In 1998 I voted at General Synod for flexibility in the use of our church's authorised services of worship, to include the possibility of services prepared with minimal reference to written authorised prayers of our church (providing nevertheless that conformity to our doctrine was maintained).
In doing so I and others did not realise that we were going to end up with Chloe's pink fluffy slippers, as adroitly described by +John Bluck.
But I think we knew that we were looking for canonical blessing of considerable liturgical diversity because that already existed, both within evangelical havens such as the Diocese of Nelson and in other circles, including experiences of worship at General Synod or the Inter Diocesan Conference itself!
Would I do the same today?
To give an answer to that question which is as simple and as clear as I can make it, I need first to take you (briefly) on a corporate and personal history.
The corporate history is outlined by various posts @ Liturgy (most recently here). In sum, after 1998 GS embarked on further loosening of the canons governing liturgy with one slight sign of regret when it passed a resolution about the so called Template designed to tell free-for-all liturgists that they didn't mean for the Template to be as unbounded as it looked. (With that resolution (IMHO) GS effectively gutted the Template of its substance as a vehicle for wide-ranging flexibility in worshop. The Template now authorised flexibility that could not go beyond what was already in the prayer book!) In short, through these decisions we are now in rather a messy situation. So messy that the attempt of GS 2014 to try to tidy up a small aspect of the mess is being resisted!
From being the Vicar of the Parish of Blenheim South, my personal history was that I went in 2001 to become ministry educator for the Diocese of Nelson and then in 2010 to a similar role here in the Diocese of Christchurch. Through some of that period I have simultaneously been part time Priest in Charge of parishes. That's nearly fourteen years of training lay and ordained people in leadership of worship, of visiting many parishes in the central and upper two-thirds of the South Island and generally engaging in formal and informal conversations about Anglican worship as well as in occasional and regular bursts of leading worship.
I have learned a thing or two these last fourteen years! In particular from Bosco Peters, both through reading Liturgy, engaging with comments here and there and through personal conversation. In particular I have learned the importance of common prayer, the prayer we pray together because we have agreed that this (i.e. the Book of Common Prayer and A New Zealand Prayer Book) will be our prayer - an agreement reached through our synodical processes and renewed each time lay and clerical ministers accept a licence from their bishop.
But I also learned that our Prayer Book (1989), without any further subsequent decisions by General Synod, has for the adept and skilful liturgist, considerable flexibility. The clue lies in the rubrical word 'may'. Every 'may' means you can omit that bit, thus freeing the service to incorporate other freely chosen aspects of worship (e.g. drama, additional music, testimony).
If that was all to consider, my answer would be ...
No, I would not agree again to changing the rubrics on p. 511 of NZPB. If I could go back to 1998 I would vote against the change I agreed to, supposing the above liturgical considerations were all that mattered.
Further, I would vote for the Template to be removed from our books, I would not agree to the use of eucharistic prayers from other churches of the Anglican Communion (no doubt fine, but why did we spend 25 years+ composing our own?) and I would generally embark on revision of the various prayers we have agreed to, in order to pare us back to greater commonality in our prayer together. (I would not, however, agree to there being one single communion service. A little diversity is good.)
But that is not all to consider, so my answer is ...
My own liturgical journey, however, has simultaneously been a journey with a church encountering changing contexts. Our great Western and our local Kiwi culture has not stood still these last twenty-five years since the publication of NZPB in 1989. A number of important features of congregational life are now different. Changes in culture and in language mean that the missional and generational challenges for the conducting of liturgy are different. The decisions by GS over these years to offer more diversity of approved prayers and greater flexibility have been an attempt to engage with the changing world in which the church lives.
But significant questions buzz round my mind concerning the present and future of our Anglican church in 21st century Aotearoa NZ.
My third post in the series will continue towards my answer to the question I have posed.