PART of the ARTS !
O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer is a treasure chest full of devotional and teaching resources for individuals and congregations, but it is also the primary symbol of our unity. As Armentrout and Slocum note in their Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, that “Anglican liturgical piety has been rooted in the Prayer Book tradition since the publication of the first English Prayer Book in 1549.”
We, who are many and diverse, come together in Christ through our worship, our common prayer. The prayer book, most recently revised in 1979, contains our liturgies, our prayers, our theological documents, and much, much more.
The church’s public worship of God. The term is derived from Greek words for “people” and “work.” The church’s public worship of God is the work of the Christian people. The life of Christ active in the church by the Spirit is expressed through liturgy.
In ancient Greece, liturgy indicated work done for the public at private expense. Such public works were not necessarily religious in nature. The Septuagint uses the term for divine worship. In the NT, the term is identified with an act of service or ministry (Phil 2:30).
The unity of the members of the church in Christ is expressed most fully in liturgy. Liturgy expresses the church’s identity and mission, including the church’s calling to invite others and to serve with concern for the needs of the world. Whether the liturgy is done by many or few, it is the corporate liturgy of the whole church. Liturgy does not include private devotions or acts of piety by individuals and groups. For example, saying the Rosary is not a liturgy.
Liturgy is sacramental. Outward and visible realities are used to express the inward and spiritual realities of God’s presence in our lives. Liturgy reflects the belief of incarnational theology that tangible and finite things may reveal divine grace and glory. By the Spirit, through liturgy, the church manifests the love of God and the unity we share in Christ. This loving unity was shared by the Father and the Son, and it is offered to all Christian believers. Liturgy is a public and social event. It engages our lives and faith, our thoughts, feelings, hopes, and needs-especially our need for salvation in Christ. Liturgy includes actions and words, symbols and ritual, scriptures and liturgical texts, gestures and vestments, prayers that are spoken or sung. It is also shaped by the seasons, feasts, and fasts of the calendar of the church year and the lectionaries for the Holy Eucharist and the Daily Office (BCP, pp. 15-33, 888-1001). Liturgy is to involve the various members and ministries of the church so that all are drawn together into one living expression of divine worship. It expresses what we believe and know about God, including belief and knowledge that cannot be completely stated in words.
The term “liturgy” may refer to the rites or texts that order the church’s worship. It may indicate in particular the eucharist, which is also known as the Divine Liturgy (BCP, p. 859). In eastern Christianity, the term is applied more narrowly to the eucharist and not to other rites of divine worship. In the west, it includes all public rites and offices of the church.
In the upcoming weeks, we will begin a discussion of the Book of Common Prayer, a guide for our faith, full of history and so much more than the “book next to the Hymnal”.
An effort to be more green, we hope to cut down on the amount of paper used for our bulletins Sunday mornings by utilizing this very special tome.
The Book of Common Prayer (BCP): A Rookie Anglican Guide to the Prayer Book
You can’t be curious about Anglicanism for very long without running into the Book of Common Prayer – commonly abbreviated as the “BCP” or referred to as the “Prayer Book.”
Common Prayer? More like complicated prayer!
Based upon the title, you might reasonably assume that there’s just one BCP out there. But then you type “Book of Common Prayer” into Google, and you’re faced with an overabundance of BCPs!
Why are they referred to by years/dates? 1549? 1662? 1979?! Which BCP is the “official” BCP?
If you’re able to overcome the decision paralysis and peruse any one BCP for yourself, things don’t get much better.
Let’s say you go with The Online Book of Common Prayer, which is a digital version of the 1979 BCP. The table of contents is quite overwhelming!
Why is the content arranged in this order? Why are there multiple versions of the same thing? Where do I go if I just want to pray and read the Bible? WHY IS IT SO COMPLICATED TO FIGURE OUT WHEN EASTER IS?!?!
Take a deep breath. You’ve come to the right place.
I hope to demystify the BCP for you, so that you don’t have to go through all the frustration I went through when I became an Anglican.
This guide will give you enough information about the BCP[s] so that you can starting using a BCP on your own!
What is the Book of Common Prayer (AKA “BCP” or “Prayer Book”)?
Put simply, the Book of Common Prayer is the comprehensive service book for Anglican churches (churches that trace their lineage back to the Church of England).
It contains the written liturgies for almost any service that would be held at an Anglican church. These include:
The Book of Common Prayer also usually contains:
Basically, with just a Bible and a Prayer Book, you should have all the text you need to hold Anglican worship services.
