Book Review: TCP 2016

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.

Book Review: the 1979 BCP

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.

In 1979, after several years of experimentation and trial-use liturgies, the Episcopal Church (USA) promulgated a revolutionary new Prayer Book.  It was a massive tome, compared to its predecessors, with all sorts of exciting new features.  The Daily Office and Communion services were offered in both traditional and contemporary English.  Multiple rites (especially prayers of consecration) for the Communion service were provided.  The minor offices of Noonday Prayer and Compline were added.  The Imposition of Ashes, the Liturgy of the Palms, a Good Friday liturgy, instructions for a traditional approach to Holy Saturday, and an Easter Vigil liturgy all brought catholic tradition into the Prayer Book (where high church parishes previously had to rely upon supplementary material if they wanted to hold such traditions).  The liturgies for Ministration to the Sick and the Dying were expanded.  A new translation of the Psalter was made.  The additional prayers for the Daily Office turned into a massive compilation of over 100 prayers and thanksgivings, neatly ordered and numbered for ease of use.  New lectionaries were made.  There’s a new (longer) catechism.  Additional “historical documents” were appended to the volume, along with The 39 Articles of Religion.

Pretty much all of these were firsts for the Prayer Book tradition.  It is hard to speak ill of that, especially when much of the expanded content was already in use by many traditionalists, and its inclusion in the Prayer Book enabled further standardization and propagation of said practices, even breaking the highchurch / lowchurch barrier.

But there are a number of issues that have been raised with this book.

The changes in style, order, and content to the primary liturgies (Daily Office and Communion) are major departures from all previous Prayer Books.  Many of the changes to the Roman Rite in the wake of their 2nd Vatican Council were imitated in our changes to the Anglican liturgies, especially in the calendars and the order of the Communion service. Some would describe the 1979 book’s results as a bland and generic western catholicism that is neither Roman nor Anglican.

The Baptism liturgy contains perhaps the most criticized feature of the 1979 book: the “baptismal covenant.”  It takes the biblical and traditional idea of the baptized person(s) committing him/herself to Christ, and expands it into a whole contract – or covenant – by which the individual is united to Christ.  Internet articles abound in picking apart just how poorly this innovation to the Baptism liturgy was devised.  On a related note, some also point out that the way this book emphasizes (and arguably redefines) Holy Baptism, the rite of Confirmation ends up being pushed aside as extraneous – a concern that is further highlighted by the fact that Confirmation was no longer the requirement for entry to Holy Communion.  The liturgies for Holy Matrimony and Ordination have also been somewhat liberalized from previous books.

There is also the question of the contemporary language itself.  This was very strongly desired by many Episcopalians at the time, and very strongly opposed by others.  While that controversy and argument still exists today, I think there is a little more peaceful coexistence between the two views now.  But the quality and precision of the contemporary English is still somewhat up for grabs.  As we’ve seen in the process of creating our 2019 Prayer Book, the delicate interplay between faithfulness to the wording of the Bible, consistency with the wording of previous Prayer Books, and accessibility of style and vocabulary to the modern reader is a difficult game to play.  Our recent examination of the Daily Office “lesser litany” illustrates this well.  Or, more bluntly, a quick reading of the 1979 book’s Eucharistic Prayer C makes it immediately obvious that some of this book is too much a product of its generation and lacks that ‘timeless’ quality that will appeal to the next generation(s) thereafter.  (That prayer is nicknamed the “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” Prayer.)

For better and for worse, this has been the standard Prayer Book for the majority of Anglicans in this country for a few decades now.  It was my first Prayer Book, too, and I used it faithfully and happily for about four years before I began to see just how different it was from the 1662 book.  At that point I started weaning myself off of it, using the new ACNA materials available and drawing from more traditional material to “fill in the gaps” for the time being.  I learned that the Prayer Book tradition’s roots look quite different from the 1979 book… but that isn’t the case for a lot of people; to many this book is the Prayer Book, and (if they’re in the ACNA) the 2019 will be the next Prayer Book.  In a way, I think that perspective is more damaging.  The 1979 book, for all its innovation, still does have a strong “Prayer Book” origin to it, and if you familiarize yourself with classical prayer book tradition then you can find that traditional core to the ’79 pretty easily and use it fruitfully.  But without that second foot in Anglican history, one’s use of the ’79 is going to be rather blind and untethered, tossed on the sea of alternate liturgies and options that transformed a 600-page book into 1,000.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 2/5
Due to the multiple versions and options of the primary liturgies, and the fact that most of the pastoral and episcopal liturgies are typically intended to be part of a Communion service, the page-flipping required to hold one worship service directly from this book is terribly excessive.  If you’re a liturgy nerd, or very patient, or have a cheat-sheet-style bookmark with all the page numbers for the service, then you can do it.  But this book doesn’t make it easy.  Also due to the page-flipping required, it’s easy to miss the rubrics at the end of sections which sometimes point to even more options.  Judicious use of “go to page ___” instructions would have mitigated some of these challenges, and I think the 2019 book looks like it’s learning that particular lesson.

