Fanfares and flag-waving: How to be Episcopalian for the 4th of July

Godofourfathers

As a liturgist, the Sunday nearest to the fourth of July is always a Sunday of great compromise. As an Episcopal parish, we do not just throw out the readings (AKA “the propers”) for the day: that’s “liturgically illegal” according to the Book of Common Prayer and actually requires permission of “the Diocesan” (a.k.a. the Bishop).

On the other hand, in a country in which we give thanks for our religious freedom, praying in church for our country and its leaders is quite acceptable. Moreover, our hymnal, The Hymnal 1982, contains a small section of “National Songs,” those hymns that we all love and probably learned as school children. In fact, our Book of Common Prayer contains an entire set of proper readings for liturgies if held on the exact day of Independence Day in a given year; these propers never supplant the Sunday propers but are available for use, even as private devotions.

This Sunday (July 5), with our hymns we will attempt to find the middle ground, the via media, as good Episcopalians and Anglicans always try to do. To support the Gospel reading from Mark in which Jesus tells his disciples to “shake off the dust that is on your feet,” the Sequence Hymn is a wonderful contemporary text, “We all are one in mission,” set to that beautiful Finnish folk tune Nyland. And at the end of Communion, we will sing “My country, ’tis of thee.” Framing the liturgy will be two great Protestant favorites, “God of our fathers” (the one with the big trumpet fanfares) and “O God, our help in ages past.”

And as usual, our Prayers of the People at all services will include prayers for our country. At 8:00 a.m., in the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church and the World, we will pray “for those who bear the authority of government in this and every land.” In the 10:30 a.m. service, we will pray “for all who govern and hold authority in the nations of the world.” And in the 5:30 p.m. Taizé liturgy, we will pray for God “to guide the nations in the ways of justice and of peace.”

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9) and the Sunday nearest to Independence Day: all bases covered.

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