How did we get the Book of Common Prayer?
Ironically enough (from our perspective, at least), the first Book of Common Prayer was a simplification.
Thomas Cranmer drew from existing liturgical traditions and manuals to produce the first BCP in 1549. It was meant to be an all-in-one resource (used alongside the Bible, of course) for both clergy and laity to use.
This video (by the Anglican Foundation) offers a great introduction to Cranmer’s original vision and the subsequent history of the Prayer Book.
Because the BCP is now a global family of books sharing a historical connection to Cranmer’s first BCP, each particular Prayer Book has its own nuanced story. For example, the history of the BCP in New Zealand will be different than the history of the BCP in the USA.
Speaking of the USA, since that’s where I’m writing from, the Episcopal Church’s glossary notes the family history of the BCP in the USA:
Anglican liturgical piety has been rooted in the Prayer Book tradition since the publication of the first English Prayer Book in 1549. The first American BCP was ratified by the first General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1789. It was based on the Proposed Book of 1786, and the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer, as well as the Scottish eucharistic rite of 1764. . . . The process of Prayer Book revision led to publication of editions of the BCP for the Episcopal Church in 1789, 1892, 1928, and 1979.
Did you catch the mention of Scotland in there?
See, the first Anglican bishop in the USA, Samuel Seabury, was consecrated in 1784 by Scottish bishops because the Church of England required its bishops to swear an oath of allegiance to the crown. This played a role in the Scottish liturgy of Holy Communion influencing the American liturgy that was adopted in 1789. That Scottish influence has remained in American BCPs to the present day!
This is a good example of how the history of the BCP is the history of the Anglican Communion!
For more information on the history of the BCP, I highly recommend reading Alan Jacob’s The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography. In approximately 250 pages, Jacobs will bring you up to speed on ~500 years of Prayer Book history!
If you really want to know much more about the BCP, then you should peruse The Oxford Guide to the Book of Common Prayer: A Worldwide Survey.
Why do Anglicans fight about Prayer Books so much?
On the one hand, we here at Anglican Pastor think that Prayer Book wars are a shame. We wish more Anglicans would spend more time expanding and enriching the kingdom of God than taking pot shots at other Anglicans who use different BCPs.
However, on the other hand, Anglicanism has traditionally held to something called “lex orandi, lex credendi” – meaning something close to “the law of prayer is the law of belief”
In other words: “Words matter!”
When Christians gather to pray, the words that they use both reveal and shape their theology.
So, there’s a good reason for Anglicans to care deeply about changes to the Prayer Book(s). Revisions will shape the theology of subsequent generations!
For a conservative take on the matter, check out this video (again by the Anglican Foundation). We’re not giving a 100% endorsement to the Anglican Foundation here, by the way. But this is a great, brief introduction to why Anglicans care so much about the words in the BCP!
Which Book of Common Prayer should you buy?
The “Official” Prayer Book: The 1662
When I was becoming interested in Anglicanism, I wanted to know which BCP was the “official” one.
If that’s what you’re after, then the 1662 BCP is the closest thing. It is still the official Prayer Book of the Church of England, and I recommend that you buy this Oxford World’s Classics edition of the 1549, 1559, and 1662 BCPs if you’re interested in the classic Prayer Books.
However, it’s (arguably) more important to own a BCP that you regularly use than it is to own the “official” Prayer Book!
The Prayer Book your church uses: ???
So, if you’re already attending an Anglican church, then I strongly suggest that you find out which Book of Common Prayer your church uses and get a copy of that edition!
A Prayer Book you will use: The 1979 or 1928
But if you’re not attending an Anglican church and you’d like to get a BCP for your personal use, then, based on my experience, I recommend that you get a copy of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
Yes, like every other BCP ever, it has its shortcomings. However, the 1979 is a great all-in-one resource for personal use. And it’s a great first BCP for Angli-curious individuals!
However, if you’d like a more traditional BCP, then you should check out the 1928.
Whereas the 1979 BCP has both traditional (Rite 1) and contemporary (Rite 2) language, the 1928 just has traditional Thee/Thou language. (That’s a big reason why the 1979 is so much longer!)
How do you use the Book of Common Prayer?
This is where the rubber meets the road! Unfortunately, as we mentioned at the top, the BCP can feel pretty overwhelming when you open it for the first time!
At this point, it’s important to remember that the BCP is designed to be a comprehensive resource.
