Nicholas Ferrar has been remembered in the Church of England since his death on 4 December 1637.

His name was first officially observed in the calendar of the Church of England in the Alternative Service Book 1980, where it was listed on 2 December, and continued, on 4 December, in the Common Worship calendar in 1997. He is also commemorated in other calendars, including those of the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the (American) Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Australia, and the Anglican Church of Canada.

At Little Gidding two major commemorations are observed: the date of his death, 4 December 1637, is celebrated as a Festival, and usually transferred to the nearest Saturday. The annual Pilgrimage to his tomb at Little Gidding is also celebrated as a Festival, and at present is usually held on a Saturday around the third week of May.

The following liturgical resources have been used at Little Gidding in recent years.

Collect

Loving God, the Father of all,
whose servant Nicholas Ferrar
renounced ambition and wealth
to live in a household of faith and good work:
keep us in the right way of service to you
so that, feasting at the table in your household,
we may proclaim each day the coming of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
Amen.

Post communion

Holy Father,
who gathered us here around the table of your Son
to share this meal with the whole household of God:
in that new world where you reveal the fullness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

or

Lord of heaven,
in this eucharist you have brought us near
to the spirits of the saints made perfect:
as in this food of our earthly pilgrimage
we have shared their fellowship,
so may we come to share their joy in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Readings

Year A Year B Year C
1 Chronicles 21.18, 22–26a 2 Samuel 24.18, 21–25 Genesis 28.10–17, [18–end]
Psalm 84.1–4, 9, 10 Psalm 122 Psalm 15
Acts 2.42–47 Revelation 19.5–9 Acts 4.32–35
Matthew 24.42–46
or Matthew 9.9–13
Mark 3.31–end Luke 12.35–40
or Luke 5.27–32

Prayers of Penitence

The minister invites the people to confess their sins
Christ calls us to share the heavenly banquet of his love
with all the saints in earth and heaven.
Knowing our unworthiness and sin,
let us ask from him both mercy and forgiveness. NPfW B30

Pause for silent reflection.

The minister leads the confession, which is based on words of Nicholas Ferrar
Merciful God,
by the sinful abuse of your infinite and inestimable benefits
we have rather sought our own glory and content than yours.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Merciful God,
we have not ordered our ways nor thoughts towards you as your kindness has deserved:
our plenty has been an occasion of wantonness, our abundance used to excess, our riches to vainglory.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Merciful God,
we pray that you will continually remember us with your innumerable favours and your gracious inspirations
and we cry out for the sweetness of your mercy. SJK (after NF)

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The minister says the Absolution.
May God our Father forgive us our sins,
and bring us to the fellowship of his table
with his saints for ever. NPfW B83
Amen.

Intercessions

The minister may introduce the intercessions
Gathered together to celebrate the Eucharist,
a foretaste of that great banquet
to which, with Nicholas Ferrar and all the saints, we are invited,
let us make our prayers to God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The intercessor leads the prayers of the people
Loving God,
you called Nicholas Ferrar to be a servant and deacon in your Church:
May your Spirit strengthen and inspire [N and all] your bishops, priests, deacons and all the baptized.

Your kingdom come, O Lord.
Your will on earth be done.

Loving God,
you called Nicholas Ferrar to honour the rulers of this country
and to be a courtier and a Member of Parliament:
May those who govern and represent us exercise their office with fairness and integrity
and, remembering the trust that they hold, work for the good of all your people.

Your kingdom come, O Lord.
Your will on earth be done.

Loving God,
you called Nicholas Ferrar to renounce the pursuit of power and influence
and to live in a godly household:
May we be Christ’s eyes, looking with compassion on the world,
and may we be Christ’s hands and Christ’s feet, doing your work and walking your way in this world.

Your kingdom come, O Lord.
Your will on earth be done.

Loving God,
you called Nicholas Ferrar to use his skills
in the care of the sick and those in need:
we pray for all who are ill and those who care for them and love them
(remembering especially any known to us …)
May they come to wholeness and healing in you.

Your kingdom come, O Lord.
Your will on earth be done.

Loving God,
you called Nicholas Ferrar to eternal life with you:
we remember before you those whom we have known but see no more
and all who have been benefactors to Little Gidding …
May we, with them, sit and feast at the table in your kingdom. SJK

Your kingdom come, O Lord.
Your will on earth be done.

At the end of the intercessions the minister says
Loving God,
you call us to be one with Nicholas Ferrar and all the saints in heaven and on earth:
grant that in our earthly pilgrimage
we may ever be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer,
and know ourselves surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. NPfW F19, altd

Merciful Father
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Proper Preface

We praise you now and give you thanks
for your servant Nicholas Ferrar
who turned his back on wealth and honours
and with love for you sought only Christ.
Waiting on his Master by day and by night,
in prayer, study and devotion,
in love for all your people,
he was drawn closer to you
and witnessed to your greatness and your mercy.
Watching for the day when your promise will be fulfilled
he glimpsed the glorious splendour of your majesty
in the heavenly banquet in your household.

And so we join our voices
with Nicholas Ferrar and all your saints,
with angels and archangels
and all the company of heaven
to proclaim your glory,
for ever praising you and saying:

Hymn

This hymn, appended to a page about the Order of the Good Shepherd, is particularly appropriate. It may be sung to a tune with suitable metre, for example, Song 34 (Angels’ Song).

To thee Good Shepherd now we raise
our thankful hymn of joy and praise
for Nicholas thy servant bless’d
who thee in heart and deed confess’d.

A scribe instructed wise and true
he brought forth treasures old and new.
He found thy Word, Eternal Cause
in sacred page and nature’s laws.

The gospel music of thy love
in four-fold harmony he wove.
His life returns an answering note
to each who Gospel music wrote.

Like Mark in early days of youth
he learned of thee the way, the truth.
Like Matthew, counted riches vain
to find in thee, O Christ, his gain.

Like Luke, his hands made sick men whole;
his words a medicine to the soul.
Like John he saw thy light to shine
in mystic fellowship divine.

Good Shepherd may we in our turn
like him thy holy wisdom learn,
and seeking but thy will alone
rejoice with him before thy throne. Bishop John How OGS (1881–1961)

The following verse, written by George Wither, may be sung as a concluding doxology to the hymn. John Ferrar recorded that these words were sung every day at Little Gidding. The tune Angels’ Song was written for it by Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625), and it was hymn 34 in Wither’s book, hence its other name Song 34. It’s quite possible that this was the tune used at Little Gidding. In Wither’s book the first line is “Thus angels sang, and thus sing we”, but the word “so” appears in the records that survive of John Ferrar’s text.

Thus angels sang, and so sing we,
‘To God on high all glory be,
Let him on earth his peace bestow
And unto men his favour show.’ Amen. George Wither (1588–1667)