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.

If you will permit a moment of self-indulgence, today we’re reviewing a provisional Prayer Book called Texts for Common Prayer 2016, compiled by the Rev. Matthew Brench… myself.  TCP2016 is sort of the parent of The Saint Aelfric Customary in terms of seeking a traditional arrangement of ACNA liturgical material, but is also the final edition of a succession of Prayer Book -like books that I assembled in the first few years of my priesthood.  The idea was that, once the ACNA had provisional liturgies for public trial use, I wanted to have myself and my congregation using them instead of the 1979 Prayer Book.  I wanted to wean myself and others off the Episcopalians’ book and back into traditional Anglicanism in a modern idiom as much as possible.  By 2016, enough liturgical material had been made available that two volumes were already being published by Anglican House Publishers.  What I did was collect those liturgies into a single volume, tidy up the formatting a little, and fill in the rest of the necessary Prayer Book material from other sources.  And thus, TCP2016 became the “official” prayer book for my house and my church for a couple years.  The near-final official ACNA releases in 2018 have dealt the final blow in rendering TCP2016 obselete.

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The contents of this prayer book were arranged in a classical fashion:

  • The Calendar of the Christian Year
  • The Daily Office: Daily Office Lectionary (Psalms & Lessons), Daily Morning Prayer, General Instructions for the Daily Office, Daily Evening Prayer, Supplemental Canticles for Worship, Supplemental Material for Worship
  • The Litany
  • Minor Offices: Concerning the Minor Offices, Family Prayer, Midday Prayer, Compline, Donning the Armor of God, Pastoral Office, Sanctoral Office, Penitential Office, Optional Lectionary of Devotional Readings, Optional Lectionary of Biblical Wisdom Literature
  • Propers for Sundays and Holy Days: Sundays, Red-Letter Days, General Instructions for Lesser Feasts and Fasts, The Calendar of Minor Feasts, The Common of Saints, Propers for Feria Days, Propers for Votive Masses
  • The Service of Holy Communion: Preparation for Mass, Holy Communion, Liturgy of the Word, Prayers of the People, Prayers of Consecration, Proper Prefaces, Offertory Sentences, The Exhortation, The Decalogue, General Instructions, Prayers after Worship
  • Other Sacramental Services: Holy Baptism, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation of a Penitent, Ministration to the Sick, Ministration at the Time of Death, The Burial of the Dead
  • The Psalms of David
  • Appendix I: Blessings: General Rubrics, Blessing of Water, Various other blessings
  • Appendix II: Occasional Services: The Ash Wednesday Service, Liturgy of the Palms, Renewal of Baptismal Vows, The Litany of the Saints, Thanksgiving & Memorials in place of Communion
  • Appendix III: Confirmation, Reception, and Reaffirmation
  • Appendix IV: Particular Prayers
  • Appendix V: A Guide to Liturgical Colors
  • Appendix VI: The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion
  • Appendix VII: References

Unlike my private projects beforehand, this book was designed to be usable by people besides just myself, so it came complete with rubrics and explanatory notes.  Whenever possible, this book draws upon liturgical sources that pre-date the 1979 Prayer Book, or at least stand on more classical tradition.  Some vestiges of my own experimentation survive, however, mainly in the handful of “Minor Offices” offered for structured private devotions and the way the calendar of commemorations and feria days are set out.

Overall, this book is noticeably piecemeal, combining the 2016 editions of various ACNA liturgies with 1979-style Ministrations to the Sick and Dying and the classical Commination adapted into modern language and a compact formatted version of the Coverdale Psalter and various prayers and devotions (often from traditional Anglo-Catholic sources) gently (and at times awkwardly) adapted into contemporary English.  But in that piecemeal regard, this book is also probably a realistic representation of how many ACNA churches have handled their liturgy over the past several years: trying to keep up with what our Task Force has provided, and cobbling together various other books and traditions to fill in the blanks.  The idea of this book was to codify how I do that, and model for others how we can do so as consistently and faithfully as possible given the authority promulgating the new liturgies and the tradition behind the old.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
If you account for the fact this book never went completely for public sale, then the rating should be about zero.  But if you’ve got a copy of this book in your hands, then you’ll find it easier to use than the ’79, though still a bit more complex than the historic prayer books.  When page-flipping is necessary, “go to page(s) ###” notes are usually there to help.

Devotional Usefulness: 5/5
Everything you “need” is in here: the Daily Office, a lectionary, the Communion, its lectionary, supplementary materials for weekday services (basically the essentials of the Episcopalian “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” book), the Litany, private devotions, the Psalms, Articles of Religion, and the other Sacramental Rites or Pastoral Offices.  Its style may not be perfectly consistent, but its contents are sound.

Reference Value: 1/5
In 2018, new liturgy drafts rendered large chunks of this book obsolete.  At that point I decided to refrain from giving copies of this book out anymore, knowing that it would only confuse people if they try to keep up with what the ACNA is putting out.  And with the 2019 deadline fast approaching, making a revised copy of TCP2016 was simply not feasible for me.  On its own, this book is only useful now in that it captures an ‘historical’ snapshot of the development of the 2019 Prayer Book, and assembles together a few additional resources from several other books.

If you want a digital copy of Texts for Common Prayer 2016 just contact me and I’ll be happy to email you a copy.  But ultimately the legacy of this book is not in its own endurance (it was never intended to last more than three years anyway) but in this Customary.  The assembly of resources and ideas in this temporary book have paved the way for the development of a Customary that will be able to work alongside the official Prayer Book that we will finally get to see later this year.

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