Devotional Usefulness: 3/5
If you can get past the accessibility issues, there are plenty of good things in this book to feed the Christian soul.  Despite the changes, the Daily Office and Communion services still contain good, godly, biblical, and even Anglican prayers.  There is a fair bit of chaff to omit here and there, but it’s usually not too intrusive.  The prayers at time of death and anointing of the sick are also handy references for pastoral emergencies.  Though I’m happy to never have to use its baptism, confirmation, matrimony, or ordination services.

Reference Value: 1/5
Honestly, because the 2019 book is looking to be very similar to the 1979 in terms of general content, there’s basically no reason to pull this book off the shelf anymore.  We can trace the historical changes from 1928 to 1979 to 2019, but that’s largely of academic interest, and of little use to the average church-goer or minister.  Furthermore, because most of the changes from the 1979 to the 2019 are “roll-backs” toward classical Anglican content, the 1979 book represents a sort of liturgical dead end: the tradition went too far in one direction, and now we’ve reeled it in somewhat.

So we’re at a point now where I no longer give out copies of the 1979 Prayer Book to anyone.  I’m not an Episcopalian, it’s #notmyprayerbook, and I’d much rather point people to the corrected, more traditional and biblical 2019 material.  That being said, I’m not a hater.  The 1979 is where I first delved into the Anglican tradition, and my extensive study of that book gave me a leg-up in understanding what’s going on with the 2019 book.  The 1979 BCP has served its purpose, done its time, and is now ready to enjoy a (very) quiet retirement.

Book Review: An Anglican Prayer Book

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.

In 2008 the Anglican Mission in the Americas (then AMiA) published An Anglican Prayer Book to provide their congregations with historic Anglican liturgy in contemporary idiom.  The project was aided by the late Rev. Dr. Peter Toon, then President of the Prayer Book Society of the USA.  I don’t know how widely-used this book ended up being, given the colorful and complicated history of AMiA’s founding, leaving, and partially re-joining the ACNA, eventually splitting from its parent province Rwanda, and the complicated leadership debacle surrounding its founding Bishops.  Their Prayer Book, sometimes nicknamed “the blue book”, however popular or obscure, was a gem of a resource.  It contains an entire Prayer Book, omitting only a Psalter, and very closely preserves traditional Anglican liturgy in contemporary English.

Its language style is plain and simple, and strikes me as a little less awkward than that found in Common Prayer 2011.  It might even go in the other direction, feeling a bit calm and informal by comparison.  Also in contrast to CP2011, this book seems to produce more of a low-church feel to it.  Take, for example, this excerpt from the Absolution in the Daily Office:

He has commanded and authorized his Ministers to assure his people that they will receive absolution and forgiveness of their sins when they repent of their sins.

Compare this to the historic wording:

[He] hath given power, and commandment, to his Ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the Absolution and Remission of their sins…

The language of the original may be understood to say that the Minister actually declares or enacts God’s pardon upon the penitent, whereas the language of An Anglican Prayer Book specifies that the Minister merely assures the penitent of God’s pardon.  Similar subtleties can be found throughout this book, especially in its contemporary version of the 39 Articles of Religion, where the minutiae of wording and grammar have sparked centuries of theological debate.  Thankfully, this book isn’t trying to re-write the Articles of Religion according to a particular agenda (in this case low-church evangelical), but admits up front that this translation is provided for ease of reading, and only the original text is authoritative.  Still, the nature and style of this book is clearly better-suited to the evangelical than the anglo-catholic.

One of the unique features of this book is that it combines Morning and Evening Prayer together into one liturgy, noting which Canticles and Collects belong to which time of day.  Because it sticks with the traditional material and adds nothing of what is supplied in the 1979-2019 tradition, this doesn’t take up a ton of space, and very much helps to shorten the length of the book overall.

