Praying the Collect for Purity

One of the most famous prayers in Anglican liturgy today seems to be “The Collect for Purity” which is found near the beginning of the Communion service.  It seems like every “introduction to Anglicanism” article or series of articles eventually turns to this prayer as a quintessential example of a collect, and the enduring nature of liturgical prayer and worship.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

So I probably don’t need to tell you that this was originally a “vesting prayer” said by the celebrant alone before the actual Mass began, and that Archbishop Cranmer moved it to the beginning of the Communion liturgy itself when he first wrote the English Prayer Book.  Besides, you don’t need me to harp on about the history of liturgy too much, lest you think I’ve lost my edge when it comes to giving practical advice 😉

Ye who are used to modern liturgies (1979 Prayer Book and newer) are probably accustomed to praying the Collect for Purity with the whole congregation.  For many people, this is the one Collect they definitely have memorized.  You may be surprised to learn, though, that before the modern era of liturgical revision, this Collect was still said by the priest alone.  The first directional rubric in the 1662 Prayer Book’s Communion liturgy, for example, concludes with this sentence:

And the Priest standing at the north side of the Table shall say the Lord’s Prayer with the Collect following, the people kneeling.

It is interesting to note that in our own (2019) Prayer Book the rubric attached to this Collect reads:

The Celebrant prays (and the People may be invited to join)

which indicates that the “primary” fulfillment of this rubric is that the Celebrant says it, and the “secondary” option is that the congregation might be invited to say it too.

If you take that rubric prioritization along with the historic rubrics – that the Priest prays it alone at the holy table (or altar, as many commonly say today) – this gives us a suggestion for how we should go about praying this Collect in our worship services today.

The people were standing for the Acclamation immediately before this, so what if we all kneel to pray this prayer?  That would make sense, especially with the Summary of the Law or Decalogue following, to hear those spoken over us by the priest while we kneel.  If you’re the celebrant, you too should consider (with the historic prayer books) turning toward the altar and kneeling for the Collect for Purity.  Even if the congregation remains standing for it, the extra time and motion involved in you kneeling for the prayer and then standing up to address them in the following penitential rite will be a significant action that reinforces the message of this prayer – namely, that we need cleansing in our hearts by the Holy Spirit in order to love God perfectly and magnify his holy name in a worthy manner.

Worshiping God is kind of a big deal.  Praying that he would help us to worship, even enable us to worship, is not a prayer we should take lightly.  Go kneel before the altar, use your body’s posture and motion to express the seriousness of this prayer!

Two Collects for Peace

In the prayers of the Daily Office, there were traditionally three Collects in a row: the Collect of the Day followed by two set Collects according to the time of day (Morning had two, Evening had two).  In the 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books those two Collects got expanded to seven choices, plus a choice of a Prayer for Mission.  Among the original Collects, still found among the modern choices, are two Collects entitled “For Peace.”  Let’s take a little comparative look at these two prayers today.

Collect for Peace (Morning)

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect for Peace (Evening)

O God, the source of all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works: Give to your servants that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments, and that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

Naturally, both of these prayers address the trouble of enemies.  Perhaps the first question is who are our enemies?  Like several of the Psalms, this is a nebulous concept, a fill-in-the-blank opportunity, and we should take care how we treat it, even in the silence of our hearts.  In a bad mood you might throw your annoying boss into that “enemies” category, or your misbehaving kids, or the noisy neighbors, or members of the wrong political party, or those gosh-darn terrorist foreigners from that other country somewhere else.  The scriptures teach us that the enemies of the Christian are the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Those are the forces that turn us away from God; those are the real threats against whom we need protection, and against whom we must fight.

And I say “must fight” on purpose, for as these prayers express, Peace is not found in avoidance of conflict, but in steadfastness despite conflict.  Through “the might of Jesus” we pray for God’s defense “in all assaults”, not from all assaults.  The goal or purpose of these prayers is that we “may not fear,” and “pass our time in rest and quietness.”  With our trust placed in God’s defense and our hearts set to obey his commandments, we find ourselves on the solid ground of God’s Word, in the footsteps of Jesus, in cooperation with the Spirit.  There, we can withstand the wiles of the world, the flesh, and the devil; there can be found peace that cannot be found anywhere else.

