Welcome to Saturday Book Review time! On most of the Saturdays this year we’re looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value. Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.
This weekend I’ve got something perhaps a bit more obscure for you: Book of Common Prayer 2011. This book was self-published by the Rev. Keith J. Acker in 2011, and has stuck around for the past 8 years in (I assume) very limited circles, probably seeing more private use than congregational use. It was (and perhaps still is) primarily one person’s effort to propose a modern-language Prayer Book that retains the historic content and order. The Reformed Episcopal Church (in which he is a minister, and which is a subjurisdiction of the ACNA) already does have a modern-language version of their Prayer Book, so I’m not sure if the purpose of this book has any longevity at this point.
Most of this Prayer Book is in line with the 1928 Prayer Book‘s order and content. Its Daily Office is more in line with the English books (such as the 1662). In accord with the spirit of the newer additions of 1979, though, this book also has a liturgy for Confession, a Healing Service, shorter Family Prayers, and special liturgies for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, and Good Friday. All of this is in modern English, even the Psalter is the ESV translation (with the verse numbers fixed to match the traditional Coverdale versification). The “translation” style is a bit clunky for the modern reader, though careful use of punctuation can help one navigate the long compound sentences. For example, the Prayer of Consecration begins this way:
ALL glory be to you, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for you, of your tender mercy, gave your only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death on the cross for our redemption; Who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world; And did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of his most precious death and sacrifice until his coming again.
So it is very traditional in its content, preferring faithful adherence to original words over contemporary readability. Some will like this, some may not.
Another feature of this book that is common to modern Prayer Books is that it has explanatory notes at the beginning or end of most sections. For example, between the liturgy for Admitting of Catechumens and the liturgy for Holy Baptism, there is this note:
On Initiation into the Body of Christ
We are initiated into a relationship with the Body of Christ by God’s grace in the Sacrament of Baptism. God has supplied us with a fellowship of disciples, his Church, in which we are to live out that relationship with him. The Church is God’s family and the household of Faith into which we are adopted, receiving the gift of being born anew and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Converts are instructed in the Christian Faith. Catechumens (Greek for instructed) are taught the need for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and the practices of prayer, devotion, and fasting in preparation for Baptism.
In general, this book leans high church. Confirmation, Confession, and Matrimony are referred to as Sacraments, the 1549 Prayer Book is expressly named as the primary foundation underlying this book, and (in line with REC polity) Holy Orders are explained as a male-only ministry.
Now, between the fact that it has only been authorized for use by one or two bishops in the ACNA, that its translation style is slightly different from what the 2019 Prayer Book is going to be, and that it doesn’t really supply anything that we don’t already have in the 2019 or 1928 Prayer Books, it has to be admitted that from a functional point of view this book isn’t really all that useful. I will probably never use its Daily Office or its Communion liturgy, much less its pastoral services. The fact that is retains the historic Communion lectionary is nice, and its suggested additional (usually Old Testament) reading to match the traditional Epistles & Gospels is excellent, but ultimately it’s a redundant book on my shelf.
However, it has something going for it that pays untold dividends in my understanding of the liturgy: it’s ANNOTATED! Check it out:
The rubrics are in red (as was traditional back in the day) and its annotations are in blue. So you can look at a Collect or other prayer or exhortation in this book and see some of their origin from the Bible (or occasionally other sources). This is immensely useful for a student of the liturgy. It does make the book a little more complicated to use, because in the ordinary course of prayer your eyes have to ignore those blue reference notes. It also makes the “Sundays and Holy Days of the Christian Year” a bit more complicated to navigate, as in the picture above – Matthew 4:1-2 is an annotated reference for the Collect for Lent I, but (in black text) Matthew 4:1-11 is the actual Gospel lesson for that Communion service.
Further, looking at this picture some more, there is a handy reference line under each Collect. The first two blocks are the two traditional lessons for the Communion service on that day. The second two blocks are the traditional Introit and Gradual (usually psalms) for that day, and the last block on the right is the recommended “third” lesson to add to the traditional two.
The ratings in short:
It’s not really any more complicated to use than the 1662 or 1928 Prayer Books, which I rated as 4, but the visual formatting of this book (mainly due to the annotations) make it a little harder to follow. There’s also the practical challenge of getting a physical copy. Mine is from the first printing, which had notoriously horrible quality – I’ve barely used it and the front cover has almost torn off! But there are nicer prints of it available now, apparently. Its official page is here: http://www.bcp2011.com/node/1.
Devotional Usefulness: 5/5
If one can get past the issues of authorization, visual accessibility, and translation style, the spirituality of this book is almost perfect. It pretty much fits the bill of my personal opinion of an ideal Prayer Book. My only actual complaint about its content is that its Daily Office Lectionary seems a bit too scatter-brained.
Reference Value: 5/5
Even though very few people in the world use this, and it will probably be forgotten in a couple decades, the fact that it is similar in content to the 2019 Prayer Book makes it annotations extremely relevant for cross-comparison. If you want to explore the Scriptural basis for part of our liturgy, you can look it up in this 2011 book and find out. Unless someone makes an annotated 2019 book, this volume will be a precious asset to me for the rest of my life.
So, final recommendation… if you want to study the Prayer Book liturgy, and don’t have another annotated Prayer Book already, this is worth getting.