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Canadian French liturgies approved

Posted on: August 24, 2001 6:01 PM
Related Categories: Canada

by Keith Nunn
Web manager

While synod members focused primarily on the healing and reconciliation, apology and forgiveness of General Synod 2001, an important set of documents were quietly approved.

These documents, the culmination of many years of work, are a set of liturgies for use in francophone settings. Included are the Eucharist, baptism, marriage and funeral services.

The Anglican Church of Canada has many language groups within it and the church has often struggled with how best to serve those groups. It has been many years since the national church has released approved texts in languages other than English. The result being that while the Book of Common Prayer has at times in the past been available in Moose and Swampy Cree, French and Japanese among others, more recent liturgies have only been available in local translations.

The work began officially in 1995 when a vote at General Synod instructed "the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee to prepare as soon as possible supplementary material to the Book of Alternative Services containing French translations of the Holy Eucharist, Holy Baptism, the Celebration of Marriage and the Funeral Liturgy."

A translation circulated to seven dioceses in 1997 was rejected on the grounds that it was too literal and did not take into account the needs of already existing francophone communities in the dioceses of Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec.

The Comité liturgique épiscopal francophone (CLEF) was subsequently formed and had the objective of producing a satisfactory translation prior to General Synod 2001. The committee was composed primarily of francophones and included priests, parishioners, a theologian and a liturgical consultant.

Until now, francophone congregations have used Le Livre de la Prière Commune, a French translation of the Episcopal Church USA's Book of Common Prayer and have done their own translations of the BAS from time to time.

"We made the translations because we needed them," says Canon Pierre Voyer, rector of Tous Les Saints' in Quebec City and a member of CLEF. He said that other members of CLEF had done the same over the years. "Most of us had some translations and we brought them together." They decided to use these translations as the starting point rather than the one produced in 1997 because they better reflected the language and culture of the francophones of the three dioceses directly involved: Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec.

Even with this base to start from, the work was difficult and the 12 member committee met for more than 48 hours over six separate meetings in 2000. Among the specific difficulties they faced was an attempt to make the language inclusive. "We tried to make the language neutral, but sometimes it was impossible", said Mr. Voyer.

Another difficulty was resisting the temptation to revise. "Even if we disagree with the theology, we tried just to translate." Some changes were necessary though. "Because of the differences in language - such as plural and feminine - and differences in culture we had to change some words. 'The Lord be with you; And also with you' doesn't sound the same in French. We decided to use the older form, 'The Lord be with you; And with Thy Spirit.'

In presenting its work to synod, the committee said it had attempted to "make a translation which was faithful to the meaning of the English of the BAS, a translation which was as inclusive as possible, and which would be acceptable ecumenically."

The liturgies are approved and Mr. Voyer is happy with what they have achieved. "It took many, many years for the BAS to be written in English and we had a year to do the translations."

Is everything perfect? No, but there is room for revision. Mr. Voyer says that the committee "received some suggested changes from a priest in Montreal just before synod. Some were really complaints against the BAS, but some were very helpful. This is now the official translation, but it can be revised if necessary by the next synod. We will meet again to deal with suggestions."

Mr. Voyer also indicated that the prefaces and propers had been translated as well, but were not presented to Synod: "we have them ready when they're wanted."

On the question of what translations might be next, Faith, Worship and Ministry director Alison Barnett-Cowan says, "we're working with the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples to identify priorities for native language translations."

The Anglican Church of Canada also has congregations who worship in Ojibwe, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Tamil, Italian, Filipino, and undoubtedly many others.