It feels a bit silly to me to write an announcement for something I neither did, made, nor contributed to, but it’s something that I feel should be made more publicly known.
A traditional-language edition of the 2019 Prayer Book has been approved! And its text is available online now: You can find its link on the 2019 BCP Resources Page, you can just click here to go straight to the document itself. I’ll put its self-introduction here:
This Traditional Language Edition of the Book of Common Prayer (2019) employs the personal idiom (thou, thee, thy, thine, etc.) of historic Prayer Books, and uses the verb forms of Elizabethan English, as permitted in the section Concerning the Divine Service of the Church.
This edition also substitutes the historic Coverdale Psalter of 1535, as revised in the 1928 American Prayer Book. All psalms appointed and psalm references in this Traditional Language Edition take this form.
All other quotations from Scripture are from the Authorized Version of the Holy Bible (kjv) of 1611, unless the Prayer Book tradition maintains a still earlier version of the verse or verses. The page numbers of this Traditional Language Edition mirror the page numbers of the Book of Common Prayer (2019), where possible.
Some of you, readers, may be very happy to hear this. You love the traditional language liturgy, and the 2019 Prayer Book’s lack thereof was a real hindrance to your acceptance of it.
Others of you may be asking aloud “why is this necessary? Why should I care? What’s the big deal?” That’s what I want to address next, with three reasons in no particular order…
#1: It increases the potential for common prayer.
Whether you, individually, find this valuable or not, someone else out there does. The order of service is different in the 1928 Prayer Book, and the 1662, and the 1979 for that matter. Those who want to continue using the traditional language liturgy, yet want to worship in the contemporary order of liturgy will now be able to do so. This enables more people and congregations to have common prayer, common liturgy, and such unity is always a laudable goal.
#2: This is a correction on one of the shortcomings of 1979.
As most of you probably know, the 1979 Prayer Book famously had “Rite I” and “Rite II”. Rite I was the traditional-language stuff, and Rite II was the contemporary. The joke was “Rite I is the right one, but Rite II is right too.” Language snobbery aside, that joke prodded at a more jarring reality: the content of Rites I and II were actually different, especially in the Communion service. The two rites therefore were not mutually interchangeable, they were actually separate liturgies – or at least similar liturgies with a few different critical parts.
The Traditional Language Edition of the 2019 BCP, however, is a section-for-section clone of the regular 2019 BCP. Even the pagination of the two are very closely aligned, so you can switch from one to the other as seamlessly as possible. This allows you to explore every aspect of our liturgy in a traditional idiom. And that’s something that the 1979 Prayer Book also didn’t accomplish: not every liturgy was provided with two rites, so different books had to be written to supply the remaining parts in traditional language, and when that finally did happen, it came along with a large number of Anglo-Catholic additions and features that rendered the supplemental book decidedly partisan in its usefulness. The Book of Common Prayer 2019 TE, on the other hand, is for all.
#3: It gives us a better window into our tradition’s past.
I’ve noted a few examples in the past where the wording of some of the prayers in our liturgy has changed slightly from the classical phraseology and word choice. Examples that I see talked about the most include the confession in the Communion, the Prayer of Humble Access, and the confession at the Daily Office (where we conspicuously add the phrase “apart from your grace” and lose the phrase “miserable offenders”). By having a traditional-language version of our new Prayer Book, we get a line-by-line examination of our liturgy that restores not just the “old-fashioned words” but the full language and terminology of our forebears. We got not just the updated stream-lined essence of historical liturgy, but the historical liturgy itself, albeit in the modern order or service.
Even if you have zero desire to use the traditional language liturgy in your parish or in private, this is a must-have for every minister who uses the 2019 Prayer Book. It’s one thing to read a liturgy blog like this one (thank you, by the way! Please don’t stop!) and it’s one thing to read commentaries on the Prayer Books, but nothing beats actually engaging with the historic texts themselves. And the 2019 TL Edition will make that so much easier to do.
Okay, okay, when will this be available?
I’ve heard two answers to this question. One person (who was part of the project) thought it’d be available for order after Easter. Another person (who is connected with the publisher) thought it’d be available in the autumn. Considering the hiccups that came with the rushed printings of the regular 2019 Prayer Book last year, I’d guess that everyone’s going to err on the side of caution and go for the later publication date. But I’ll keep my ear to the ground, as it were, and share the news here when I hear it.