That means that, unless you’re Anglican clergy (and even then!), you won’t use the entirety of the BCP very often.
Instead, you’ll come back to certain sections time and time again. And you’ll use others maybe once in your life!
So, let’s focus on the sections you’ll use most often. I’ll be keying my instructions to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. (Once the ACNA Prayer Book is out later this year, I’ll write up a guide.)
What liturgical day is it? The Calendar of the Church Year
The first thing you need to do when using the BCP is figure out what liturgical day it is. Specifically, you need to know which week of the liturgical year you’re in, and whether or not today happens to be a feast day.
This is where The Calendar of the Church Year (pp. 15-33) comes in handy.
(For a brief overview of the Christian year, click here.)
However, because the liturgical date is dependent upon the date of Easter, which changes from year-to-year (see Tables and Rules for Finding the Date of Easter Day, pp. 880ff.), it’s easier to just use an online tool such as The Lectionary Page .
Keep the liturgical date in mind. You’ll need it again soon.
Because it’s devoted to daily prayer, the Daily Office (pp. 36-146) is the section of the BCP you’ll probably use the most often.
(I’ve written a guide to how to lead a Daily Office service for a group of people. To read it, click here.)
As I mentioned above, in the 1979 BCP, Rite One means “traditional language” and Rite Two means “contemporary language.”
So, if you want to pray using traditional language, you’ll use:
For contemporary language, use:
You’ll also notice that Rite Two includes liturgies for:
Additional directions for the Daily Office section can be found on pp. 141-146).
In the course of doing the Daily Office, you’ll notice that there’s a point in each service where “The Collect of the Day” is supposed to be prayed.
(What is a Collect? Click here to find out.)
You find the Collect of the Day by looking it up in the Collects for the Church Year (pp. 158-261).
Here’s where knowing the liturgical date comes in handy. Normally, you use the Collect for each Sunday of the Christian year for the following weekdays until the next Sunday comes around.
If it’s a feast day, however, there’s a special Collect just for that day. See the “Holy Days” sections on page 185 (traditional) and 237 (contemporary).
There’s also a place in the Daily Office where you read passages from Scripture. To find out what passages you should read, you’ll use the liturgical date and the Daily Office Lectionary (pp. 934-1001).
Take a minute to read the instructions for the Daily Office Lectionary on pages 934 and 935.
You’ll find out that the lectionary in the 1979 BCP is a two-year cycle, Year One and Year Two.
You’ll also learn how you can divide up the readings between Morning and Evening Prayer.
(I’ve written a guide to the Daily Office Lectionary and the different lectionary options that are out there. Click here to read it.)
Here I should mention that, because they are used so often in worship, a complete copy of all 150 Psalms is included in virtually all Books of Common Prayer.
The 1979 is no exception, and you can find its Psalter (book of Psalms) on pages 582-808.
It’s also worth knowing about the “Prayers and Thanksgivings” section (pp. 810-841).
You’ll find a list of the prayers included on pages 810-813. You can use these prayers and thanksgivings whenever you like, whether in a liturgical service or not!
I’ve already introduced you to the section of the BCP that you’ll use most often on your own.
The next most important section is undoubtedly “The Holy Eucharist“ (pp. 316-409), used for services of Holy Communion.
For an overview of what Anglicans believe, there’s “An Outline of the Faith, or Catechism“ (pp. 845ff.), as well as “Historical Documents of the Church“ (pp. 864ff.)
Other than that, the BCP contains special liturgies/services, such as the following:
The Book of Common Prayer is the comprehensive service book for Anglican churches around the world. It shapes both how Anglicans worship and what Anglicans believe. The Prayer Book has also shaped Christian worship in the English language for almost 500 years.
Who made the Book of Common Prayer?
Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) was the primary person responsible for the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and its revision in 1552. However, since these first Books of Common Prayer, subsequent Prayer Books have been produced and revised by the leadership of the Church of England and Anglican Churches around the world.
When was the Book of Common Prayer created?
The first Prayer Book was published in 1549. It was revised in 1552, 1559, 1604, and 1662. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is still the official Prayer Book in the Church of England, and it has served as the model for subsequent BCPs throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Do Presbyterians use the Book of Common Prayer?
Although there have been several Presbyterian parallels to the Book of Common Prayer, such as the Book of Common Worship (1993), these Presbyterian liturgical books have been primarily used by pastors to plan worship. They arguably haven’t had quite the same impact on both worship and practice as the BCP in the Anglican tradition.
