The Rite Swap is Coming

…The Rite swap is coming!

Back in the 18th century at the beginning of the American Revolution, Paul Revere is through the towns of Lexington, Concord, and Medford warning that “the British are coming! The British are coming!” With these words, Paul Revere allowed the militia to be prepared to push back the marching British regulars. In a less momentous way, I want you to be prepared for a swap at St. Thomas.

Starting on June 15th, for 4 weeks we are going to swap our standard Sunday morning liturgies. Using language familiar to long-time Episcopalians, this means we are going to do Rite 2 at our 8:00AM service and Rite 1 at our 10:30AM service. And in language for those of us that are not long-time Episcopalians, this means we are going to use the more contemporary” language and theology at our 8:00AM service and use the “older” language and theology at our 10:30AM service.

What’s the difference?

Here is an example of the language and theology differences in the blessing of the bread and wine.

Rite 1 — “We most humbly beseech thee, O
merciful Father, to hear us; and of thy almighty
goodness, vouchsafe to bless and sanctify with thy
Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures
of bread and wine…”

Rite 2 — “Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for
your people the Body and Blood of your Son, the
holy food and drink of new and unending life in

Why do we have Rite 1 and 2?

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is used to provide a common worship experience across The Episcopal Church. This prayer book was published in 1979 after extensive research and it is a revision of an older form of the prayer book that was published in 1928. The 1979 prayer book included modern language and theology that many thought was a better it with contemporary American society. However, there were many traditionalists who did not want to give up the familiar older language and theology that many had used for decades. The familiar can be very precious to us. A compromise was made to include both the old and new language/theology in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Thus, were born Rite 1 and Rite 2.

Interested in your feedback…

In my conversations with those who regularly go to the 8:00AM service, I have discover three reasons that people choose to go to our early morning service. First, some like the 8:00AM time. Second, some like that there is little music in the early service. And third, some like the older, Rite 1 language that is used. No matter the reason, all who attend the 8:00AM service have had many experiences with the more contemporary Rite 2 language used in the Eucharist. After the four weeks of the “great swap”, I will be curious to hear the feedback from those that regularly attend our early morning service.

Hearing the unfamiliar language should also allow us to hear the words in a fresh way, to process their meaning in a way that we perhaps have not, at least not for a while.

I will also be curious to hear feedback from those that usually go to the 10:30AM service. There will still be the hymns and the choir at 10:30AM, but the older Rite 1 language and theology can be unfamiliar and even off-putting to those that like the contemporary language. How will Rite 1 be received? Will some start going to the 8:00AM service to stay with the contemporary language?

When we say things in the same way for a long period of time it allows the words to become an involuntary memory that allows us to grow closer to God. Conversely, sometimes repetition causes us to stop hearing and thinking about the words. Using language from another part of our tradition can allow us to hear the sacred words again. I have my own preferences with the language and theology of these options, and perhaps you do as well. As I said above, feedback is always welcomed. And, the 4 weeks swap will be over before we know it. Blessings on the start of your summer! The swap is coming! The swap is here!


Reprinted from June edition of Beyond a Doubt

Back to top