An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Liturgical Movement, The

A movement of liturgical renewal and reform, rooted in new discoveries concerning the Christian liturgical tradition and new insights into the experience of common worship. The liturgical movement was encouraged by new developments and insights in the fields of biblical studies, patristic studies, and ecumenism during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The liturgical movement emphasized the active participation of all Christians in the liturgy. It also sought to view the prevailing practice of liturgy in light of the witness of the early church and to recover certain liturgical expressions from the early Christian tradition.

The liturgical movement originated in the Roman Catholic Church, especially in the Benedictine Order. In 1833 the ancient monastery at Solesmes, France, was re-established under the leadership of Dom Prosper Guéranger (1805-1875). The Benedictine community at Solesmes became a major center for research concerning chant in the 1870s. This community founded or influenced many Benedictine foundations during the period from 1833 to 1900. The Benedictine or monastic phase of the liturgical movement was followed by further research and scholarship concerning Christian liturgy. Liturgical scholarship concerned important documents such as the Didache (discovered in 1875 and published in 1883), and the publication of other sources such as the Canons of Hippolytus and the Apostolic Constitutions. Scholars came to approach liturgy in light of historical critical methods. The popular liturgical movement has been dated from an address by Dom Lambert Beauduin (1873-1960) at the National Congress of Catholic Action at Malines, Belgium, in 1909. Beauduin's address, "The Full Prayer of the Church," called for the active participation of the people in the church's work, especially in the liturgy. Beauduin's approach was based in parochial ministry, and it expressed theoretical concepts in popular language. The popular liturgical movement was advanced through publications, conferences, and the media. An important aspect of the liturgical movement was its intentional drawing together of the liturgy and the social issues facing the church's people. The popular liturgical movement in America has been dated from the travels and work of Dom Virgil Michel (1890-1938), a monk of St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, who visited Benedictine monasteries and Beauduin in Europe, 1924-1925. After Michel returned, the American liturgical movement began at St. John's with the founding of Orate Fratres (which later became Worship) and the Liturgical Press under Michel's leadership. In the Roman Catholic Church, the liturgical movement culminated in the reforms of the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963). The liturgical movement spread beyond the Roman Catholic Church and led to the reform of the books and forms of worship of many churches during the later twentieth century, including the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church.

The Anglican Communion began to feel the influence of the liturgical movement in the 1920s and 1930s. A. G. Hebert wrote Liturgy and Society in England (1935). The advance of the English liturgical movement was encouraged by the Parish and People Movement. In the Episcopal Church, Dean William Palmer Ladd of Berkeley Divinity School helped to introduce the liturgical movement to the Episcopal Church. Massey H. Shepherd, Jr., and Bayard Hale Jones, both seminary professors associated with the Church Divinity School of the Pacific and the University of the South, were leaders in the work of liturgical revision. Walter Lowrie also encouraged the advance of the liturgical movement in the Episcopal Church. Shepherd helped to found the Associated Parishes in 1946. Associated Parishes' tracts and conferences helped to educate the membership of the Episcopal Church concerning liturgical reform. Shepherd's Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary was published in 1950. It reflected many of the concerns of the liturgical movement and the discoveries of liturgical scholarship. Also in 1950 the Standing Liturgical Commission began publishing a series of Prayer Book Studies. The 1958 Lambeth Conference set forth guidelines for Prayer Book revision in the Anglican Communion, and these guidelines were further developed by the 1963 Anglican Congress.

The eucharistic rite of the 1928 BCP was criticized in light of the principles of the liturgical movement. The relative lack of opportunity for congregational participation was one of the issues of concern, along with the penitential tone of the rite. The process of Prayer Book revision and trial use took place in the Episcopal Church during the 1960s and 1970s. A revised BCP was given final approval in 1979. The liturgies of the 1979 BCP reflect many of the concerns of the liturgical movement, including a strong emphasis on participation of the laity, the recovery of ancient forms such as the Easter Vigil, and renewed emphasis on the importance of baptism. These concerns are fully discussed in Marion J. Hatchett's Commentary on the American Prayer Book (1981).

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.