Book Review: Liturgies of the Western Church

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 we’re looking at Liturgies of the Western Church, selected and introduced by Bard Thompson.  This is a reference book that every student of liturgy should have on the shelf.


After a short introduction and bibliography (from the perspective of 1961), this book is occupied with introducing and setting out thirteen different liturgies from across Western Christian history (though the first two are not exclusively Western liturgies).

#1 – The First Apology of Justin Martyr (155)

This does not contain a liturgy, exactly, but we find here chapters 65-67 of his Apology, wherein he describes the order of service for the Communion liturgy he knew.  Although it is a brief outline, the basic sequence is clearly discernible, and it is consistent with the liturgical tradition to this day.

#2 – The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (200)

This is an important entry in the annals of history not because of its long-standing influence, but because of its sudden sharp revival in the mid-20th century.  This is the rite from which most of the Rite II Communion Prayers in the 1979 Prayer Book were drawn, as well as the Renewed Ancient Text in the 2019 Prayer Book.  Reading what it actually says, though, allows one to see just what the adaptations are that modern liturgies have made in its name.  I’ll leave it to the reader’s judgment if the term “renewed ancient” is justified or not.

#3 – The Mass in Latin and English (Roman Rite)

The introductory text for this one is particularly lengthy, as befits the long history of the Roman Rite.  What is given in this book was the then-current form of the Roman Rite (as of 1959), making this the Tridentine form Mass just before the reforms of Vatican II kicked in.  The Tridentine Mass is what traditional (Roman) Catholics today really love and yearn for, and what the baby boomer generation stereotypically despises.  This is a useful resource, of course, as it gives insight into one end of Roman Catholic piety.  But its downside is that this is not the form of the Mass that was in use during, or prior to, the Reformation.  So if you want compare & contrast the Prayer Book liturgy with its medieval forebear, this book doesn’t quite provide that.  You’ll have to, instead, rely on Tyndale’s translation of the Mass provided in the Anglican Service Book.  Still, the Latin-English parallels are handy, and the historical introduction gives you a sense of the gradual milieu of change over the centuries.

#4 – Martin Luther’s Masses (1523, 1526)

This is an interesting entry.  The Formula Missa (1523) was in Latin, and Martin Luther intended for it to be used on occasion for educational purposes.  Most of the time, though, the German Mass (1526) was appointed.  Every educated person, after all, learned Latin, and since instructing the laity in the reading of Scripture and promoting education was a Reformation principle, it made sense to hold worship in Latin periodically, so people could connect the familiar vernacular text to the Latin.  The liturgy provided in this book, however, is not a full text of the whole service; it’s a mix of text, rubric, and commentary, so you end up learning more about the German liturgy than digging into its precise text.

#5 – the Zurich Liturgy (1525)

This is the work of Ulrych Zwingli, whose communion theology was, shall we say, problematically radical.  Because he had such a “low view” of Communion, his liturgy is similarly empty when it comes to the Holy Table.  No sacrament, no consecration, just remembering and partaking.

#6 – The Strassburg Liturgy (1539)

This is the work of Martin Bucer, who was a theologian standing somewhere between Luther and Zwingli.  He was respected by John Calvin and finished his life and ministry in England, where he had a particular lasting impact.  His liturgy contains a number of very long prayers (a pattern we’ll see copied later on) but when it comes to celebration of Holy Communion it is suddenly (like Zwingli) quite brief.

#7 – The Form of Church Prayers, Strassburg (1545), and Geneva (1542)

It is John Calvin’s turn, now.  These are two liturgies that are nearly identical, and thus printed in the book with their occasional differences noted in parallel columns.  Again, long prayers precede and follow the Confession, and lead up to the Sermon.  The Communion prayers are also lengthy, quoting 1 Corinthians 11 at length, and exhorting the people to lift their “spirits and hearts on high where Jesus Christ is in the glory of his Father”.  There are further sets of prayers that provide another liturgy that begin to resemble the Prayer Book pattern around the celebration of Holy Communion, but still focused heavily on the words of institution and giving thanks.

#8 – the First and Second Prayer Books of King Edward VI (1549, 1552)

Now at last we reach the English Reformation.  The 1549 liturgy is the most conservative protestant liturgy in this book; you can follow its similarity to the Roman Rite more easily than any other entry.  Its order of prayers around the consecration of the Eucharist are fairly closely followed in the Scottish and American Prayer Book traditions, all the way down to the 1928 Prayer Book and the Anglican Standard Text in the 2019.  The 1552 liturgy does the re-arranging and clipping of the Communion Prayers that sets the stage more clearly for what would standardize in the 1662 Prayer Book.

#9 – the Form of Prayers, Geneva (1556)

John Knox is now the man of the hour.  This liturgy represents one of the primary influences on the English Reformation party in exile during the reign of Catholic Queen “bloody” Mary Tudor.  It seems a bit of a hybrid between the previous Genevan liturgy and the Prayer Book liturgy, but contains some sharp polemic directed against the Papist doctrine of Transubstantiation, revealing its historical context a little too much!

#10 – The Middleburg Liturgy of the English Puritans (1586)

Now we’re getting into the world of Prebyterianism.  The Church of England had restored a Prayer Book similar to where it had left off before Mary’s reign, but the Puritan party was increasingly unhappy with it, and thus this liturgy was born.  The Calvinist, or Puritan, or “Reformed” desire was to simplify, reduce repetitions, and focus more on preaching and quoting Scripture.  This doesn’t mean short though… one prayer for After a Sermon goes on for several pages.  The Communion prayers, of course, are very short, and consciously different from the Prayer Book pattern.  There are also several instances where a rubric directs what the minister is to pray without giving an actual text.  Extemporaneous prayer was another major bullet point on the Reformed agenda.

#11 – The Westminster Directory of the Publique Worship of God (1644)

After the English Civil War, the Puritans had won: the Church of England as previously known was abolished, and Presbyterianism held sway over the country.  Within a couple years, this liturgy was put forth as the new standard.  It’s almost more of a guide than a liturgical text, however, as it mostly tells the order of what is to be done and only provides examples of what the minister is to pray.  Its hostility to the “excesses” of the Prayer Book tradition is clear in its preface.

#12 – The Savoy Liturgy (1661)

When the Interregnum ended and King Charles II returned to the throne of England, the Church of England with its bishops and prayer book also came back out of hiding.  The Puritan party was on the fence about conforming to the Anglican norm, and Richard Baxter, at the Savoy Conference, advocated a more Reformed liturgy in the (vain) hopes that the upcoming 1662 Prayer Book wouldn’t be like its predecessors.  The liturgy found here is an expanded version of what can be seen in the various Calvinist liturgies above, but with more full-text prayers provided, rather than mere examples.  It still falls short of Prayer Book standards, though, providing (for example) no absolution.  Interestingly, its prayers of consecration are the most Anglican of the Calvinist rites so far seen, including this line: “This bread and wine, being set apart, and consecrated to this holy use by God’s appointment, are now no common bread and wine, but sacramentally the body and blood of Christ.”  This indicates a distinction of Calvinist doctrine over again Zwinglian.  Ultimately this barely made a dent in the formation of the 1662 Prayer Book.