Another interesting feature of this book is that it the Communion liturgy has three Prayers of Consecration: one based on the English 1662, one based on the American 1928, and one based on the Canadian 1962.  This allows for variation in churchmanship, local tradition and familiarity, and just plain variety.  The first half of the liturgy is the same, and the last section is presented one version at a time; you have to skip to the correct page in order to follow along.

Because of its simplicity, small size, and traditional brevity, you’d think that this book should be easy to use.  But it actually isn’t all that user-friendly.  Part of it is the typeface: the rubrics are in a lighter grey color, and not in italics, which often makes them harder to distinguish from the regular spoken text.  The page-flipping, while not as complex as in the 1979 Prayer Book, is more cumbersome than the historic Prayer Books, and there are no page number guides within the liturgy texts to tell you where to go.

The greatest triumphs of this book, however, are the lectionaries.  The Daily Lectionary (bafflingly stuck near the back of the book instead of the front near the actual Office liturgy) is very simple to use.  It is the 1871 version of the 1662 Prayer Book’s daily lectionary, which sticks close to the original one-chapter-per-read method, but breaks up the longer chapters in half so they’re less cumbersome for the average reader.  I haven’t studied it carefully (let alone used it before), but I think it may give the new ACNA daily lectionary a run for its money in terms of overall quality.

The Communion lectionary, too, is assembled in what I consider the best way possible: united with the Collects.  The traditional Prayer Books printed the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel each in full text together for every Sunday and Holy Day of the year.  This makes a book quite lengthy of course, so the space-saving option (and especially smart in this age of multiple options for Bible translations) is to print the Collect with the verse references for the lessons.  Behold:


In my opinion, this is what the 2019 Prayer Book ought to do.  Granted, with a 3-year lectionary you’d need to specify “Year A: OT, Psalm, Epistle, Gospel“, but that wouldn’t take up a ton of space and would cut out an extra bit of page-flipping situation from having the Collects and Lectionary in two different places (like the 1979 book does).  I fear this is not a lesson our book will learn, though I did suggest it to them a couple times.

Also, this book is noteworthy for adding an Old Testament lesson & Psalm to the historic lectionary which featured only an Epistle & Gospel.  This, I believe, was the right way to contemporize the Communion lectionary, not rehash another version of the modern (or modernist!?) 3-year lectionary, as the 2019 book is doing.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
While not as simple as traditional Prayer Books, this book still has a relatively small learning curve.  As I noted above, its primary hindrances are due to presentation, not structure.

Devotional Usefulness: 4/5
Although some features in this book lean in the low-church direction, it still has everything you need for an Anglican devotional life.  The lectionaries are sound and the daily prayers are thorough.  It lacks all the bells and whistles of modern Prayer Books (such as special liturgies for Palm Sunday and similar days), but that’s not an issue for personal use.

Reference Value: 2/5
This book has had a relatively low impact in American Anglican liturgical development; I’ve never met anyone who uses (or used) it as their congregation’s primary prayer book.  I’ve known someone who used its daily lectionary, and I’ve known a church that uses its additions to the historic Communion lectionary, but never the book wholesale.  Really, apart from the added lessons to the Communion lectionary, this book has nothing to offer the liturgical world.  There are quite a few modern adaptations of the old liturgies out there, these days, making this book feel like one of the most redundant prayer books on my shelf.

At the end of the day, this isn’t a book I’d recommend adding your liturgy collection unless

  1. you really like collecting different prayer books, or
  2. your parish uses the historic lectionary and you want an OT & Psalm added, or
  3. you like studying different ways traditional language can be modernized.


Book Review: The Anglican Service Book

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 were an Anglo-Catholic, or other sort of tradition highchurchman, in the Episcopal Church, and not one of the 1928 hold-out parishes, The Anglican Service Book was the thing to have.  Originally printed in 1991, and going through at least three more printings over the following decade-and-a-half, the ASB is the go-to text for Episcopalians who love and prefer the traditional language style of our Prayer Book tradition.  In accordance with the rubrics of the 1979 prayer book, the ASB is a collection of re-writes of nearly everything the ’79 book back into traditional English, with a number of suggestions, resources, and rewrites of various rubrics along the way.

One of its immediate points of usefulness is the use of bold print to denote words spoken by the congregation, making an otherwise-difficult prayer book just a little more user-friendly.  Besides that, it cuts down on some of the options offered in the 1979 book and reformats some of the liturgies to reduce page-flipping, making this book a bit easier to use overall.

