Book of Occasional Services, 2018, approved for use by General Convention

By Sharon Tillman
Posted Jul 13, 2018

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] On July 11, the evening of the so-called “after-dark legislative sessions,” the House of Bishops voted on Resolution A218, which called for the 79th General Convention to approve a working version of the Book of Occasional Services 2018, containing specific services that have been updated by the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music during this past triennium, and tweaked by the Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music at this convention.

This was a substitute resolution for A064 on revision of the Book of Occasional Services, originally submitted by SCLM. A064 was substituted with three more specific resolutions, all of which have been passed by convention:

  • A218 offers the revised sections of the BOS for use and review in the next triennium.
  • A219 refers specific liturgies in the BOS back to SCLM for revision.
  • A283 adds three “Multicultural Liturgies for Occasional Services,” specifically Las Posadas, the Feast of the Virgen de Guadalupe (Dec. 12) and El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) to the 2018 version of BOS.

Bishop Neil Alexander of Atlanta, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music, told the bishops on July 11 that there were no major substantive changes in the amended Resolution A218 to the liturgies, but editorial corrections and clarifications to liturgical directions in the rubrics had been made. The committee softened the language “so that someone reading it would not throw the book across the sacristy,” said Alexander, referring to directions that could have been interpreted as “snarky, bordering on offensive.”

The recommendation to the House of Bishops was to adopt the resolution as amended.

The Rev. Susan Anslow Williams, deputy from Michigan and chair of the deputies’ committee, said in her introduction of Resolution A218 to the House of Deputies on July 13 that the resolution contains texts ready for use from SCLM or the committee. “A crack team reviewed these texts, and any typos will be tagged and corrected.” She asked that these corrections not stand in the way of concurring with the HOB.

“SCLM had not had enough time or funding in the last triennium to complete the revision of the entire Book of Occasional Services,” Williams said. In the meantime, a separate resolution had passed, referring the sections not completed back to SCLM for work over the next triennium. The services offered in Resolution A218 will be available for use in a digital format, and the previous printed edition [2003] is still available for use.

An example of one of the revisions made by the committee can be found in paragraph 80 of the resolution. In the Service for the Anniversary of a Marriage, the revision changes the language to be inclusive: “Immediately after the Sermon (and the Creed if appointed), the Husband and Wife Couple present themselves before the presider, who stands facing the people.”

Most of the comments from the floor of the HOB were editorial corrections and bishops pointing out typos. For example, paragraph 118 of the resolution states, “We who are many in one body, share one break, one cup…” The bishops got a good laugh about that one in particular.

Flags also were raised about potential issues with the translation into Spanish. Bishop Lloyd Allen of Honduras said, “I’m sorry if I am going to be a little picky about this: In the copy I have, there is one copy translated into Spanish, but we have to be very careful because a word can mean one thing in one country and another (thing) in another.” He cited paragraph 33 in which “We welcome new people into a new parish” can be translated into Spanish as “We receive…,” which has a very different liturgical meaning.

Alexander responded that the Task Force on Translation provided input to the committee throughout the process of revising the text received from the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. The task force advised that the committee would work to “perfect the English text the best we could” and the task force would translate it into Spanish with consideration for dialect and culture differences.

Another point was raised that some titles are not used universally. Not every cathedral has a “dean,” one bishop said – some are provosts and others might be interim deans – but the text refers to “dean” throughout the Seating of a Bishop in a Cathedral service. “These are optional texts in italics that can be freely used, so the committee expected that a cathedral with a provost or interim would make that change as needed,” Alexander responded.

Satisfied with the brief discussion, the bishops voted unanimously to adopt A218. The House of Deputies concurred on July 13 with no debate or comments, and the final version of the resolution is here.

In addition, Resolution A283, adding three multicultural liturgies to the Book of Occasional Services 2018, passed both houses during the July 13 morning legislative sessions. Deputy Ariana Gonzalez-Bonillas of Arizona stood in favor of the resolution, saying, “As one of the reviewers of this resolution, I am excited.” Gonzalez-Bonillas said she realizes that this is not the last time the church will review multicultural liturgies, but that she loves new beginnings.

The Rev. Carlos de la Torre, deputy from Connecticut, was also excited about what he said were the new beginnings that these liturgies bring. However, he cautioned that as the church “thinks about multicultural liturgies, there is such a big raft of different celebrations; this is the reality of Latinx culture and identity. As we move forward, we have to look at the Pan-Latino culture.”

When the resolution reached the House of Bishops for concurrence, about an hour after passing the House of Deputies, it was passed with no debate.

– Sharon Tillman is a freelance writer for Episcopal News Service.