#13 – The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America (1784)

Finally, we come to a liturgy left to the American Methodists by John Welsey.  Seeing little or no ordained Anglican clergymen in the fledgling United States, he felt at liberty to jumpstart a new church movement without episcopal authority or assistance.  Despite that rogue element in his work, what he gave to the American Methodist Church was almost an exact replica of the 1662 Prayer Book.  The Morning Prayer and Communion services are printed in this book, and you’ll see they are almost identical.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
The fact that the various liturgies present themselves in a few different ways makes a quick compare/contrast difficult to make.  But on the whole this is a readable book, not overly technical.

Devotional Usefulness: N/A
This is not a devotional book.  Though if it does it’s job, you’ll want to go grab a Prayer Book and worship!

Reference Value: 4/5
Put this next to your copy of the 1662 Prayer Book and you’ll have a fantastic history of liturgy on your shelf.  Or, because it’s not 1961 anymore, you can just go online and probably find each of these texts freely available.  Still, the introductions and footnotes in this book are useful.

Book Review: The Lutheran 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.

It’s been a couple weeks but we left off with a couple non-Anglican liturgical books, and today we’re picking that trend back up again with The Lutheran Service Book (2006), which is basically the official liturgical text for the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS).

This book is basically a Prayer Book and Hymnal in one, which is super handy.  What’s strange about it, from an Anglican perspective, is the ordering of its contents.

Introductory Contents:
Church Year, Sunday & Holy Day lectionaries, Dates of Easter, Glossary, instructions for chanting psalms

Most of this makes sense to us, the only oddity is that the Sunday / Holy Day lectionaries are placed up front with the calendar – historically that’s where we would have the Daily Office Lectionary, though the 2019 BCP has all its lectionaries toward the back instead.

Interestingly, this book includes two choices for the Calendar and Sunday lectionary: one is their version of the 3-year Revised Common Lectionary (essentially the same as ours, only minor differences), and the other is the traditional one-year calendar and lectionary (essentially the same as in the classical Prayer Books).  Although I’m not surprised the 2019 Prayer Book didn’t provide both calendar & lectionary options, I kind of wish it had.

The chanting instructions make sense here because the first primary section of this book is:

The Psalms

Yes, all 150 are here, and they’re even pointed for chant!  For example, from Psalm 15:

O Lord, who shall sojourn | in your tent? *
Who shall dwell on your | holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does | what is right *
and speaks truth | in his heart.

So that’s pretty useful.  The chant style is very similar to Simplified Anglican Chant, which is great.  Functionally it’s strange that the psalter should be put first like this: this means that you “have to know” where the right worship service starts in the book, increasing the necessary page-flipping.  But in another sense, giving the Psalms place of preference is a theological statement: this is where our worship begins.  Virtually every worship service in the liturgical tradition utilizes the psalms, and biblically they are our greatest model for faithful prayer.

The Divine Service

The next nearly-60 pages are taken up with five “Settings” of the Divine Service, or Holy Communion.  “They have five different eucharistic texts!?” you ask.  Yes.  But they are all extremely similar to one another.

The primary difference between the order of service here and in the 2019 Prayer Book is that this starts with a confession and absolution, rather than placing it after the Prayers of the People.  Setting One’s confession prayer in particular is clearly based upon our confession in the Daily Office.  For the Creed, both the Nicene and Apostles’ are offered.  Two sequences of Communion Prayers are typically offered, one placing the Words of Institution before the Lord’s Prayer, and the other after.  In general, the style and wording of the prayers – particularly the Communion prayers – progress from traditional to contemporary as you look through from Setting One to Setting Five; the last of which sounds the most like the 1979 Prayer Book.

Another fascinating, and consistent, feature of the Lutheran liturgy is the use of the Canticle Nunc dimittis as a Post-Communion praise, just like how the classical Prayer Books employed the Gloria in excelsis.  This has prompted and encouraged me to explore different Canticle options after the administration of Holy Communion in my own church’s worship services, rather than always simply employing a Communion Hymn.

Another curiosity, perhaps marking the most obvious distinction between the five Settings, is the music.  Settings One through Four each have a particular collection of Service Music printed right into them.  This is useful for those who desire to use them, though a bit odd from my observing perspective, as it ties you to particular combinations of musical settings with the variations of prayers.  I assume it’s permissible for them to mix and match text and music, but it just seems an odd way of printing it.  Whateverso, the range of styles are interesting: different forms of chant (some like plainchant, some like Anglican Chant, including the Old Scottish Chant of the Gloria in Setting Three).  Setting Five has no music printed in it, though, preferring the simplicity of spoken liturgy, and indicating a few hymns to sing in place of the standard Kyrie and GloriaSanctus and Agnus Dei.

The Daily Offices

Where the Daily Offices hold pride of place in Anglican Prayer Books, the Lutheran Service Book starts them on page 219, after the Communion settings.  These, too, include musical settings of various Canticles and Psalms right in the text, as well as other chanted parts for the dialogues and blessings and whatnot.  Five Offices are provided: Matins, Vespers, Morning Prayer, Evening Payer, and Compline.  Again this is a “huh?” moment for Anglicans, as Matins & Vespers are the Morning & Evening Offices.

As it turns out, Matins and Morning Prayer are very similar in this book, containing largely the same elements.  Like the Communion Settings, the music and chant is the most obvious difference between the two,   Matins is the most like the Prayer Books’ Morning Prayer; the Morning Prayer in this book lacks the Te Deum and rearranges the prayers after the Canticle.

None of these offices include Confessions or the Apostles’ Creed, which is another difference between this book and our tradition.

Vespers and Evening Prayer are similar to one another, but start markedly different: Vespers more resembling the Prayer Book tradition, and Evening Prayer starting off with that curious “Service of Lights” thing in the 1979 Prayer Book.

Compline is very similar to as it is found in modern Anglican Prayer Books.  I assume, since it was not taken up in most Protestant liturgical books during the Reformation, that it saw the least amount of editing and change in unofficial use, such that when it started to reappear in the late 20th century it had undergone the least amount of denominational divergence.

Other Services and Resources

From here the book includes a collection of other liturgies that a Prayer Book would be expected to have: Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Funeral Service, Responsive Prayers, a Litany, Corporate and Private Confessions & Absolution, Daily Prayer for Families, a Daily Lectionary, table of Psalms for the Offices (though not covering the whole psalter or the whole year), Occasional Prayers, the Athanasian Creed, and Luther’s Small Catechism.  All this is comparable to what one would expect in an Anglican Prayer Book, and much of its contents are recognizably similar to our own.