There is one significant omission from this book that makes it fall just short of being called an actual Common Prayer Book: it has no lectionaries.  This, I expect, was a strategic choice.  It was designed carefully such that it technically obeyed the rubrics of the 1979 Prayer Book so that anyone under the authority of that book could use this one without having to ask for special permission – half the point of this book was to enable a parish to be as close to a 1928-using parish as possible.  But, also perhaps being used as a supplement by 1928-using parishes, this book strategically omitted re-printing any lectionary so it wouldn’t step on anyone’s toes.  So if you want to use this book for your Daily Office or Communion service, you have to look elsewhere for the readings. Though it does have the full traditional psalter, which is quite nice.

As I said, this book was made primarily with high-church parishes in mind.  It provides a number of additional liturgical materials and resources which lean in that direction.  For example, here is the index of the Additional Devotions occupying the last 66 pages of this volume:

  • Antiphons on the Benedictus
  • Antiphons on the Magnificat
  • The Sarum (Gregorian) Canon
  • Canon of 1549
  • The Athanasian Creed
  • The Solemn Reception of a Bishop
  • Stations of the Cross
  • Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
  • Tenebrae for Wednesday of Holy Week
  • Blessing of the Font
  • The Angelus and the Regina Coeli
  • The Marian Anthems
  • The Walsingham Blessing

Nearly all of these are obviously quite Anglo-Catholic in nature, and a similar emphasis on the (seven) Sacraments can be found throughout the rest of the book.  You don’t have to be a Anglo-Catholic, yourself, to appreciate the usefulness of much of this book, but there’s definitely a lot of material in here that quite a few Anglicans would find needless, inappropriate, or even blasphemous.

Now, of course, those of us in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) are not under the authority of the 1979 Prayer Book, and are about to receive our own 2019 book.  The obvious question may be what use we have for a traditionalist re-write of the 1979!  In terms of structure, and a fair bit of content, the 2019 is looking a lot like the 1979 book.  Looking at how the ASB “traditionalizes” the 1979 book is a helpful model for highlighting how we, too, can draw out a traditional emphasis from the 2019 book.  Indeed, the ASB is a similar sort of project to what the Saint Aelfric Customary is intended to become!

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
While more user-friendly than the 1979, it’s still not quite as streamlined as traditional Prayer Books.  And the lack of lectionaries requires you to lift them from another source.

Devotional Usefulness: 4/5
Whether you appreciate or use the extra Anglo-Catholic features or ignore them, the liturgical formation offered by this book is excellent.  For a member of the ACNA, this book is still pretty close to matching our official liturgy, so if you like the traditional language then there’s little stopping you from appreciating this on its own.  (It should be noted that a sub-committee is in the process of making a traditional-language version of the 2019 Prayer Book, so depending upon how that turns out it may ‘replace’ this book’s usefulness to us.)

Reference Value: 3/5
Because it is primarily a re-write of the 1979 book, the ASB isn’t quite as valuable as for reference material.  Like Common Prayer 2011 it does have a number of section introductions that are valuable lessons in traditional liturgy (as long as you don’t mind the churchmanship showing through).  Plus, the way it re-presents the 1979 material to highlight its historical aspects can help one see the historical aspects of the 2019 by simple comparison.

All in all, this is a neat book to have around.  It was definitely more useful to me before the ACNA’s liturgical texts started coming together, and a bit less relevant now.  I’m also not sure if it went through another printing since 2007, so finding a physical copy of it today may be difficult and expensive.  But it can be found in its entirety as a pdf online, or in parts at the link I included at the beginning of this review, and honestly that’s all I’d recommend to my readers: unless your spirituality is particularly high-church and this really appeals to you, having it as a reference document on the computer is all you need from it.

Book Review: Common Prayer 2011

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.

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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:

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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:

Accessibility: 3/5
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:

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.


Book Review: the 1928 BCP

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.

Today’s entry is the 1928 Common Prayer book.  This is the standard Prayer Book for Anglican traditionalists in the United States of America.  It is the third American prayer book; the first was ratified in 1789, and the second in 1892.  I’ve never looked at those books before so I cannot speak about the changes from one to the next.  But a note about the American Prayer Book tradition is worth making, before we proceed.

