Book Review: Common Worship Times and Seasons

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.

The last official volume of Common Worship on my shelf is Times and Seasons.  It goes through the entire [modern] calendar of the Church of England highlighting special holy days and providing both occasional and seasonal material for all sorts of things – Opening Acclamations, calls to confession, prayers of confessions, absolutions, Canticles, Prayers of the People, Offertory Sentences, Eucharistic Prefaces, and various other special liturgical bits and bobs that can be used to spice up the Communion service for a special occasion.  In terms of historic Prayer Book tradition, none of this is necessary, and is largely unprecedented.  But this is what late 20th-century liturgical revolution was all about: exploring new ways to diversify the worship experience by emphasizing different occasions and seasons in certain ways to make them stand out from each other more noticeably.  And what you find in this volume, as is the case with most of the Common Worship materials, is a mix of pre-Reformation tradition, modern re-invention, and just plain innovation.

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In terms of authorization, the extended rubrics of the 2019 Prayer Book indicate that the Prayers of the People may be rewritten, provided they cover certain specified items.  Thus, various Prayers from Common Worship: Times and Seasons could actually find a home in our ACNA liturgy.  The same applies to the Blessing at the end of the Communion Prayers – the rubrics permit alternate blessings without restriction.

However, unlike most of the supplementary volumes of Common WorshipTimes and Seasons provides for the liturgy of several “irregular” worship services (that is, neither the Daily Office nor the Holy Communion) such as Lessons and Carols for Advent or Christmas.  Indeed, this book’s greatest use outside of the Church of England is probably its extended treatment of various special-occasion services like those, or Remembrance Day (Nov. 11th) or Stations of the Cross or, the Maundy Thursday Chrism Mass, or the Easter Vigil.  Its insights into the seasons and festivals of the liturgical and agricultural years, too, make for decent reading for anyone interested in how the Church “sanctifies time” through her liturgy.  It is certainly a mix of old and new, so if you’re a traditionalist about liturgy there will be many opportunities for ire herein.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
In terms of use in the liturgy, this book cannot stand alone; it is a supplement to the primary volume of Common Worship.  However, for what it contains, it is very logically arranged and easy to navigate.  It is not overly technical or obscure, but explains its contents thoroughly and succinctly.

Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
As with much of the Common Worship series, we have little practical use for the contents of this book.  But the various prayers and devotions do highlight well the different themes of the liturgical seasons, and can greatly enrich one’s private devotions, and, to a limited extent, find a place in our actual liturgies.

Reference Value: 3/5
The liturgical calendar of the Church of England is set out rather differently than ours, but the basics are similar enough that a study through this book’s contents can help one understand not only how our respective calendar traditions diverged from the historic Prayer Book in different ways, but also provide us insight into the logic of liturgical calendars in general.  I could see this book being fruitfully referenced in the context of catechesis, or a small group study, helping people learn about and explore the Church Calendar.

In all, I think this may be the most useful and interesting volume of Common Worship that I’ve got.

Book Review: Common Worship Pastoral Services

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.

The next volume of Common Worship is Pastoral Services, the book that provides the liturgies for “Wholeness and Healing”, Marriages, and Funerals, with some re-printed materials for Emergency Baptisms and Thanksgivings for a Child.  As I noted in reviewing the previous volume, Christian Initiation, it is interesting to see the Healing services here cover the anointing, visitation, and communion of the sick here, but for the Confession/Absolution rite to be place in the post-baptismal context.  This book, too, comes with a theological introduction and rationale, making this more than just a liturgy book, but a more formulaic catechetical document as well.

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As is characteristic of all the books of Common Worship so far, this book provides a lot of optional material with which to supplement or personalize a wedding or funeral ceremony.  There are also printings in the book so they can be celebrated within a Communion service if desired.  Not insignificantly, an “alternative” form of the Marriage and Burial rites is offered at the end of the book, which are basically just the 1662 Prayer Book services.  Traditionalism is thus offered as a concession, not the expectation.  Still, that’s better than how the 1979 book in the USA handled this sort of thing.

A quick survey of the primary contents of this book suggest that the theologically-liberalizing tendency in the Church of England is not especially prominent.  The address at the beginning of the Marriage Rite, for example, is still a loose paraphrase of the traditional Prayer Book exhortation, rather than a complete re-write.  Most of the complaints of modernization that one might raise against this book can be applied to nearly every 20th century Prayer Book as well.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
Like Christian Initiation, this volume is set out in a decently useable format, with several instances where one has to combine its use with another book, such as when celebrating one of the rites in the context of a Communion service.