The first “Other Service”, however, does not have an Anglican counterpart (unless you delve into England’s controversial Common Worship).  It’s called Service of Prayer and Preaching, and it seems to be a what-to-do-on-a-Sunday-morning-when-the-ordained-minister-is-away sort of service.  Opening Verses, an Old Testament Canticle (known to us as #8 Ecce Deus), Scripture readings, dialogued responses, a congregational reading from part of the catechism, Sermon or Catechetical Instruction, (Offertory) Hymn, several Prayers, a New Testament Canticle (known to us as the Pascha Nostrum), and a closing Blessing.

The Hymns

636 hymns follow, arranged by Church Season, Person & Work of Christ, the Christian Church, the Christian Life, other Times and Seasons, additional Service Music, and National Songs.  Naturally there are quite a lot more German Chorales here than in a typical Anglican hymnal (though the 2017 hymnal has quite a few!), and several hymns well-known to us with different arrangements – occasionally entirely different tune settings.  For example Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face is set to FARLEY CASTLE instead of PENITENTIA, and At the Lamb’s high feast we sing is set to SONNE DER GERECHTIGKEIT instead of SALZBURG (ALLE MENSCHEN).

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
Page-flipping within a particular worship service (especially the Sunday Communion) is minimal.  The main challenge is making sure you know what service you’re actually doing (five Communion rites, remember).  If you’re trying to use this for the Daily Office then things are rather more complex as you have to hunt for the lectionary and psalms with rather more vigor than a typical Anglican Prayer Book.

Devotional Usefulness: 3/5
This book is not the sum total the LCMS expression of Lutheran worship, but all the basics are here.  As Anglicans we could use this book and find a faithful approximation of our own liturgical tradition.  The Communion Prayers are all significantly shorter than ours (even shorter than what’s in the 1662 Prayer Book), but on the whole theologically compatible with ours.  The lack of clarity regarding daily psalmody would be a loss, however.  This book also has a nice collection of hymns that could supplement our own hymnals.  And to be fair, if I was a Lutheran, I’d rate this as either a or a 5, depending upon what I’d thereby know of the historic liturgies before this book.

Reference Value: 2/5
It’s hard to rate this score.  For most of us, we have no reason to pick up the liturgical text of a different tradition, even one so closely-related as the Lutherans.  The similarities of English-language Lutheran worship with Prayer Book worship also makes it clear that they have taken several queues from us.  As such, this Lutheran Service Book is probably best understood as an expression of historic Lutheran worship using the Anglican Prayer Book as a useful filter from time to time.  If you really want to explore historic Lutheran liturgy, you probably have to pick up the Book of Concord or something to that effect.  But I haven’t done that yet.

Book Review: Shorter Christian Prayer

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.

My first exposure to liturgical worship was when I played piano for Mass at a Roman Catholic church during my undergraduate years.  The beauty and purpose of liturgy didn’t really strike me until after I graduated, but during that time I did gradually get used to the different “style” of prayer involved and got curious enough to join a brief service of Vespers, which is akin to our Evening Prayer service except that it’s all psalmody and prayer with only one few-verse Scripture reading.  We did this ten-minute liturgy from a little red book called Shorter Christian Prayer, which is a compact and simplified version of the four-volume Liturgy of the Hours that forms the full current Roman Breviary (Daily Office).  When I graduated, I bought my own copy and used it sporadically during the summer and into my first year of seminary.

Shorter Christian Prayer was for me a gentle introduction to the discipline of daily prayer.  The Anglican Daily Office is much longer and more robust – definitely a healthier spiritual diet, but there’s a lot more to bite off.  This Roman book was like a stepping-stone on the path toward the real deal.  It features a four-week rotation of psalms, which is close to our Prayer Book period of time, except this doesn’t manage to include all 150 psalms, even with a separate Night Office included.

Functionally, this book is tricky to use; you need to use it with someone who knows what they’re doing with it first, before forging off on your own.  It’s very compact, abbreviating things as much as possible, printing the “Ordinary” (unchanging) elements in one place, the four-week-rotating elements in another section, and the seasonal “propers” in a third section.  The Morning & Evening Gospel Canticles (Benedictus and Magnificat) are printed on the inside front & back covers, respectively, for ease of access.  It all makes sense once you understand the system, but the learning curve is unpleasant.  I don’t think I ever quite used this book right when I actually used it, ca. 2008.


Look at the Evening Prayer service start here.  Those opening sentences are short for: “God, come to my assistance.”  “Lord, make haste to help me.”  “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.”  “As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.  Alleluia.”

A hymn follows, and there’s an appendix of hymns in the back (lyrics only).  Then you get the psalms.  To decipher what you see there on pages 208-209, there is an antiphon, followed by the Psalm (123), the “Glory to the Father,” then a psalm-prayer, then you repeat the antiphon.  Then you repeat that sequence with the next psalm (124).

There is often a third psalm or canticle from elsewhere in Scripture, followed by a reading (which is barely ever more than 5 verses long).  A brief responsory follows, which is sort of like an antiphonal prayer, then the Gospel Canticle (of Mary, in Evening Prayer here), with its own antiphon again.  Then follow intercessions which are like our suffrages, wrapped up with the Lord’s Prayer, a concluding prayer, and the concluding blessing.  You can get through all this in ten minutes or less, where the Anglican Daily Office is typically twice that length at least.  And yet, the Roman office manages to be more complicated in a shorter amount of time.

Visibly, this book is attractively bound and its use of red ink for rubrics and black ink for text-to-be-read-aloud is very helpful.  The typeface and artistry smack of 1980’s weirdness, but (being largely unfamiliar with liturgy at the time) I just took it as part of its charm.

On the whole, the daily office that this book gives you is one that is complex but short, varied in its content but frequent in its repetition of said content.  You don’t get all 150 psalms but you do get a nice array of other canticles mixed in.  The liturgical seasons have a much larger impact on the office than we experience in the Anglican tradition.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 2/5
Unless you really know your way around liturgy in general, this book is probably too complicated to figure out how to use on your own.  I think it’s meant either 1, for priests who don’t want to have to carry the full Liturgy of the Hours volume with them, or 2, for laymen who are following along the Office in the pews and are being guided through the service.  Or perhaps, 3, for enthusiastic laymen who have already learned the Office and want to pray it on their own.

Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
It’s just the Daily Office, which is only part of your spiritual life.  And given how anemic its treatment of the Scriptures is, you’re not going to get much meat here.  The antiphons and psalm-prayers can really bring the experience of praying the psalms to life, though – it’s what woke me up to the joy and virtue of praying psalms.

Reference Value: 2/5
This is a modern version of what probably used to be a much richer and more complex liturgy in the Roman tradition.  Looking at this book probably won’t give you significant insight into the depths of Papist liturgy, so its reference value is likely pretty low.  That said, its rubrics are pretty specific (once you find them), and comparative study between this and our Prayer Books can be pretty interesting.

