Daily Office – Morning Prayer & Compline

The daily office is part of our Anglican DNA. Simply put, it’s corporate prayer and Scripture twice a day. But more deeply, it represents the Anglican vision of Christian formation. In 1549 the first draft of our prayer book was prepared by Thomas Cranmer. He took the voluminous and complicated latin system of spirituality and simplified it for wider use. Critically, the monastic pattern of prayer eight times a day (!), was simplified to just morning and evening prayer. Now anyone in a town or village was able to join others for daily prayer, both on the way to the fields for work, and on the way back home in the evening. All Christians were invited to join a routine of prayer and song, to hear Scripture in their own language and grow daily in Christ. The daily office is an invitation for every Christian to embrace a life devoted to Scripture, prayer and the service of God, shaped around the reality of our daily life.

Aritzo Alum Rev. Joel Strecker and Rev. Aaron Roberts had created a simplified version of the daily office for individual use at St. John’s Vancouver Church. When we were required to stop all in-person meetings, another Alum, Rev. Jeremy Graham, suggested we take this opportunity to practice the daily office together as a congregation over Zoom. Almost exactly a year ago we began a regular parish practice of the daily office at St. John’s. Monday to Friday, Morning and Evening, 35-60 people gather online to read Scripture, hear a brief reflection, and pray through the liturgy and for any needs arising in the community.

When COVID-19 curtailed our normal activities, I immediately began the search for new Artizo training opportunities. One of our most regular training services was the 7:30am Sunday service, but when we moved to streaming this opportunity (along with many others) dried up. Our practice of the daily office however, had created the perfect opportunity for training and ministry for our Artizo apprentices. Since September, we have claimed Tuesday evening as “Artizo night” where we provide the leadership and preaching for evening prayer. Friday morning, another of our apprentices Willie Shain-Ross has embraced the weekly cycle of leading as training for the pastoral routine of the regular preaching of Scripture.

Leading these services was a steep learning curve for our apprentices. Most come from outside the Anglican tradition, and this has been a fantastic opportunity for them to learn about the daily office and leading liturgy. We took a phased-in approach to their leadership. I began by leading the service myself, with an apprentice doing only the preaching. As they grew in confidence, the apprentices took on leading the liturgy and prayer as well, and now are competent in every aspect of leadership. This has proven to be a great opportunity for preacher training.  The apprentices send me their prepared draft sermon for my review ahead of time and following the service, we debrief and I provide feedback on their preaching and the other aspects of the service.

Beyond the technical training of “how” to lead the daily office, it’s also been excellent pastoral training. The Morning Prayer and Compline services are a microcosm of a normal Sunday service, and leading others in the office is excellent training for our aspiring ministers. The apprentices are able to practice all the elements of a service – leading, preaching, preparing prayers, praying for people’s needs, connecting with people and caring for them pastorally. Beyond practice, Anglican clergy are expected to keep the daily office personally, spending time in prayer and Scripture, morning and evening whether corporately or alone. This has been a great invitation into the commitment to Scripture and prayer expected of those going into ministry.

Overall, it has been a wonderful experience and one of the hidden blessings of the pandemic. The apprentices have become plugged in to a mid-size set of our congregation and grown in relationship with them. The services have let them put on their pastoral hat for practice, managing small talk, following up on how people are doing, praying for requests they bring, preparing collects they think will be helpful, and tuning their sermons for a particular audience and context. The participants have embraced Artizo’s leadership, and have loved having more preaching and relational contact with our apprentices.

Anglicans see the daily office as basic Christian formation and a way to keep Christ at the centre of our lives and grow in Him. Just as Cranmer envisioned in 1549, our community today is being formed in Christ through the daily office. I encourage you to join us!

Rev. Ben Roberts, Artizo Director of Training

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