Devotional Usefulness: 1/5
Unless you’re in the Church of England, none of these liturgies are authorized for your use, and there’s hardly anything in here that can be imported into other contexts.  This is mostly a pastor’s handbook, and the extra prayers and canticles sitting around are almost not worth the effort of looking up.

Reference Value: 1/5
Again, there’s very little worth studying in and learning from this book.  Its theological statement on the healing service may be of some insight, and (like all the volumes) its index at the end can be a handy tool for comparative study – especially where its liturgy does similar things to our own – but ultimately this is probably the least useful book in the Common Worship set, unless you’re actually in the Church of England.

Book Review: Common Worship Christian Initiation

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.

The next volume of Common Worship is subtitled Christian Initiation.  Although the Baptismal liturgy is found in the primary volume of Common Worship, it is repeated in this book with further detail and additional rites, including some key stuff that was omitted from that book.  The Contents of Christian Initiation can be summarized thus:

  • Rites on the Way: Approaching Baptism
    • Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child
    • Baptismal preparation rites and prayers
  • Holy Baptism & Confirmation
    • Regular and Emergency liturgies
    • Baptism & Confirmation in the same service
    • Baptism and/or Confirmation within a Vigil service
    • Seasonal options for variation
  • Rites of Affirmation: Appropriating Baptism
    • Thanksgivings after an initiation service
    • Admission to Holy Communion
    • Renewal of Baptismal Vows
    • Reception into the Anglican Communion
  • Reconciliation & Restoration: Recovering Baptism
    • Service of Corporate Penitence
    • Reconciliation of a Penitent
    • Celebration of Healing
  • Commentary

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It is interesting to see the sacramental rites of Confession/Absolution and Unction/Healing included under the banner of “recovering Baptism.”  In the 2019 Prayer Book they’re being given their own header “Rites of Healing” without the strictly baptismal context.  This baptism-centered approach to liturgical-theological thinking seems to be characteristic of modern (liberal) Anglicanism, something that we’ve observed to be problematic in cases such as the American 1979 Prayer Book‘s baptismal liturgy.

As in the Festivals volume, this book has an enormous collection of additional materials and options to bring variety to the several services herein.  Special Scripture readings are also offered, even with seasonal considerations in mind.  In theory this could be a really nice touch – baptism especially is such a rich sacrament and the different seasons of the Church year could indeed serve as lenses for different angles of teaching on Holy Baptism.  Common Prayer 2011 did a similar thing in providing different readings for the Ember Days according to their respective seasons.  Where this idea falls short, however, is the fact that it’s too much of a big-picture approach that will get lost on the average church-goer.  If one attends all the baptism services held throughout the year, then one will hear all those different Scripture readings and benefit from the variety.  But if people only ever attend one or two baptism services in a given year, then the value of that variety is lost.  Cynically I am tempted to wonder if the variation of readings (and other prayers and materials) is more for the benefit of a bored clergyman who can’t appreciate the beauty of a simple and consistent liturgy?

Another unique feature in this book are its two forms for private confession.  The American book of 1979 contains two, different but recognizably “catholic”, forms for confession and absolution.  The two in this book, however, are clearly modeled after the standard order of liturgy found throughout Common Worship: words of Gathering, Scripture reading(s) and response, the Confession, counsel, and contrition, followed by the Absolution, a Thanksgiving, the Lord’s Prayer, and a Dismissal.  Where a more traditional sacramental confession can be carried out with the confessee needing no more than an index card of scripted text, these rites require a book and a Bible in hand, which strikes me as needlessly complicated.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
Like Festivals, this volume is set out in a decently useable format, though it has more instances where one has to combine its use with another book, such as when celebrating one of the rites in the context of a Communion service.

Devotional Usefulness: 1/5
Unless you’re in the Church of England, none of these liturgies are authorized for your use, and there’s hardly anything in here that can be imported into other contexts.  Some of the corporate penitential prayers are neat – I like the idea of having a Scripture-based litany of penitence or one based on the Beatitudes – but their usefulness in our own liturgical context is extremely limited.

Reference Value: 2/5
Perhaps the most useful feature of this book is its reference value.  The extra Scripture reading and prayer options may be useful for catechesis, and the surprisingly-detailed commentary on the various rites at the end of the book also give a theological rationale for much of the material therein.  One must be cautious, however, of the unhealthy level of liberal theology that has pervaded the Church of England, and therefore take these resources with a grain of salt.

Book Review: Common Worship Festivals

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.

The first companion volume to Common Worship (reviewed last week) is entitled Festivals.  In the Church of England’s terminology, a Festival is what we’d call a Major Feast Day, or Major Holy Day, or a Red-Letter Day: these are the prayer-book-prescribed days of devotion that fill out the liturgical calendar with specific commemorations beyond simply following the seasons.  This volume also contains a more detailed explanation of the calendar set out in Common Worship, and lists the “Lesser Festivals”, or minor feast days or black-letter-day commemorations.