As a last word, I should add that apart from the Liturgy of the Hours, Roman liturgy also has an “Office of Readings” which includes more substantial readings from the Bible as well as certain Church Fathers and theologians.  I doubt it still measures up to our Daily Office Lectionary, and the post-biblical readings are undoubtedly going to be unabashedly Papist in doctrine, so we’re not going to have much use for that.  Though the idea of devotional readings from the divines of our tradition is one worth considering, albeit not in our Daily Office itself.

I am thankful for this book.  Once in a blue moon I pick it up and pray the appropriate Office from it, mostly out of nostalgia and gratitude for the role that Roman Catholic chapel played in my Christian growth.  But that’s not reason enough for me to recommend anyone else get a copy.  Only do so if you plan on some comparative-liturgical study.

Book Review: Saint Joseph Continuous Sunday Missal

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 few books we’re going to look at are from liturgical traditions other than our own.  Obviously it is important to well-grounded in who we are and what we believe and where we stand, but it is also important to understand that we don’t stand in a vacuum, but as a part of the greater whole of Western Catholicism, and further, universal Christianity.  So today we’re going to go with one of the more random entries on my liturgy shelf: the Saint Joseph Continuous Sunday Missal, from 1963.

As you probably know, the 1960’s was a hotbed of liturgical changes in the Roman Church, and the vast majority of the Protestant world was about to follow suit.  The council known as Vatican II ran from 1962 to 1965, and one of its earliest reforms was for the liturgy in the local vernacular.  This Sunday Missal from 1963 represents a brief slice of Roman liturgical reform where it’s all in English, but most of the “novus ordo” (new order) stuff hasn’t been introduced.  It’s a precious snapshot of the Tridentine liturgy in English, something that’s almost completely lost today.  Under Benedict XVI, Roman Catholics got their Latin Mass back, but I’m not sure they got back their historic liturgy in the English language.  Their situation is something like Anglicans having to choose between the 1662 Prayer Book with zero changes and the 1979 Prayer Book – super traditional to the point of liturgical fetishism, or super modern to the ire of traditionalists everywhere.

So, apart from historical reference, in a tradition not even our own, what use is this book to an Anglican today?  Well, if you’re one of those crypto-Papist versions of Anglo-Catholic, then I suppose this book is pretty close to your view of an ideal liturgy in English.  It may help inform how you use the Anglican Missal, or whatever other Prayer Book supplement you prefer.  But most of us, I hazard to say, are more interested in Anglican liturgy and spirituality; what does this Roman book have to offer?

When I spent three years with my church in the classical prayer book lectionary, I learned a lot about how the liturgy used to be structured.  Remember that the historic Sunday Eucharistic lectionary has just two readings: an Epistle (usually) and a Gospel.  The Prayer Book tradition appoints a Collect for each Sunday and Holy Day to go with those two readings, but that’s it.  But what I eventually discovered was that there are more “propers” to draw upon if one so chooses.  There’s also the Introit and the Gradual – short pieces, usually chanted, usually from the Psalms, that are said near the start of the liturgy and between the Epistle and Gospel, respectively.  But what are those texts, and how are they used?  That’s where this book came in handy for me: by spelling out the full text of the Roman Mass for each Sunday of the year, it showed me how they did the Introit and Gradual, giving me insight into how those two additional propers could be put into the our liturgy.

First you can see the Introit, between the “Foremass” confession and the Kyrie, functioning in essentially the same way as our Opening Acclamation today.


After the Kyrie and Gloria comes their Collect of the Day, and then we turn the page to find the Epistle, Gradual, and Gospel.  Notice how both the Introit and Gradual use an Antiphon-Verse-Antiphon pattern, though slightly differently.  The Gradual functions similarly to our (responsory) Psalm in modern liturgy.


Then we get through the Creed, Sermon, and arrive at the Offertory.  It’s interesting to note that they appointed particular Offertory Sentences to particular Sundays, whereas the Prayer Book tradition just throws a 2-3 page list at you to choose from.


And then finally, after 8 pages of Communion prayers, we get to an oft-overlooked piece of liturgy, the Communion Sentence.  As far as I’ve noticed, the Prayer Book tradition has always authorized this little piece of liturgy, but seldom (if ever) gave instructions on how to do it.  Notice here that it’s said after the sacrament has been distributed and the vessels cleaned.


The Post-Communion Prayer follows the Communion Sentence – it’s almost as if that little Scripture verse is there to re-direct everyone’s attention to the reception of the Sacrament after the sometimes-lengthy process of communicating everyone, getting everyone back on track to pray the Post-Communion together.

I share this in detail partly because I think it’s interesting, but also because it sheds some slight on how certain elements of our own liturgy, old and new, work in similar tradition to our own.  For example, I’ve only ever heard a Communion Sentence uttered at one church I’ve visited, and only tried saying one myself at my church once or twice.  Perhaps old resources like this one can inspire us to look at our own liturgy with fresh eyes.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 5/5
If this book represented the way a church worships today, it would be incredibly useful.  It’s easy to follow, the whole Mass through.  It’s got a picture at the beginning of each Sunday Mass to give a visual sense of the day’s theme.  Everything is clearly labeled.  The book is long (over 1,000 pages) but not large.  It’s got explanations of the calendar and the parts of the Mass, with color pictures, at the beginning.  The whole point of this book was to help church-goers follow and understand the Roman Mass easily.

Devotional Usefulness: 1/5
As noted previously, this book represents a form of the liturgy that probably doesn’t exist anywhere anymore.  And it’s very Roman, so the theological content of its eucharistic prayers is not entirely agreeable with the Prayer Book tradition.  And although it does have some other prayer resources in the back, this book just isn’t really “for us”.

Reference Value: 3/5
If you’re interested in how various elements of traditional Western liturgy can/did/”should” look in English, this book, or another like it, is extremely handy.  Its usefulness is pretty narrow, though.

If you chance upon a book like this at a yard sale or an estate sale, like I did, it’s totally worth shelling $5 to save it from the rubbish heap.  It’s a book cool to explore, and it looks really pretty on your shelf, too!  There’s a lot to be said for elegant, simple, beauty.

Book Review: Celebrating the Eucharist

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.

Alongside Ceremonies of the Eucharist which we looked at last week, my seminary class on Anglican liturgy was also given a newer “practical ceremonial guide” entitled Celebrating the Eucharist, by Patrick Malloy.  The idea was that, together, they’d give us two slightly different approaches to the liturgy.  In retrospect, they aren’t all that different from one another.  Galley’s book was billed as the more specific and prescriptive (perhaps old-fashioned) writer in mindset, where this one by Malloy is more broad and theological, less interested in telling us how to do the liturgy, in favor of telling us how to think about the liturgy so we can make good decisions.

