I have recently acquired a short book published in 1932 by Bishop Colin Dunlop (1897-1968) who was, in 1955, appointed as the first chair of the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England. In his short book ‘Processions: A dissertation
together with practical suggestions’ he outlines the nature of religious procession historically and in current form. He is critical of the decline of the proper use of procession and makes a series of suggestions of how it can be reinstated as, “a liturgical means of leading modern congregations into a more ready understanding of the Christian faith” (p. 9).
In the first section of the book Dunlop charts the history of processions. He makes the link between processions and pilgrimages in that processions had a purpose and were directional.
“Plainly these processions are not mere marching for the sake of marching; they are made in order to arrive at certain holy places; on arrival lessons are read and prayers are said appropriate to the place and season at which the visit is made” (p. 11)
Indeed, this is something that I have been reflecting on in terms of defining a procession and there seems to be a general agreement that a procession leads somewhere. However, he comments that processions have shifted from plain to becoming more lavish and whilst he is not critical of this necessarily he appears to be more aggrieved with processions that have no purpose. He speaks of processions that take place within churches and how they often end up where they started – for him this is not defined as a procession. He draws on the 1883 work of Canon T. A Lacey ‘ The Liturgical Use of the Litany and quotes him directly…