So whether you pray these prayers every day (as in the old prayer books) or every week (as in the new), take care to note what we’re really praying here.  In this life, the peace of God is found amidst the spiritual war, not as an escape from it.

Book Review: A Time to Pray

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.

A Time to Pray is a pocket-sized devotional book, in the same supplementary category as Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, just with less stuff, simpler content, and broader churchmanship appeal.  Its purpose, as I understand it, is to introduce people to Prayer Book worship without dropping the whole BCP on them right away.  Perhaps for children not yet ready to push through the whole daily office, or adults who are intrigued by the liturgy but not yet convinced.

Unlike the aforementioned Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, very little of this book is original content.  The first 75 pages reprint the Family Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Order for Evening Worship, Compline, and Reconciliation of a Penitent services right from the 1979 BCP.  After that follows a collection of prayers, a few of which are not found in that Prayer Book, a selection of Psalms and Canticles, and some Bible readings.  In short, this could serve as a miniature Prayer Book & Bible combination for simplified Offices of worship.  If someone, for whatever reason, is unable to handle an actual Prayer Book and Bible, this is a neat resources of basics to get them started.

Because of its brevity and simplicity, there isn’t really any room for significant theological bias, so the fact that it was produced by the Episcopalians is not an issue.  Liturgically, though, it is somewhat incompatible with the 2019 Prayer Book tradition; our Psalm and Canticles have updated translations, our Family and Minor Offices are a little different.  Yes, the content and wordings are very similar, but if this is meant to be a stepping stone toward a prayer book, it’s a step towards a prayer book different from our own, and will result in some awkward little shifts that tend to annoy people once they’ve “learned” one version of a particular piece of liturgy.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
It’s small and simple.  The only point against its usability is the fact that the Lord’s Prayer is only printed on pages 42 and 43, so whatever liturgy you’re using you have to flip over there if you haven’t memorized it.  I mean, I’m sure you‘ve memorized it, but the newcomer might not, or at least not the version we use.

Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
The most you can get out of this book are extra (or Minor) Offices of worship with a limited list of Scripture lessons.  It’s a baby step toward Anglican spirituality, rather than an actual expression of Anglican spirituality.  And because of that it is of extremely limited use to us.

Reference Value: 1/5
As mentioned above, there is almost nothing in here that isn’t already in the 1979 Prayer Book.  One or two particular prayers may be unique here, so it’s worth looking through them briefly.  Otherwise, there’s nothing new to learn or draw from this book.

In short, this isn’t a book worth getting.  I only have a copy because someone had a small stack of them and wanted to hand out extras.  It’s a neat idea, and could be the inspiration for a new Office booklet in the ACNA’s 2019 BCP context, but in itself is not particularly remarkable.

Book Review: Saint Augustine’s 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.

Are you an Anglo-Catholic?  Or do you have high-church leanings?  If yes, then this is a book you’ll probably appreciate: Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book.  Despite the name, it’s not a Prayer Book in the sense of the Common Prayer Book; this little volume does not deal with liturgy as such.  In the three-fold rule of prayer scheme of things, this deals primarily with personal or private devotion and prayer.

Note: This review pertains to its 2014 edition; it has predecessors which may be rather different.

The Table of Contents give you a good idea of what’s inside here.

  • The Christian’s Obligations
  • Daily Prayer
  • Penitence and the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • The Holy Eucharist
  • Eucharistic Devotions
  • Devotions through the Christian Year
  • Topical Devotions
  • Litanies
  • The Holy Hour

The Daily Prayer and Holy Eucharist sections contain prayers and explanations of the primary liturgies of the Prayer Book tradition, approximating or summarizing the Daily Office in short form and providing devotional aids for following along in the Communion service.  The Penitence section includes a re-print of The Reconciliation of a Penitent, found in the 1979 Prayer Book.