In our day of wide variation in local custom and architecture and circumstance, it would seem that Malloy’s approach here in Celebrating the Eucharist is the best way to go.  Unfortunately, the success of the endeavor is entirely reliant upon the principles of the writer, and Patrick Malloy is a 21st-century Episcopalian… this book was written in 2007.  So, apart from the problem shared with Ceremonies of the Eucharist and Elements of Offering (that these are all written for the 1979 Prayer Book with almost zero regard to prior tradition), Celebrating the Eucharist has the added problem that it literally comes from the very setting that we Anglicans are explicitly not a part of.  Many of you left TEC; I never joined them in the first place, so I don’t carry that experiential baggage myself, but on principle I know that there is little point on looking to their resources from recent times for good advice and perspective.

One example of what makes this book very much suspect is the author’s deconstruction approach to the liturgy.  Rather than dealing with the Eucharistic service as a cohesive whole, he looks at it from a utilitarian or practical perspective: “what are the most important parts?”  This American reductionism may be good for business and industry (though even that’s debatable) but it is terrible for liturgy.  A liturgical service is not a string of interchangeable ingredients like beads on a necklace, but more like a living body: yes bodies can look different from one another, but there’s a reason that every part is where it is.  To some extent Malloy knows this, and some of his liturgical principles spelled out in chapter 3 are spot on.  But in chapter 9 “The Greater and the Lesser” he succumbs to the temptation to deconstructing the liturgy into a set of “core essentials”, which don’t even line up with pre-1979 Prayer Book liturgies, giving away the game that he’s not espousing Anglican liturgical theology, but Modernist Episcopalian liturgical theology.

One brief example of this can be found on pages 163-164, where he talks about the Confession of Sin in the Eucharistic liturgy.  Oddly enough he sees this as one of the expendable parts of the service:

The Confession may be omitted “on occasion” (BCP 359).  The Council of Nicea (325) forbade kneeling during the entire Fifty Days of Easter, and so the Easter season could well be considered an appropriate time for omitting the Confession.  Other great feasts are similarly appropriate.

Such advice flies in the face of every Anglican Prayer Book before the 1979 book, and (I would argue) defies the spirit of the rubric in the 1979 book.  Every Sunday from Easter Day through Pentecost is not an “occasion.”

At risk of making you think that this book is total trash, I will point out that some of his advice is still useful.  After all, the external form of the 2019 Prayer Book liturgy is very similar to that of the 1979, so some of his more practical lines of advice remain applicable to our context.  Things like ordering a procession, the communion vessels on the Credence Table, the artistry (as opposed to “bill-board” effect or costume mentality) of vestments, advice against a “sequence hymn” intruding between the Gospel and the Sermon, and insight regarding the different styles of thuribles, are all worthy reminders for us.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
The book is well organized, and is written in a clear style.  Much of its contents are in essay, or prose, rather than step-by-step walk-throughs of the liturgy, so it takes a lot more reading than other customary or ceremonial books to find all the advice and direction you might be looking for.

Devotional Usefulness: N/A
The insights of this book are almost exclusively for the Communion service; the Daily Office is not in the purview of this book.

Reference Value: 2/5
As mentioned above, this was written specifically to explicate the 1979 Prayer Book.  Much of its procedure will translate well to the 2019 Prayer Book, but you have to be attentive to his principles at each step of the way, as both his liturgical and his theological perspective is suspect according to traditional Anglican standards.

Overall, it’s neat book to have, and to compare with other Episcopalian commentaries on liturgy, but it’s not one I’d recommend you go out and buy.

Book Review: Ceremonies of the Eucharist

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 my Anglican liturgy course at seminary, there were two books about the ceremonies of the Prayer Book that we were instructed to read and compare.  Both dealt with the 1979 Prayer Book and presented somewhat different approaches to the liturgy.  One of those books was Ceremonies of the Eucharist – A Guide to Celebration by Howard E. Galley, published in 1989.  This book is very clearly and logically arranged:

Part One: Of Churches and their Furnishings (18 pages)
Part Two: Of Liturgical Ministers (22 pages)
Part Three: Of Seasons, Music, and Liturgical Practices (24 pages)
Part Four: Of Preparations for the Service (6 pages)
Part Five: The Service in Detail (63 pages)
Part Six: Synopsis of Ceremonies (40 pages)
Part Seven: The Holy Eucharist with Baptism (10 pages)
Part Eight: Celebrations with Small Congregations (4 pages)
Part Nine: Holy Communion After the Liturgy (4 pages)
Part Ten: Reservation of the Sacrament (4 pages)
Part Eleven: Holy Communion by a Deacon (4 pages)
Part Twelve: The Bishop at Parish Eucharists (16 pages)
Part Thirteen: The Bishop at Holy Baptism (8 pages)
Part Fourteen: The Ordination of Priests and Deacons (6 pages)
Part Fifteen: Appendix: Liturgical Texts (5 pages)

A handy glossary concludes the book.

As you’ll see, the largest portion of this book, by far, is a detailed walk-through of the Rite II Communion Service of the 1979 prayer book, followed by a walk-through of the actions and movements of the various ministers (priest, deacon, acolyte, and “others”).

On the whole, Galley’s approach to the liturgy is principled and measured.  He is not prone to outbursts of strong and (occasionally) quirky opinion like Fr. John-Julian.  He does, however, share his slight disregard for the previously-established Anglican liturgical tradition; they are both 1979 loyalists, one could say.  Galley, at least, however, is aware that things have changed since the 70’s.

Because of this, Galley’s advice on ceremonial can be received with a little more confidence for the user of the 2019 prayer book.  As far as the order of service is concerned, the 2019 and 1979 have very much in common, and the ceremonial of the one will usually work for the other.  Because Galley usually takes his time to reflect and comment upon the liturgy, it is easier for the 21st century Anglican priest to assess what elements of his advice are worth observing versus setting aside.  Galley is very much a part of the “liturgical renewal” movement that the 2019 Prayer Book has taken steps to unravel somewhat, so we cannot assume that ceremonial for the 1979 will be appropriate wholesale for us.

One specific example of ceremonial that I appreciate in this book is on page 90, in the section dealing with the Sermon:

The present Prayer Book deliberately makes no provision for a hymn (or anything else) to intrude between the gospel and the sermon.  This exclusion raises serious questions about the practice, sometimes seen, of singing the opening stanzas of a hymn during the gospel procession, and the remaining stanzas after the gospel – while the procession returns and the preacher goes to the pulpit.  Such a practice also does little justice to the integrity – and frequently to the sense – of the text of the hymn.

Although this is not a liturgical pet peeve of mine, this is something I have seen in a couple place, and is not a feature that I like.  The sequence of lessons, culminating in the Gospel and leading to the sermon, is an ascending-by-steps into the Word of God, and having more singing between the Gospel and the Sermon interrupts that upward movement.  Galley’s thoughtful rebuke of that practice is but one example of liturgical principle leading to sound ceremonial.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 5/5
The book is well organized, well labeled and marked, and is written in a clear style.  It references page numbers in the ’79 prayer book, as well as other chapters in this book, whenever necessary.  The glossary is also a helpful feature.

