemented these proposals.
The time before the introit hymn can be used to familiarize the congregation with new music in the service and thereby to enhance congregational participation. The Gulbransen Digital Hymnal DH-100 CP has a number of instrumental settings. These settings may be used to play instrumental versions of tunes in the digital hymnal player’s Master Index. An instrument version of a new or unfamiliar tune may double as a prelude. An instrument version of a familiar tune may also be used as a prelude. Preludes are not restricted to organ music and may involve choral singing as well as instrumental music. On occasion a congregational hymn and service music practice may be advisable just before the prelude. Musical offerings by instrumentalists, soloists, or vocal ensembles are appropriate in addition to music for teaching. These offerings themselves may used to introduce the congregation to new music.
In the Anglican Church the first hymn of the communion service is called the introit hymn. Due to the role this hymn plays in the gathering rite, it is also called the gathering song. The introit hymn, or gathering song, may be sung during the entrance of the ministers or after their entrance. In the latter case the ministers make their entrance in silence or to instrumental music. This is the recommended practice in small churches that do not have a choir. The precentor begins the introit hymn after the ministers take their places. The ministers provide vigorous support to the congregational singing from the chancel platform. If the introit hymn is sung during the entrance of the ministers, the ministers should be at least well into the sanctuary when the singing begins.
It is also appropriate for the ministers to unobtrusively take their places before the prelude and to set an example for the congregation by praying in silence, standing with bowed heads. It is not essential that the ministers make a ceremonial entrance during the prelude or the introit hymn.
The ceremonial entrance of the ministers with incense, cross, and torches, is a custom that was unknown in the North American Anglican Church before the mid-nineteen century. Up until that time the minister simply walked to the pulpit or reading desk from which he led the service. If he came from the back of the sanctuary, he greeted the people on his way. Those who were assisting him had already taken their places beforehand—the parish clerk in whatever was his accustomed place and the choir in the gallery at the west end of the church.
In Choosing—and Using—Hymns Lionel Dakers advises that if a hymn is sung at the start of a service, it should be a short and lively one, ideally not more than four or five stanzas in length. Dakers was the organist and master of choristers at Rippon Cathedral for 3 years and Exeter Cathedral for 15 years. He was a special commissioner for the Royal School of Church Music from 1958 to 1972 and the director of the Royal School of Church from 1972 to 1990. He authored a number of books on church music, commissioned practical church music, encouraged the writing of new hymns, and devoted a good part of his life to the promotion of excellence in church music and organ playing.
Dakers stresses the importance of choosing a hymn of the right length for any given juncture in a service. If too long a hymn or too slow a hymn is used for an introit hymn, the hymn will tire the congregation at the very beginning of the service and not get the service off to a good start. The only occasion on which a long hymn might be used at the start of the service would be for a solemn procession on Christmas Eve, Easter Sunday, Rogation Sunday, or a similar occasion.
The introit hymn should be a bright and vigorous hymn that sets the tone of the entire service and impels the service on its way. “A reflective, slow or soft hymn, or perhaps one in a minor key” will not necessarily act as a mood setter or move the service forward with a sense of purpose and momentum. Due to the important part the introit hymn plays not only in starting the service but also in bringing the congregation together as a worshiping assembly and focusing their attention upon God, the introit hymn should be a familiar hymn or it should be rehearsed ahead of time. Its selection should be given considerable thought and attention.
The start of the service is not the place to use a new or unfamiliar hymn that the congregation has not practiced beforehand. The one possible exception is a new or unfamiliar hymn sung to a very familiar tune. It would be wise in such case to have a brief congregational rehearsal before the service at which one or two stanzas of the hymn is sung to acquaint the congregation with the new use of the tune. This conveys to the congregation that hymn singing and their participation is an important part of worship.
A number of hymns have the right text and the right length for an introit hymn but the wrong tune. One way to remedy this problem is to sing the hymn to a different tune that is brighter and more vigorous. The tune or tunes printed with a hymn in a hymnal are only suggested tunes. Other tunes of the same meter and rhythm may be used to sing the hymn.
On most Sundays in the year, in Epiphanytide and Trinitytide, hymns about the Lord’s Day and general hymns of praise or invocation are often good choices for an introit hymn. On other Sundays and holy days the season or occasion should be considered in the choice of an introit hymn.
During Lent, the introit hymn may be omitted. Its omission helps set the season apart from Christmastide, Epiphanytide, Easter, Whitsunday, and Trinitytide. The exception is Palm Sunday when a procession with palm or willow branches is in order.
Hymns with alleluias are traditionally not sung during the Lenten season in the Western Church. Crosses are veiled—purple Roman Use, sackcloth Old English Use. Christ Episcopal Church which I attended in my youth and where I served as a lay reader and a chorister for a number of years followed the Old English Use—sackcloth during Lent and oxblood with black ophreys during Passiontide. Some churches also do not place flowers on the reredos during Lent.