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One might wonder how these features might merit its own volume.  What more is there to be said about them than what’s already in the Prayer Book or the primary volume of Common Worship?  In the spirit of modern liturgy – which has an insatiable appetite for variety and occasional-specific liturgical features – this book provides special prayers for each holy day.  Instead of simply just a Collect and set of lessons, as Prayer Book tradition has appointed, Common Worship: Festivals now provides the liturgical colour, Invitation to Confession, variant on the Kyrie, Collect, lessons, Gospel Acclamation, Intercessions for the Prayers of the People, Introduction to the Peace, Prayer “at the Preparation of the Table”, Preface and Extended Preface for the Prayer of Consecration, Post-Communion Prayer, Blessing, Acclamation, and extra sentences of Scripture for most of the 29 Festivals in the English calendar.  Those extra resources alone contribute about 100 pages to the book.  The calendar, with detailed rubrics and instructions and liturgical color notes,

It then has a further 50 pages that function similar to parts of the Episcopalian book Lesser Feasts and Fasts, providing a Collect and the occasional specific reading suggestion for the various “Lesser Festivals” or commemorations in the calendar.  Similarly, it provides materials for other Eucharistic occasions such as the “Common of the Saints” and “Special Occasions” not unlike the “votive mass” tradition.  This book also provides chant music for many of the Prefaces and Communion Prayers, which would be very helpful for the celebrant to have in the same volume!

The remaining pages of the book go on to reprint the “Order One” Communion Service from the primary volume of Common Worship.  Why?  Because this volume isn’t just a reference book, it’s able to be used as a Mass Book or Missal all on its own.  People can show up to church on a Sunday and grab the black book (Common Worship) or they can show up on a Festival Day and grab this dark blue book instead.  That makes this book actually functional on its own, which is a smart move.

Of course, outside of the Church of England, there is very little room in our authorized liturgy for additions or substitutions as this volume presents.  Perhaps the Acclamations, Blessings, and material for the Prayers of the People may be permitted by our rubrics in the 2019 Prayer Book, and maybe the special Collects & lessons for the black-letter days will be optional too (we have to wait and see what the new book actually specifies about them).  That makes this book’s value to us mainly one of a limited reference role in the rare opportunity that we can use some of its contents without having to get permission from our bishop.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
Functionally, this book is remarkably usable, albeit mostly because it has one “Order” for Holy Communion and no other liturgies included.

Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
Common Worship: Festivals is only for the Communion service; no notes are provided for the Daily Office.  As such outside of England, only a priest or other liturgical planner will be able to use this book.  Within the C of E, folks in the pew can use it on Festival Days, but there still isn’t really anything “to take home” as it were.

Reference Value: 2/5
Having extra Collects and prayers and things for the major and minor feast days can be handy resource.  If that’s all you need this book for, then it’s not worth going out of your way to buy it, and there are a lot of pages therein that you simply won’t need.


Book Review: Common Worship (2000)

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 honor of my new Bishop being consecrated today – he’s from England – I thought we’d take a look at an English book today: Common Worship, which is currently the Church of England’s official (and I imagine most-used) liturgical text alongside the 1662 Prayer Book which is still legally their standard text.  Common Worship is not strictly speaking a Prayer Book.  It has over 800 pages of liturgical material for the Daily Office, Holy Communion, Baptism, Thanksgiving for a Child, and other occasional worship services that one may design oneself according to the provided rubrics; it does not have material for Holy Matrimony, Confirmation, Ordination, Ministration to the Sick, or Burial.  However, it does have further volumes that provide more material and fill in those blanks.

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If you thought that the American 1979 book had a lot of choices to choose from, this book will blow your mind.  Where the ’79 had two traditional-language Prayers of Consecration and four more in contemporary language, this book has two “Orders” for Holy Communion (both offered in contemporary and traditional language styles), Order One having 8 Prayers of Consecration to choose from!  Order One is the contemporary order of the liturgy, similar to what we’ve got in the American books since 1979; Order Two is the English (1662) order of the liturgy.