Devotional Usefulness: N/A
The ceremonial instructions here are comprehensive for the Communion service; the Daily Office is not in the purview of this book, though.

Reference Value: 4/5
As mentioned above, this was written specifically to explicate the 1979 Prayer Book.  Much of its procedure will translate well to the 2019 Prayer Book, but you have to be attentive to his reasoning at each step of the way to make sure the actions taken in worship match the theology of worship and the proper meaning and function of the liturgy.

Book Review: Elements of Offering

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.

We turn today to another book concerning ritual and customs, still generally high church yet very, very different from last week’s entry on Ritual Notes.  Today’s book is a much shorter affair, barely passing 100 pages: Elements of Offering by Fr. John-Julian, released by Nashotah House Press.  Despite the similar churchmanship, this book is almost completely different to Ritual Notes.  It’s short, written as personal-yet-principled advice rather than as straightforward rubrics.  This book seems more like a pile of educational church bulletin inserts stuck together into a book – there are more typos than I’m used to seeing, a more casual writing style, and (horrifyingly) no Table of Contents or Index.  You just have page through the book to see what’s there.  Fortunately its contents are arranged pretty logically.  I took the liberty of creating the following list.

  1. The Eucharistic Action (1)
  2. Liturgical Meaning (2)
  3. Liturgical Emotion (2)
  4. Liturgical Novelty (3)
  5. Liturgical Accretions (4)
  6. Division of Labor (6)
  7. Silence (6)
    – – – In the Sanctuary – – –
  8. The Fair Linen (8)
  9. The Candles (9)
  10. The Corporal (11)
  11. The Purificator (12)
  12. The Lavabo Towel (13)
  13. Laundering Linen (14)
  14. Vestments (15)
  15. Posture (20)
  16. Altar Wine (29)
  17. The Altar Breads (31)
  18. The Vessels (32)
  19. Sanctus Bells (35)
  20. The Credence Table (36)
  21. The Eucharistic Action (37)
  22. Uncluttered Altar (38)
  23. Incense (40)
  24. Osculations (41)
  25. Missals and Stands (42)
    – – – Walk-through of the Holy Eucharist – – –
  26. Salutations (43)
  27. The Collect (43)
  28. The Scripture Readings (44)
  29. The Sermon/Homily (49)
  30. The Creed (50)
  31. Passing the Peace (51)
  32. The Offertory (52)
  33. The Consecration (53)
  34. Sign of the Cross in the Lord’s Prayer (57)
  35. Invitation to Communion (58)
  36. Words of Administration (59)
  37. Administering the Chalice (60)
  38. The Ablutions (61)
  39. The Post-Communion (63)
  40. Final Blessing (63)
    – – – The Divine Office – – –
  41. A Literary Liturgy (65)
  42. The Phos Hilaron (65)
  43. The Psalter and Office (66)
  44. Meditative Recitation (68)
  45. The Office Readings (69)
  46. The Suffrages (71)
    – – – Other Liturgies – – –
  47. Advent (73)
  48. Lent (73)
  49. Rogationtide (77)
  50. Holy Unction (79)
  51. Miscellaneous (82)
  52. Clericals (83)


  1. Appropriate Forms to announce Scripture Readings (84)
  2. Folding Altar Linens (87)
  3. Concerning Advent (89)
  4. When to Bow (91)
  5. Recipe for Gluten-free bread (92)
  6. Music & Liturgy (96)

Each “chapter” here follows a simple format: PrinciplePractice, and sometimes also Pointer.  The principle sets out a rule or reason or goal, the practice is how to achieve or apply that principle; the pointer is further advice.  On the whole the author is mostly a pragmatist.  He has little patience for the high ceremonial of his more Anglo-Catholic forebears.  He is writing for the 1979 Prayer Book which is quite removed from previous tradition, and he therefore advocates an approach to ritual and ceremony that is also quite simplified and streamlined from previous high church practice.  He also comes down on a view of Eucharistic consecration that is somewhat out of line with traditional catholic belief.

As you may surmise from this description so far, this book is both highly useful for us in the ACNA (as our prayer book liturgy is similar in order to the 1979), but also a little frustrating.  Some of his advice is fantastic:

  • “The Eucharistic liturgy is not a soap opera.  Its purpose is not to produce an emotional jag or an ardent “high” for participants.  Good liturgy is dependably repeatable… to attempt to make it “emotionally satisfying” can destroy its built-in and intended objectivity and universality” (2).
  • “And never, NEVER, NEVER use a person’s name when administering Communion!  It is a communal liturgical act, not a private one-to-one intimacy between priest and communicant” (59).
  • “Watch the introduction to Bible books: “A reading from Galatians” is woefully inadequate and actually inaccurate.  It is “Paul’s Letter to the Galatians”” (70).

Some of his advice is oddly over-specific:

  • “Under NO circumstace is it EVER appropriate to divide a Psalm verse at the asterisk, with one voice taking the first half of the verse, and a different voice the second half” (67).

And some of his advice is (in my opinion) ridiculous:

  • “It always seemed awkward, and in the past it was difficult to provide an apologia for the elevation and genuflection before the epiclesis” (55).
  • “The old fashioned (Puritan) practice of announcing Chapter and Verse before a Reading is absolutely pointless unless the Assembly is following the reading in a Bible and the Celebrant wants them to look it up (vile practice!)” (70).

These last two bad examples are indications that the author is not terribly well-informed about liturgy, Anglican or otherwise, before the radical reforms of Vatican II.  Catholic theology of the consecration of the Eucharist was pretty clear back in the day, and the early Prayer Books did in fact call for the announcement of chapter (and sometimes verse) of Scripture lessons.  It’s as if all he knows is the 1979 book, and he’s projecting his understanding of that book upon all that came before it.  That way of thinking is precisely what this Customary and blog exist to rectify today!

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 2/5
This book is very readable; even a ‘newbie’ to Anglicanism will understand what it says and learn a lot.  The below-average rating is due to its lack of index or table of contents; you have to skim the whole book in order find the answer to your question.

Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
This isn’t a book you pray with, so in a sense this is an N/A answer.  But if you aim to apply the principles of liturgy in this book, you’ll get a formal but essentially-pragmatic style that is common in popular Episcopalianism today, and may be initially attractive to those interested in liturgical worship, but is somewhat shallow and ignorant of actual prior tradition.  The author’s approach to the reading and purpose of Scripture is also a bit weak, in my opinion.

Reference Value: 3/5
If you’re a lay server, like in the altar guild or something, the parts of this book that relate to you are actually really quite useful!  The stuff about the celebrant, though, is somewhat hit-or-miss.  So maybe give this to your lay readers and lay ministers, but not to a new priest.