What is a Prayer Book called?
The Prayer Book is also known as the Book of Common Prayer or the “BCP.” It is common to refer to a specific prayer book by the year in which it was published: the 1662 BCP, the 1979 BCP, the 2019 BCP, etc. However, a prayer book, used for daily prayers, has traditionally been called a “breviary” (as opposed to a “missal,” which is used for Holy Communion).
Check out these other posts here at Anglican Pastor:
Check out these resources elsewhere:
However, there’s really no substitute for getting a copy of the BCP and using it! Dive in and join the rest of us in figuring things out as we go along! 🙂
January 8, 2023
The Epiphany Season is a time in the church year when we focus on many epiphanies, shinings forth of the glory of Christ, among them his manifestation to Gentiles as an infant, the time at Cana when he supplied wine for a wedding, and his mountaintop transfiguration shortly before his death.
On this first Sunday of the season, we recall yet another epiphany, how Jesus declared his solidarity with suffering, sinful humanity by accepting baptism at the hands of John – not because he needed it, but because we needed him to be baptized for us.
This baptism is a manifestation, not only of Christ but of the Trinity. Jesus is there in the river. The Spirit descends on him like a bird. The Father’s voice announces from heaven, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” God reveals glory at this baptism – big time.
God also looks to reveal glory through each of us, and to do so big time. Did you know that? To each of us at the font, the Father says, “This is my Child, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
In our baptism, God affirms us and commissions us and tells us to be fruitful. Go forth into the world and minister even as Jesus did. Make a difference. Let us consider two forms that this big-time ministry, this revelation of glory, can assume, whether we speak of persons or communities.
One form is Jack and the Beanstalk Christianity. Seeds are planted that seem to grow overnight, like the gigantic plant in the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk. Sometimes in the Christian life, wonders do happen suddenly.
But far more often, God’s glory is manifested through our ministries in a form we can call Johnny Appleseed Christianity, named for one of the most popular figures in American folklore.
Do you remember Johnny Appleseed? Here is how folklorist Richard Dorson describes him: “Barefoot he wanders through the frontier forests of Ohio and Indiana, looking for likely places to plant his nurseries, clad in a mushpot hat and a coffeesack garment.
“Johnny never married, because his youthful love went west and died before he found her. He himself dies reading the Bible while apple blossoms swirl to the ground outside his door.
“A modern Saint Francis of Assisi, Johnny lived to befriend humanity and replenish the earth. The Midwest owes her lavish orchards to Johnny, and more than one starving pioneer blessed him on finding apple trees in the wilderness.”
There really was a Johnny Appleseed. He was born John Chapman in Massachusetts in 1774 and died near Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1845. He spent his adult years traveling through what was then the wilderness of Ohio and Indiana, planting apple trees for future generations.
The historical Johnny Appleseed was not quite the romantic figure who appears in American folklore and popular culture. Although his contemporaries found his appearance odd, and he traveled alone, he became a fairly successful businessman, accumulating twenty-two parcels of land amounting to some twelve hundred acres. He did not plant the very first apple orchards in what was then called the West. Nor was he solitary by nature, but spent much of his time with his half-sister and her family.
Yet he had this in common with his legendary namesake: he planted countless apple trees and he kept moving west as the frontier receded. Both the legend and the man represented sweet fertility and the fecundity of the broad American wilderness. Johnny Appleseed has gained a secure and happy place in the American imagination.
Some years ago, Richard Donovan suggested Johnny Appleseed as an image for how we Christians live our lives.
So how is Johnny Appleseed Christianity practiced? We keep moving, always with our eye on the changing frontier. We plant seeds, lots of them. At the end of the day, the scene doesn’t look all that different. But at the end of the month, the year, the decade, it may be that something is growing, something worthwhile: an apple tree that may bear fruit well into the future. Planting apple trees is an exercise in hope.
That is what we are here to do, most of the time at least. Keep moving. Plant seeds. Do not expect Jack’s enormous beanstalk, but honor the big picture, the one that stretches through the generations. Tarfon, a rabbi from a long time ago, makes this same point when he advises us, “It is not up to you to complete the task. Nevertheless, you are not free to desist from it.”
Much of the time, maybe all the time, ours will be Johnny Appleseed Christianity. We keep moving with the frontier, planting seeds whenever and wherever we can. We realize that God gives growth over time and others will enjoy the harvest, even if we do not. This Johnny Appleseed Christianity offers its own glory to God, for every apple is a miracle.
