Alternative Collects: Prayers to a Disruptive & Compassionate God

Added about 6 months ago by Graham Turner

Alternative CollectsGraham Turner reveals why and how he wrote these radical new prayers, which will both challenge and nourish.

Some of us have grown up with the church’s weekly collects and have taken them for granted as part of the liturgy. Others have stumbled into them when they joined a congregation that makes use of them. For many, though, our attitude to the weekly (or seasonal) collect can sometimes be ambivalent.

On the one hand, there are collects that stick in our minds because they put into words what we could not express properly ourselves. They result in a change between us and God. Then, on the other hand, there are many that seem to simply pass us by. We cannot disagree with their sentiment, but they do not leave any impression on us or alter our encounter with God. They are too general. There is little in these prayers that we find challenging to verbalize as we might do with some of the Psalms or other more gritty prayers of the Bible.

Still, the collect plays an important part in worship in many Christian denominations. Its purpose is to draw together (to “collect”) the various themes and elements of the service as well as to draw the people of the congregation into a deeper solidarity.

These alternative collects seek to overcome some of the predictability and generality of the current prayers. Issues of social justice, as well as spirituality, are incorporated. They are more varied in style and seek to introduce elements of risk, danger, and even threat into our unfolding and developing relationship with God. These, though, are tempered by the hope, fresh imagination, and uncompromising love of God. In prayer we encounter God as both disruptive and compassionate. Each collect is rooted in the firm belief that God acts, and that our lives and our futures depend on this.

Graham Turner has written a new set of collects that follow in the wake of Cranmer. Turner fully understands and appreciates the force of the genre; his offer is a set of prayers that are fiercely timely, bold in their claims, and venturesome in their voicing. I cannot think of better access points to worship.

Walter Brueggemann (Columbia Theological Seminary)

The collects in this book cover all the Sundays of the church’s year and its Principal Feasts; none are included for the Festivals of the Lectionary. These prayers differ in a number of ways from those traditionally used in most churches:

  1. They do not necessarily follow the typical structure of address, acknowledgement, request, aspiration, and plea. Their form is as fluid and varied as prayers found among the Psalms and the prophets. Some of these new collects are more of a reflection of where our lives currently stand with God—others are quite specific in their request. The prayers are designed to be used in the context of corporate worship or personal devotions.
  2. Each is based upon a selection of readings from the Common Worship Lectionary (even in Ordinary Time) or draw their substance from the particular theme of the season or feast. In this they are more closely related to other aspects of the worship than many of the traditional collects.
  3. Some are longer than usual. Depending on what the sermon has been about, these collects could be used at the end of the sermon to draw together its different strands.
  4. These alternative collects are offered as a resource to include in the mix when preparing for worship. They can, of course, be adapted and amended for any particular context. Some may find them profitable to use in their own personal devotions as they may express instincts that they had not previously been able to put into words themselves.

It is only as the church at prayer that we will make sense of our text (the Bible), our context (the universe), and therefore our creator (God). It is my hope that the collects in this book will help in making a contribution towards this.

For over thirty years, Graham Turner has served in a variety of parishes, mostly in urban neighbourhoods, working tirelessly to help overcome social injustice while also exploring a range of Christian traditions to help deepen his own faith as well as that of others. This is his second book with Sacristy Presspre-order it here for only £7.99 (out 1 May 2018).

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