It is sometimes perceived that the American Prayer Books are direct descendants of the English 1662 Prayer Book.  This is not entirely true; the American liturgical tradition has two parents: the liturgy of the Church of England and the liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church.  The reason for this is oddly specific: in the English Ordinal, when a new bishop is consecrated he swears allegiance to the reigning monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church.  The newly-independent USA, with its now-independent church province, obviously could not have bishops under oath to the crown, so when it came to obtaining bishops in the proper manner (with the laying on of hands by other bishops), the Americans had to turn to Scotland.  In Scotland, the State Church is presbyterian, so the Anglican/Episcopal tradition there was a “free church”.  They were able to ordain the first bishop for the USA, and in deference to that role, the subsequent American Prayer Book took on several features of the Scottish liturgy.

All that to say, there are a few differences in the American liturgy that might be hard to explain if you only look at the English 1662 book and its predecessors.

On the whole, however, the 1928 Prayer Book is recognizably the same religion, the same tradition, as previous prayer books.  If you compare the table of contents, for example, they’re nearly identical.

As you look through its pages, something different pops up almost immediately: the Daily Office Lectionary in the 1928 book is based on the liturgical year instead of the ordinary calendar year.  The majority of the Bible is still covered, though less than in the original books.  The books are still read sequentially much of the time, but there’s also a considerable amount of skipping around the Bible at the changing of the seasons.  There’s something appropriate, for example, about reading Jeremiah “the weeping prophet” during the season of Lent.  Another feature of this lectionary that was probably new to the tradition in 1928 is the fact that for most of the year, the Old Testament lessons for Morning and Evening Prayer are not linked.  Originally, reading through a book, you’d read (for example) Genesis 1 in the morning, Genesis 2 in the evening, 3 the next morning, 4 the next evening, as so on.  But for most of this daily lectionary, the morning and evening lessons are going through different books.  The 2019 Prayer Book’s daily lectionary is adopting that feature too.

Along with a noteworthy Daily Office Lectionary comes a noteworthy Daily Office.  When you compare the 1928 with the English books, you find that this book has shortened and diversified somewhat.  The “lesser litany” or “preces & responses” following the Lord’s Prayer is abbreviated in the Morning; the Nicene Creed is authorized instead of the Apostles’ Creed, if desired; the Opening Sentences of Scripture now included seasonal options.

But it is the Communion service that perhaps catches the most attention here.  If you’re used to the 1662 or 1979 traditions, the 1928 prayer of consecration will strike you as surprisingly long.  The priest is up at the altar going through the prayer for the whole state of Christ’s Church, then the great thanksgiving, preface, consecration, and a whole host of other prayers before everyone receives Communion.  If you take all the prayers in the 1662 and rearrange them, you’ve got almost the whole 1928 canon; just a couple bits and pieces are added, in comparison.  From the perspective of the 1979 book’s Rite II, the format is mostly familiar but doubled in length.

The controversy of this book when it was new, as I understand, was that it was influenced by the Oxford Movement, and the Communion liturgy thus was more “high church” friendly than before.  I haven’t compared it to its two American predecessors, so I can’t comment on that.  But it is noteworthy that most of the 1928 Prayer Book users today seem to be high church parishes and/or Anglo-Catholics.  And when the 2019 Prayer Book took up the 1928-like prayers via 1979’s Rite I, the low-church push-back was such that the Liturgical Task Force committee added rubrics for adapting it to the 1662 order.

So if high/low churchmanship is a sticking point for you, it’s possible that your opinion of the 1928 Prayer Book will soar or suffer, accordingly.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
A couple more options are in this book compared to the 1662, but it’s balanced out with a little format streamlining.  As with other older books, the typeface and overall appearance is not terribly familiar to the modern eye, which may bias the newcomer with a sense of “foreignness” at first.

Devotional Usefulness: 4/5
Compared to the 1662, I find the Daily Office slightly less edifying here, but the Communion liturgy (with a few extra sets of Collects & Lessons) slightly more edifying.  The comments about the 1662’s language style and lack of missional emphasis apply here also.

Reference Value: 4/5
If you’re an American Anglican, this is and important book to know; and if you’re also a clergyman you should probably own a copy.  The 1928 book represents the last of the historic American Prayer Books, and thus serves as a sort of baseline for liturgical development today.  Familiarity with this book, like the 1662, is very helpful for understanding the background and traditional intention of current liturgical developments such as the 2019 book.