Over all, it’s a neat book to have, but whenever the author is talking about liturgy and ‘tradition’ straight up, it’s worth double-checking him against actual traditional sources.  And make sure you’re more classical-prayer-book-literate than he is.

Book Review: Ritual Notes (11th ed.)

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.

Ever wondered when and how to make the sign of the cross during the Communion prayers, as the celebrant?  Or what the order of the procession and recession should be?  How do we know when to wear a cope, or which liturgical colors to use.  How do you cense an altar, and when is it appropriate to do so?  These are questions of ritual, and although the Anglican tradition has virtually no official ritual directions whatsoever, there is widespread custom insofar as such rituals are observed at all.  To learn these customs, we turn to books called customaries which attempt to put into words the ritual actions of church tradition.  Among the classical high church Anglican customaries is the book Ritual Notes, originally published in 1894 (available online), though there are a few other classics out there.  Ritual Notes underwent a total of eleven editions, the last being published in 1964.  Once the 1979 Prayer Book came out, the break with pre-established liturgical tradition was too great; either a new or hybridized approach to ritual and ceremony had to be devised, or a Ritual Notes -using parish would have to stay with with the 1928 Prayer Book.  And indeed, many did, including the churches of the Anglican Continuum, who are primarily responsible for the recent re-prints of Ritual Notes, especially its 11th and final edition.  That is the copy that someone gave to me, and thus the copy on which I am commenting.

Written theoretically for the 1662 Prayer Book, its expectations work better with the American 1928 Prayer Book, or better yet, with some sort of Anglican Missal that brings the language and practice of our worship more in line with that of Rome.  This book, therefore, is scorned by many lowchurchmen as a crypto-Papist abberation.  Such an accusation may not be applicable to its earlier editions, but in the 11th edition the Roman language and terminology is used throughout.  Low Mass, High Mass, Solemn Mass, requiem masses, the exposition and benediction of the blessed sacrament, supplemental Kalendar laws that flesh out the Prayer Book calendar with Roman observances, all this and more smacks of Romanism.

Despite appearances and language, however, this book does bring Roman elements into an Anglican context.  Although the Prayer Book is supplemented more than some would like, the Prayer Book remains the center of the ritual and liturgy that Ritual Notes constructs.  The aim is not to make Anglican more Roman, but to promote Western Catholicism in general.  In that spirit, there is quite a lot in this book that can be a useful resource to all Anglicans, regardless of liturgical and theological partisanship.  In that light, let’s take a look at the Table of Contents.

Part I: General Considerations

  • ch. 1 The Church’s Ornaments
  • ch. 2 Vestments
  • ch. 3 Liturgical Colours
  • ch. 4 Ceremonial Actions
  • ch. 5 Concerning the Church’s Worship

Part II: The Holy Mass

  • ch. 6 General Considerations Concerning the Mass
  • ch. 7 The Parts of the Mass
  • ch. 8 Low Mass
  • ch. 9 High Mass
  • ch. 10 Sung Mass
  • ch. 11 The Canons of Certain Provinces
  • ch. 12 Various Modern Adaptations of Ceremonial
  • ch. 13 Mass on Certain Special Occasions
  • ch. 14 Votive and Requiem Masses
  • ch. 15 Certain Ceremonies Associated with the Mass

Part III: The Divine Office

  • ch. 16 General Considerations Regarding the Office
  • ch. 17 The Parts of the Office
  • ch. 18 The Ceremonial of the Office
  • ch. 19 Other Matters Concerning the Office

Part IV: The Christian Year

  • ch. 20 The Kalendar
  • ch. 21 The Church’s Seasons
  • ch. 22 The Ceremonies of Certain Days of the Year

Part V: The Occasional Offices and Other Services

  • ch. 23 Holy Baptism
  • ch. 24 Holy Matrimony
  • ch. 25 Certain Pastoral Offices
  • ch. 26 The Offices of the Dead
  • ch. 27 Exposition and Benediction
  • ch. 28 Processions

Part VI: Pontifical Services

  • ch. 29 General Considerations
  • ch. 30 Certain Lesser Ceremonies of the Bishop
  • ch. 31 Common Pontifical Functions in Full Form
  • ch. 32 Simplified Episcopal Ceremony
  • ch. 33 Some Functions of the Pontifical

As you can see, there are sections that may be extremely useful to reference if you want to have a special solemn service, as well as sections that you and your parish might never touch with a ten foot pole.  I would particularly commend the chapters on Vestments and Liturgical Colours as useful reading for all clergymen.  Even if you end up holding to a different custom, it’s important to know one of (if not the) standard customs regarding these things.

A few pictures help illustrate elements of the service, and when appropriate there are multiple parallel columns to help the reader track through either different prayers of consecration or different groups of servers and assistants working in parallel during the liturgy.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 3/5
All the “catholic” liturgical terminology is used, but also defined and explained.  If you’re new to high ceremonial, this book will feel a bit overwhelming.  But it’s not overly-complicated, so it’s a great resource.

Devotional Usefulness: 4/5
This isn’t a book you pray with, so in a sense this is an N/A answer.  But if you aim to use high church ceremonial in a worship service, this book is invaluable.  Although some elements of it are “out-dated” according to the 2019 Prayer Book (such as the traditional calendar versus our modern one), other features of it which were less compatible with the 1979 book are actually more applicable to the 2019 liturgy once again.

Reference Value: 5/5
Even if you disagree vehemently with its Anglo-Catholic stance, what it provides is an excellent benchmark of Western Catholic ritual and ceremony.  You may find arguments among Anglo-Catholic priests today over which edition is the best (apparently usually between the 9th and 11th), but the failings of individuals aside, this book is a goldmine for learning about “traditionalist” worship.

Project Canterbury has the first edition available online for free; the link is provided near the beginning of this review.  A reprint of the 11th edition is made available for sale online.  I’m not sure I would say this is a book that absolutely every priest should have on his shelf, but instead perhaps every parish church should have in its library.  For some it’s the gold standard of public worship, but for the rest of us it’s still a marvelous reference.

Book Review: The ‘Very Pure Word of God’

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.

Does it feel like there’s been a bit more ‘Anglo-Catholic’ content here lately compared to other resources?  Maybe a larger proportion of them write about liturgy than the evangelicals, I don’t know.  But our book today is most definitely of an evangelical perspective.  As the title suggests, the book is about the biblical (and reformed) basis of the 1662 Prayer Book.  More specifically, the title is drawn from a phrase in the Preface to the 1549 Prayer Book:

It is more profitable, because here are left out many things, whereof some be untrue, some uncertain, same vain and superstitious: and is ordained nothing to be read, but the very pure word of God, the Holy Scriptures, or that which is evidently grounded upon the same; and that in such a language and order as is most easy and plain for the understanding, both of the readers and hearers.

as reproduced on page 796 in the 2019 BCP

The primary thrust of this book is a four-fold thesis.  Peter Adams argues that the 1662 BCP…

  1. is intentionally formed by Biblical truth, and focused on the gospel of Christ;
  2. is a guard and correction against un-Biblical and anti-Biblical doctrines and practices;
  3. puts forth the Bible as the chief instrument of ministry, to be read and preached intentionally and systematically;
  4. provides responses to God that express Bible truths and use Bible words.

