I just read in the Episcopal News Service that tomorrow Christians throughout the world will be “observing” Anglican Communion Sunday. Apparently, in 2016 the Anglican Consultative Council invited Anglicans worldwide “to stipulate the Sunday closest to the Feast of Saint Augustine of Canterbury (26 May) as Anglican Communion Sunday to celebrate and pray for the Anglican Communion.” This year the Anglican Communion Office is “raising awareness” about Anglican Communion Sunday and has provided a collect that can be used on Sunday. One small problem: the “observance” of Anglican Communion Sunday tomorrow is not permitted by the Book of Common Prayer.
Okay, I am not familiar with all versions of the Book of Common Prayer throughout the Anglican Communion. However, according to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the observance of Anglican Communion Sunday on the Sixth Sunday of Easter is not permitted. Here is the relevant passage from the Book of Common Prayer:
All Sundays of the year are feasts of our Lord Jesus Christ. In addition to the dated days listed above, only the following feasts, appointed on fixed days, take precedence of a Sunday:
The Holy Name
The feast of the Dedication of a Church, and the feast of its patron or title, may be observed on, or be transferred to, a Sunday, except in the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter.
All other Feasts of our Lord, and all other Major Feasts appointed on fixed days in the Calendar, when they occur on a Sunday, are normally transferred to the first convenient open day within the week. When desired, however, the Collect, Preface, and one or more of the Lessons appointed for the Feast may be substituted for those of the Sunday, but not from the Last Sunday after Pentecost through the First Sunday after the Epiphany, or from the Last Sunday after the Epiphany through Trinity Sunday.
Lest this be something peculiar to The Episcopal Church, I checked the Church of England’s website. Again, the observance of Anglican Communion Sunday is not permitted on the Sixth Sunday of Easter. Here’s the relevant passage from the Church of England website:
The paschal character of the Great Fifty Days of Easter, from Easter Day to Pentecost, should be celebrated throughout the season, and should not be displaced by other celebrations. Except for a Patronal or Dedication Festival, no Festival may displace the celebration of Sunday as a memorial of the resurrection, and no saint’s day may be celebrated in Easter Week.
The paschal character of the season should be retained on those weekdays when saints’ days are celebrated.
Rogation Days are the three days before Ascension Day, when prayer is offered for God’s blessing on the fruits of the earth and on human labour.
The nine days after Ascension Day until Pentecost are days of prayer and preparation to celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit.
I won’t try to track down other Anglican Church’s Books of Common Prayer. Perhaps others more familiar with these will chime in with more information. In any event, I kind of wish the Anglican Communion Office knew that the observance of Anglican Communion Sunday on the Sixth Sunday of Easter is … well … not Anglican.
So by all means, say some prayers for the Anglican Communion tomorrow.
Also, do something really Anglican and celebrate the Sixth Sunday of Easter!