Although my preferences are mixed, if for some reason I absolutely had to choose only one prayer book to use for the rest of my life and ministry, to the exclusion of all others, it would probably be this one.  There are things it lacks that I like to have available (sacramental confession, an Easter Vigil liturgy, imposition of ashes for Ash Wednesday), but it works.  I would have liked to see more of this book in the 2019 than we we’re ending up with.  I don’t see this as the ideal prayer book, but it’s one of the best!

Book Review: the 1662 BCP

Welcome to Saturday Book Review time!  On most of the Saturdays this year we’re going to look 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.

We’re starting with the 1662 Common Prayer Book, a very good place to start.  As I have mentioned before, this is my “second” prayer book in terms of the order and extent that I got to know a prayer book.  It was preceded by three: those of 1549 (under King Henry VIII), 1552 (under King Edward), and 1559 (under Queen Elizabeth).  The 1662 is most like the 1559, for the most part being a re-issue of the Elizabethan Prayer Book after its temporary suppression by the Puritan government which deemed the book not sufficiently reformed and “purified” from Papist influence.  For the modern reader and pray-er accustomed to variety and choice, the 1662 Prayer Book is frustratingly short on options.  On the other hand this makes it one of the thinnest and simplest Prayer Books of them all.

Some of the distinctions that mark this Prayer Book from its successors include prayers for the monarch royal family, and a cultural expectation that weekly Communion will not be received by the people, or even celebrated by the priests.

As an English book, and the Church of England being a state church, the Prayer Book quite naturally appoints quite a few collects and prayers for the reigning monarch, the royal family, and the welfare of the country at large.  Outside of the British Commonwealth this has to be “translated” into more generic prayers for the state or government leaders.  And, apart from rewriting those specific words, there is also the question of mentality – what is the more subtle influence in a Prayer Book of a national church, and how should prayers for the state be approached where the government is not a patron of the Church?

The practical pastoral issues surround the frequency of Holy Communion also marks the 17th century from the 21st.  The Communion service begins with the following rubric:

So many as intend to be partakers of the holy Communion shall signify their names to the Curate, at least some time the day before.

Imagine having to register with the clergy every week!  Clearly times and expectations have changed.  Also, in the middle of the Communion service stand three lengthy Exhortations: one announcing the celebration of Communion on an upcoming Sunday or Holy Day, one for when he sees people are negligent about coming to the Communion table, and one for the day the Communion is actually being celebrated.  Only the last of these has survived into modern prayer books – the expectation of a weekly Eucharist and the peoples’ participation therein is a surprisingly recent achievement in Anglican practice.

Comparing the lengths of liturgies between the 1662 and the common modern rites can also be jarring.  This book has shorter Communion prayers but longer prayers of the people.  Its Baptism and Confirmation services are brief affairs, but its Daily Office is robust, especially with the use of the Athanasian Creed 13 times a year and the Litany 3 times a week.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
I’m not sure if a 5/5 Prayer Book exists; they all have some sort of learning curve.  But the lack of options and variations go a long way to making this book as usable as it is.  The typeface and blocky filling of space is also strange to the modern eye, as prayer books today tend to have a lot of blank space between sections.  Necessary page-flipping is minimal, and the rubrics are usually very specific about what you’re supposed to do next.

Devotional Usefulness: 4/5
The biggest winner in this book is the Daily Office.  The original lectionary covers more of the Bible than pretty much any of its successors.  The prayers and canticles and collects, creeds and litany, really make Morning and Evening Prayer the heartbeat of the life of worship in this volume.  If you’re of a high church sort, you may find the Communion prayers a bit frustrating.  Some have observed a lack of evangelistic or missional emphasis in the older prayer books such as this one.  And the 17th century English can be a bit of a stumbling block to those not used to it.

Reference Value: 4/5
This is kind of tricky.  On one hand, early prayer books like the 1662 didn’t go out of their way to pepper their pages with scriptural citations.  It’s constantly quoting and paraphrasing the Bible but you don’t always get to see where it’s coming from.  It simply is what it is, and if you don’t notice where it comes from then you’ll just have to ask someone else.  On the other hand, this is, historically, the quintessential prayer book; others are measured according to this one.  So the 1662 BCP is of reference value simply on its own merits; you can compare liturgies and prayers from other books to this one, knowing this is the “standard” most Anglican provinces recognize as the common baseline.

All in all, this is a significant book.  I wouldn’t say that every Anglican ought to have and study it, but anyone who cares about Anglican tradition and history definitely should.  And that, by definition, should include all members of the clergy!