With these points in mind, the author has two primary audiences in mind: those who use the Prayer Book but downplay its reformed protestant nature, and those who are reformed protestants that downplay the Prayer Book.  He, therefore has a few strong words for Anglo-Catholics, Charismatics, and self-professed Anglicans who don’t use the Prayer Book.  Whether you’re on the same specifically ‘Reformed’ page as he is or not, though, there are some good challenges and analyses in this little book.

I’ll get my negative feedback out of the way first.  There is a section, where he deals with the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion, in which he basically argues for the Regulative Principle of worship, yet acknowledges the Normative Principle for other liturgies of the Church.  Personally, I sharply disagree with the notion that the regulative principle has any real place in Anglicanism, and I believe our formularies say the same.  (If you’re unfamiliar with the regulative and normative principles debate, I’ve touched on the subject in a commentary on Article of Religion #20.)

On the whole, though, this 70-page booklet (rather more of a pamphlet or a tract, really) is a useful piece of literature.  It’s part of the ‘Anglican Foundations’ series put out by the Latimer Trust, a foundation devoted to promulgating conservative Evanglicalism in England.  It’s peppered with footnotes, yielding a very large bibliography, which is a useful resource in and of itself for the student of Anglican studies.  The book explores the historical context of the Prayer Book tradition (both religious and political), explores the biblical foundation of the Prayer Book, briefly comments on some key parts of the Prayer Book, and is meticulously broken down into clearly-titled sections making it very much like a Q&A catechism.  If you have a question about the Prayer Book, you can basically look at the Table of Contents, and find what you’re looking for.

Being 66 pages long, plus bibliography, though, means that it’s just a surface-level exploration.  That means that if you’ve got a Anglican seminary degree behind you already, you probably know most of the information in here.  This book is really more of a gateway to the subject of Prayer Book history, and primarily functions as an appeal for the reformed protestant faith as expressed in the BCP.

However, lest you get the impression that this is an annoyingly partisan book, and liturgically dogmatic, check out this excerpt:


When you kick around Anglican- or Prayer-Book-related groups on Facebook for a while, you will see these tendencies at play: those who worship as if the BCP never existed, and those who slavishly proclaim the perfection of the 1662 or the 1928 or whichever… even if they themselves don’t actually use those books wholesale!  So I appreciate the honesty of the author here, where he’s able to uphold the 1662 BCP as the gold standard, and yet not require slavish adherence to its every letter without taking our contemporary context into account.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 5/5
This booklet is written with lots of short clearly-marked sections, making it very easy to read through or to peruse at will.  It’s not written for academics, and it assumes no prior knowledge.

Devotional Usefulness: N/A
This is not a devotional book.  Though if it does it’s job, you’ll want to go grab a Prayer Book and worship!

Reference Value: 3/5
The historical information is a handy introduction to Prayer Book history.  Some of his analysis, and his theological lens, will be questioned by those with different viewpoints; and because this is just short book there isn’t space devoted to counter-argumentation.  Though the bibliography is a great resource for those who want to study more.

All in all, even though I’m not 100% on board with all of his views and assertions, I would still probably loan this book to a parishioner interested in the Prayer Book tradition, especially one coming from a Protestant background who’d most immediately benefit from a protestant-heavy defense of the BCP.  If you’re in a parish with an Anglo-Catholic congregation, however, this may ruffle a few feathers.  Though it’s not bad to see why evangelical Anglicans (should) love the Prayer Book!  It is supposed to be the book that unites the churchmanship parties, after all.

Book Review: Liturgical Theology

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.

Let’s start with a confession: I didn’t read all of the books in seminary that I was supposed to read.  But I did start catching up immediately after I graduated.  One of those books was Liturgical Theology by Simon Chan.  I was already a confirmed Anglican and in the discernment process for Holy Orders, and it was only then, in reading this book, that I began my deep love for the liturgy which has continued with me to this day.  I was so impressed by this book (and still in a note-taking mode like a seminary student) that I actually made outline notes of each chapter of the book.  So if you want to go into greater depth you can look at those notes here:

As you can see there, the first four chapters lay the foundation for a liturgical theology, and the last three set out concrete practices by which that liturgical theology can be expressed.  This is very helpful for those who are not familiar with liturgical worship, and need to see “why liturgy matters” before they can be bothered to learn about liturgy itself.  And even if you are familiar with liturgical worship, sometimes it’s helpful to go back to examine the foundational purposes for this way of life we share.

It should be noted, too, that Simon Chan is not an Anglican.  He’s not even from a liturgical tradition himself; he’s an Assemblies of God Pastor.  This has the disadvantage that this book doesn’t really deal with particularly Anglican liturgical practices, but it does have the advantage of a common-ground approach to liturgical worship that highlights the similarities across several particular traditions.  When he does give a walk-through of the Communion service, it is largely identical to the shape of the 1979 Prayer Book and the modern Roman Mass, not the Tridentine Mass or the classical prayer book tradition.  This may be a let-down for the traditionalist reader, but more relatable to the modern-liturgy fan.

I’ve noticed that the website for an ACNA diocese actually has a review of this book, which you may find useful for reflection on the nature of the Church.  There’s also a review of this book on the well-known The Gospel Coalition blog which makes a number of unfounded criticisms (such as that Simon Chan does away with sola scriptura and promulgates the doctrine of transubstantiation!) which I can only tell you to disregard.  I think that reviewer either had a chip on his shoulder against the liturgical tradition, or didn’t read the book very carefully.

On the whole, I would still recommend this book quite happily.  It won’t give you an Anglican education, but its principles are sound and its commentary is insightful.  In fact, the fact that this is a pentecostal author arguing for historic liturgy makes his exhortation all the more earnest and significant.  This is no patronizing Anglo-Catholic telling the evangelical world how to fix their problems, as we often imagine liturgical theologians to be!

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
Although this book was an assigned text for one of my seminary courses, it is not a dense scholarly read.  It is intended, I think, for pastors, worship leaders, and interested laymen who do not necessarily have any higher education.  It’s clearly organized, logically written, and peppered with citations for further reference.  (Except they’re endnotes, yuck!)

Devotional Usefulness: N/A
This is a book to read, not pray.

Reference Value: 3/5
If you’ve never read a book about liturgy and liturgical worship before, this is probably the best place to start.  It’s informative, covers a lot of ground, and gets you connected with plenty of biblical and Early Church quotations.  It won’t really improve your knowledge and understanding of the Prayer Book tradition, or English spirituality, but you can save that for another book.  From analyzing the Creed to outlining the three-year catechumenate, this is a great place to begin your foray into liturgical studies.