Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Worship Wednesdays - The Collect

Something that helped me fall in love with the Anglican tradition was the didactic and liturgical use of the collect. The collect (opening prayer, pronunciation here) has four parts. The collect I believe is a key to liturgy. However, it is regularly abused - a few seconds of just another little prayer near the start of a service, even read together from a printed pew-sheet for the day (reducing it to merely one part).

The word “collect” in Latin is collecta - gathering together. A collect gathers a litany (list of petitions) together into a final, single prayer. Or a collect gathers silent (or even sung) prayer together into a single prayer. This is what the collect is in the Entrance Rite - the Gathering of the Community. As it gathers the silent (or sung) prayers of everyone it functions to gather the individuals into a praying community.

The bidding: The presider invites the community to prayer - “Let us pray”. Or in a more extended way, something like: “Let us pray in silence that God will make us one in mind and heart”.

The silence: This is the heart of the collect. This deep silent praying of the community is what the collect is collecting. If there is no silent prayer, it is not a collect because there is nothing to collect. Without this silence the “collect” is reduced to merely another little prayer cluttering the vestibule at the start of our service.

The collect:* After sufficient silent prayer the presider proclaims the collect, gathering the prayers of the community, and articulating the prayer of the church - the body of Christ. As Christ’s body the collect is addressed in Christ’s name, on Christ’s behalf, to God the Source of all Being, in the power and unity of the Holy Spirit.

Amen: The community makes the collect its own by a strong “Amen” - “so be it”.

The collect when well understood and aptly used can powerfully gather the community, deepen our prayerfulness, and profoundly express much at the heart of Christian spirituality.

*How to Write Your Own Collect
Examples taken from the Collect for Purity
(h/t St. Mary's Cadishead)

Step Task
Collect for Purity
Step 1 - Address Begin the prayer by addressing it to God. Almighty God,
Step 2 - Amplification Call to mind God's character - saying something about what God is like or what God has done. This serves as a mini-covenant renewal, reiterating the character of the Supreme covenant-keeping God to Himself and His people. Sometimes, a motive is used here - reminding God of His undending mercy.
unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid
Step 3 - Petition Ask God to do something that only He can do.
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy holy spirit,
Step 4 - Purpose Continue by giving a reason for why you are asking, or what you want to happen. that we may perfectly love thee,

Step 5 - Motive Reiterate how this action is in accord with God's purposes and glory.
and worthily magnify thy holy name:

Step 6 - ending the prayer End the prayer, perhaps using a traditional ending, preferably Trinitarian, and finish with ‘Amen’. through Christ our Lord. Amen.

In essence, I see the Lord's Prayer as the basis of this beautiful form of praying.

SUBSTANTIAL THANKS to the good folks at!

Write your own collect and post it on your blog (or in the comments)!


Tim said...

Believe it or not, when I was in seminary at Erskine, taking the required class of worship, one of the questions on one of the tests was to write a collect.

Of course, our prof was also PC(USA). ;)

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

A collectivist?