The Eucharistic, calendar-based, and other topical-based devotions and prayers are drawn from a wide swath of Church history and are unashamedly catholic in outlook.  I wouldn’t say it’s so Papist as to be un-Anglican, though some of its content definitely would be rejected by the more ardent low-churchmen, and it does admittedly slightly stretch the boundaries set out in the Anglican formularies (an issue that virtually all ‘parties’ of modern Anglicanism are guilty of in one way or another, to be fair).

As a parent, I have enjoyed the prayer for one’s children.  As a priest, I have enjoyed the “Nine Days of Prayer for One Deceased” both for my own grieving and for being ready to help others in theirs.

There are two cautions I must raise regarding this book, however.

  1. It is written to integrate with the 1979 Prayer Book.  As we’ve seen in a previous review, the 1979 Prayer Book is not the best representative of Anglican tradition by a long shot.  For most of my readers that book is also now completely obsolete, if you ever used it at all.  That makes some features of this book, especially its walk-through of the Communion service, rather out of date (if not just plain incorrect).
  2. It shows signs of current Episcopalian liberalism.  Because this is offered as a source of traditionalist devotional material, it does have an inherent liturgical conservatism to it, but certain issues like sexual morality in the examination of conscience end up reading a bit oddly.  Theological precision has long gone out the window in Episcopalianism, too, so one cannot count on the content of this book being well-tethered, to the Anglican formularies or otherwise.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 5/5
This is a very user-friendly book.  It’s meant for quick & easy use, without training; you don’t have to know your way around the Book of Common Prayer.  It has explanations and introductions in each chapter or section, much of which is useful to non-Episcopalians.

Devotional Usefulness: 3/5
This is where mileage may vary.  The fact that it’s conformed to the 1979 Prayer Book is an inconvenience for us in the ACNA.  The fact that it’s specifically Anglo-Catholic may take it down a notch or two if you’re opposed to Anglo-Catholicism (making it a 1 or a 2).  But if you’re comfortable with that tradition, there are plenty of things in here one can still enjoy and use.

Reference Value: 2/5
Again, the 1979 connection decreases its reference value outside of Episcopalianism.  But if you want to look at some classic catholic devotions (like devotions to Mary and the Saints, prayers for the departed, stations of the cross, etc.) through some sort of Anglican filter then this can still be pretty educational.  It’s primarily a devotional book, though.

All in all, I’m happy to have received a copy, and was happy to pass along another copy to someone else.  It’s nice to pick up every now and then.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy or recommend it to others at this point, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a revised edition compatible with the 2019 Prayer Book being made someday.

Pray for others’ dioceses

The Anglican Diocese in New England just held their annual clergy conference a few days ago.  The Diocese of CANA East is holding the annual synod in the coming week or so.  The ACNA provincial assembly is about a month away.  It strikes me as likely that other dioceses are having significant events around this time of year also.

Hearing about these events can (or should!) help spur us on to further prayer for one another.  It may be “too late” for me to pray for my diocesan events, but I can always pray for others.  We’ve got some lovely and thoughtful prayers in our Prayer Book that probably lie fallow much longer than they ought.  Think about what others are up to, and lift up these prayers for them!

  1. FOR A PROVINCE OR DIOCESE

O God, by your grace you have called us in this Diocese to be a good and godly fellowship of faith. Bless our Bishop(s) N., and other clergy, and all our people. Grant that your Word may be truly preached and truly heard, your Sacraments faithfully administered and faithfully received. By your Spirit, fashion our lives according to the example of your Son, and grant that we may show the power of your love to all among whom we live; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  1. FOR A PROVINCIAL OR DIOCESAN CONVENTION OR SYNOD