We find the Johnny Appleseed approach in how Jesus functioned. This is apparent throughout the gospels, but especially in his death and resurrection. There, Jesus is not so much the planter as he is the seed, broken and buried in the earth, awaiting the third day, the resurrection morning. He dies and is buried, even as we are in baptism, and we rise together with him.
We Christians are the fruit of Jesus the apple tree. We become Johnny Appleseeds in turn, scattering seeds so that there will be more trees, more apples. Thus, Christ multiplies and bears even more abundant fruit over the course of years. The land bears a surprising harvest.
What does this require? The apple seeds available to us and the places to plant them are limited only by our courage and our imagination. Plantings occur in the personal lives of family members, friends, and people we barely know. Plantings occur in neighborhoods, communities, and institutions. They happen as people from across the globe join together in worthwhile enterprises, day by day.
God’s imagination is great. Consider all that exists throughout the vast canyons of space. Consider all life forms in their diversity and splendor. Consider especially how the Holy One entrusts to us the planting of seeds to bring forth good fruit. That this happens, that it happens even today, bears witness to the greatness, the audacity of the divine imagination. Not only Jesus is entrusted with seed to scatter across the broad earth – that task, that opportunity, is entrusted to us as well.
May we go forth, then, as people who leave the font and always keep moving with the frontier, people who plant seeds at every opportunity, and anticipate a harvest too big for our time alone. This too will amount to an epiphany, a shining forth of divine glory.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker lives in Greenbelt, Maryland with his wife, Helena Mirtova. He is the author of A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals. Many of his sermons appear on the lectionary preaching website SermonWriter and he contributes regularly to Sermons That Work.
January 08, 2023
The season of Epiphany is when we celebrate the revealing of Christ to the world. We mark the arrival of the One who is the light of the world: a light that brings life, a light that brings hope. This light shines its brightest when we are in community – with God and with one another. The Office of Global Partnerships of The Episcopal Church invites individuals, small groups, congregations, and dioceses to use our weekly video series throughout the season of Epiphany to draw closer to each other and our Lord.
Using an adaptation of lectio divina with the gospel passage for each Sunday, you’ll meet and hear from Episcopal missionaries who have served around the world as they read and reflect on Jesus’ revelation to us. Missionary service through The Episcopal Church is accomplished through the Young Adult Service Corps (for Episcopalians aged 21-30) and Episcopal Volunteers in Mission (for Episcopalians over the age of 30). Learn more about these programs at iam.ec/yasc and iam.ec/evim respectively.
This week’s lectio divina features Mary Higbee, Jim Higbee, the Rev. Ranjit Mathews, and the Rev. Amanda Akes-Cardwell. Watch their discussion at iam.ec/epiphany2023 and follow along by yourself or in a small group. To participate:
1. Read today’s Gospel passage: Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17, NRSV)
2. Reflect: Which word or short phrase caught your attention or came to mind? Whether you’re alone or in a group, say it aloud.
3. Read: Reread the passage, perhaps in a different translation.
4. Reflect: Where does the passage touch your life today? If you’re with a group, share your responses with each other, without discussing further. If you’re alone, say your response aloud or write it down.
5. Read: Reread the passage, perhaps in yet another translation.
6. Reflect: Where is God calling you to go? Where, either near or far, can you cross boundaries, listen deeply, and live like Jesus? You might consider journaling out your response and meditating on it over the course of this week.
7. Pray: In closing, say the Collect for Epiphany 1 in the Book of Common Prayer (p. 214).
Monday, January 9, 2023: Psalm 89:5-37; Genesis 35:1-15; Acts 10:44-48
Tuesday, January 10, 2023: Psalm 89:5-37; Jeremiah 1:4-10; Acts 8:4-13
Wednesday, January 11, 2023: Psalm 89:5-37; Isaiah 51:1-16; Matthew 12:15-21
Thursday, January 12, 2023: Psalm 40:1-11; Isaiah 22:15-25; Galatians 1:6-12
Friday, January 13, 2023: Psalm 40:1-11; Genesis 27:30-38; Acts 1:1-5
Saturday, January 14, 2023: Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Kings 19:19-21; Luke 5:1-11
Sunday, January 15, 2023: Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Monday, January 16, 2023: Psalm 40:6-17; Exodus 12:1-13, 21-28; Acts 8:26-40
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“O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go:
preserve those who travel; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger;
and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.