The Daily Office, too, is a bit complicated, offering a different form of Morning & Evening Prayer for Sundays distinct from the rest of the week.  Both in how the Office is presented, as well as the Communion, it seems that the expectation (or the cynic might say “agenda”) is for most churches to use the contemporary liturgies (provided first), while acknowledging the legitimacy of the traditional (provided second).  But at least they’re both there – the American 1979 book barely threw a bone to the traditionalists, which resulted in the creation of supplemental books such as the Anglican Service Book.  Our upcoming 2019 prayer book will provide authorizations and rubrics for more traditional orderings of the contemporary liturgy, which is very good, but it’s not going to be quite as user-friendly as the way Common Worship provides the traditional material straight-up.  And who can blame our prayer book committees?  Just look at Common Worship – it takes over 800 pages to cover only half of the liturgical texts required for a full Prayer Book!

On the other hand, this book is remarkably user-friendly considering its cumbersome collection of liturgies.  As long as someone tells you what type of worship service you’re walking into (i.e. Holy Communion, Order One) you can simply look it up in the table of contents, go to page 166, and actually follow along quite easily.  The primary divergence of options is the Prayer of Consecration (Prayers A through H offer a range of styles and emphases) but the way it’s handled here is actually rather brilliant.  The prayers that are in common are printed in the main text of the Communion service, and the different responses from the various sets of prayers are put into the main text, allowing the person in the pew to respond to whichever Prayer of Consecration is being said without having to flip to the appropriate pages and back!  For those who do want to read along with the Priest’s text, page numbers are provided.  The various options for the Prayers of the People are handled the same way: the responses are provided in the main text, and a page number reference is included for those who want to read the actual text of the intercessions that the prayer leader will be reading.

The calendar has grown rather differently in English tradition than American.  Both were the same up to the early 20th century, but the way modern liturgical revision has impacted us is different.  The American Anglican treatment of the calendar is more like the Roman Catholics: Epiphany season lasts from January 6th until Ash Wednesday, and the season after Pentecost (or Trinity) runs from Pentecost or Trinity Sunday until Advent.  In England, things got a bit more nuanced – perhaps hanging on to vestiges of old custom in a different way.  The Epiphany season set forth in Common Worship lasts from January 6th until February 2nd (the feast of the Presentation), after which comes “Ordinary Time”, counted as the 1st-5th Sundays before Lent.  After Trinity Sunday Ordinary Times resumes with up to 22 Sundays “after Trinity” followed by All Saints’ Sunday and Three or Four Sundays “before Advent”, sometimes nicknamed Kingdomtide.  Although this is largely irrelevant to our American context (and may even end up adding confusion to some readers) it can be handy to be familiar with this style of calendar as there are other Anglican provinces across the world that follow a variation of the modern English calendar.

The biggest surprise, looking at this book, is one glaring omission: it has no daily lectionary!  The Communion & Holy Day lectionary is elaborate, with multiple sets of readings in case a church has two or even three worship services on a given Sunday, and the occasional note for proper readings at Evening Prayer on the “Eve of” a major feast day (termed Festival in this book).  I suppose if one accounts for all of those, and the three-year cycle of lessons, one could draw enough readings together to fill out the week days for the Daily Office.  But that would not be in the spirit of a daily lectionary at all, providing disjointed readings from day to day, and probably not providing very good coverage of the Bible at all.  In short, this is so Sunday-focused that it seems to give tacit assent to the loss of the daily office in the public eye.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
Despite the massive collection of optional material and “choose-your-own-adventure” nature to the liturgical planning authorized in this book, it is surprisingly easy to navigate if you’re following along with one service.  (If you’re the liturgical planner using this book to prepare a service then boy have you got some studying to do!)

Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
Extra canticles can be great; different forms of confessions and creeds can be interesting from time to time (if not really necessary); having the traditional and modern styles available in one volume is lovely.  The theological precision and accuracy may be an open question for some of the Communion Prayers of Consecration, depending upon one’s point of view.  This could have been a 3, but without a daily lectionary or prayers for funerals and weddings, this book falls to a 2.

Reference Value: 2/5
There is a lot of stuff in here which is interesting, but little that we can use, outside of the Church England.  What is authorized for our liturgy simply is not the same as this book.  What we can glean (or even use) from this book include its wealth of additional Canticles, original confessions and creedal material which we could use for private devotion or even in teaching, and comparative studies in how the calendar and lectionary evolved across the pond.

Before our Texts for Common Prayer started coming together, I knew of a number of ACNA churches that made use of Common Worship to some degree or another, rather than rely solely on the 1979 book.  By this point, we’ve got everything we need such that we don’t need to rely on external sources such as this.  Furthermore, it is our bishops who authorize liturgical texts, not local priests, so must of us probably aren’t even allowed to use Common Worship in our public liturgy.  It’s a neat resource to poke through if you’ve got it, but since its whole text is freely available online, there’s not really any reason to get a hard copy unless you really want to build up a liturgical library.  (I’ve only got a copy because someone else was downsizing his library!)

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.