Almighty and everlasting God, by your Holy Spirit you presided in the council of the blessed Apostles, and you promised, through your Son Jesus Christ, to be with your Church to the end of the world: Be with the council of your Church assembled [here] in your Name and presence. Save us from all error, ignorance, prejudice, and pride; and of your great mercy direct, sanctify, and govern us in our work, by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit; that the order and discipline of your Church may be maintained, and that the Gospel of Christ may be truly preached, truly received, and truly followed in all places, breaking down the kingdom of sin, Satan, and death; till all your scattered sheep, being gathered into one fold, become partakers of everlasting life; through the merits and death of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

  1. FOR A PROVINCIAL OR DIOCESAN CONVENTION OR SYNOD

Gracious and everliving Father, you have given the Holy Spirit to abide with us for ever: Bless, we pray, with the Holy Spirit’s grace and presence, the Bishop(s), Priests, Deacons, and all the Laity who assemble in your Name; that your Church, being preserved in true faith and godly discipline, may fulfill the will of him who loved her and gave himself for her, your Son Jesus Christ our Savior; who now lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

  1. FOR VESTRY AND CHURCH MEETINGS

Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel [in ______] for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

  1. FOR THE SELECTION OF A BISHOP OR OTHER MINISTER

Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a Bishop for this Diocese that we may receive a faithful pastor who will preach the Gospel, care for your people, equip us for ministry, and lead us forth in fulfillment of the Great Commission; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Praying with St. Julian of Norwich

Today’s entry in the calendar of commemorations is St. Julian of Norwich.  Two quick clarifications are in order.  First, Julian is (in this case) a woman’s name.  Second, the W in Norwich is silent, so pronounce it ‘norrich’.  (Sorry, I had an history professor in college who heavily pronounced the W all the time, and it was ridiculously embarrassing.)

Saint Julian of Norwich was an ordinary medieval woman of some social status and means.  She was born in England around 1342, and had a severe illness at thirty in which she received last rites and had a series of sixteen visions of Christ.  She wrote about her visions, Revelations of Divine Love, shortly afterward, and near the end of the century wrote a longer treatise explaining them in greater detail.

For most of her life, after her near-death experience, she lived as an anchoress.  An anchorite (male) or anchoress (female) is sort of a cross between a monastic and a hermit.  As the name suggests, one is anchored to the spot, living in a small cell block attached to a church.  As an anchoress, therefore, she lived simply, singly, on the charity of others.  She had a window into the church building through which she could hear Mass and receive Communion, and a window to the outside through which she could speak with visitors and offer spiritual wisdom and advice.  Near the end of her life she was visited by another medieval woman who came to be remembered as a Saint, Margery Kempe.

You can read more of about her life here.

Apart from her name appearing in our calendar, St. Julian shows up in one other place in our Prayer Book: the Occasional Prayers section.  There, prayer #92 on page 673 reads:

O God, of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me. I can ask for nothing less that is completely to your honor, and if I do ask anything less, I shall always be in want. Only in you I have all. Amen.

In this Customary’s recommended rotation of praying these Occasional Prayers every two weeks, I came across this prayer on the day after Ash Wednesday, and immediately took a liking to it.  In my own emotional and spiritual life at that point, I badly needed to refresh a sense of satisfaction in Christ alone.  Words like “for you are enough for me” and “Only in you I have all” are expressions of faith and trust and reliance that I needed to meditate upon, and so this little prayer became a quiet theme for me throughout Lent.  It wasn’t seasonally appropriate one way or the other, it had no connection to the liturgy as such, it was simply a piece of my private devotions for a few weeks.  This is legitimate and good; the classical three-fold rule of worship identifies private devotions as necessary to the Christian life alongside the daily office and the sacraments.

And yet, common prayer, or at least a Prayer Book, can aid us in our private devotions.  The 123 Occasional Prayers offered near the back of our Prayer Book include over 20 labelled as being for Personal Life or Devotion.  This means that 1, they aren’t meant for common worship as such, and 2, some will befit your prayer life better than others.  There are some in there that I actually rather dislike.  But my opinions will change with my mood and spiritual condition over time, I’m sure, and St. Julian’s prayer may not minister to me as profoundly in another year.

So I encourage you to explore these prayers for your own prayer life, and explore the people commemorated in our calendar.  You never know who and what the Holy Spirit will use to minister to you both within and apart from the liturgy!

Hold Your Peace

One Holy Week tradition that does not get a shout-out in the Prayer Book but has a standard following in some places is the practice of omitting The Peace after the Confession & Absolution in the Communion service.  The rubrics of our Prayer Book do not provide for such an omission, so it is a tradition that should only be adopted by the permission of your diocesan Bishop.

Or, if you want to explore this option without breaking the rubrics, keep the verbal exchange of peace (Celebrant The Peace of the Lord be always with you. People And with your spirit.) but halt the further exchange of peace, which the rubric identifies as optional: “Then the Ministers and People may greet one another in the Name of the Lord” (underline added).

The idea behind this practice is that in the Garden of Gethsemane Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Matt. 26:48-49, Mark 14:44-45, Luke 22:47-48).  As I wrote to my congregation a couple years ago:

This normal, friendly, even reconciliatory part of the liturgy is such a regular part of the service that its omission can be something of a shock, even a disappointment to some people.  The reason for its omission, though, is significant: in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was betrayed by Judas with a kiss.  Normally a sign of greeting and peace, Judas transformed it that night into a sign of betrayal and the marking of a target for the soldiers to arrest.

Thus, on Palm Sunday and throughout Holy Week, we also “hold our peace,” as it were.  We remember the wicked deception of Judas, and remind ourselves that we, also, all to easily use signs of peace as covers for internal hatred.  How easily we lie through our teeth to “get along” while harboring ill will towards our neighbor.  Or, how easily we go through the motions of the liturgy while harboring a coldness of heart against our Lord and our God!

It is also worth noting that the exchange or passing of the peace is not an element in traditional Prayer Book worship.  Until the liturgical revision of the mid-20th century, it simply was not a part of the liturgy for us.  Understanding that it is a modern insertion to our liturgy, between the Comfortable Words and the Offertory, may perhaps give us further cause for consideration as to how our liturgy works, what elements are truly needed and important, and hone our interaction with it.

 

Names of God

God is known by many names and titles in the Bible.  Yahweh or YHWH or Yah, usually translated as LORD, is the closest we get to a proper name for the invisible God.  Jesus, of course, is the name of the person of God the Son made man.  Sometimes it’s just “God”, or “Lord”, but often there’s an epithet: Almighty, of Hosts (or “power and might”), the Creator, Who Provides, the Comforter, and many others.

It is no surprise, therefore, that we find many different names for God in the liturgy.  The Lord’s Prayer, for example, taken straight from the Bible, contains two different names for God:

Our Father, who art in heaven, Harold be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thine, Will, be done, on earth as it is in heaven…

So that’s Harold, and Will (surely short for William), right there.  Ergo my wife and I named our two lads after God.  And people thought I was just trying to be quintessentially English!

Consider also this popular worship song of time immemorial, The Garden.

I come to the garden alone
while the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

Andy walks with me and He talks with me,
Andy tells me I am his own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

Thus we can add Andy, short for Andrew, to the list.

And let us not forget the Communion prayers!

Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Priest: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is Justin Wright!

I know, I know, it sounds like “It is just and right“, and the ACNA’s liturgy has reverted to the 1970’s version “It right to give him thanks and praise,” but if you stick with the awe-inspiring modern Roman Rite, you will get to celebrate the most proper (and, ironically, quintessentially English) name of God – Justin Wright.

Okay, I’m done.  Happy April Fool’s Day!  Except, well, speaking of April Fools…

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.

Less-than-Occasional Prayers

In both Morning and Evening Prayer, after the three Collects, the rubrics in our liturgy states:

The Officiant may invite the People to offer intercessions and thanksgivings.

In older Prayer Books, a handful of suggested prayers and collects were printed in this place, indicating those certain prayers for the crown, state, society, and so on, were appropriate for that point in the Daily Office.  In the 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books, no such collection is provided immediately, but a larger collection of “additional” or “occasional” Prayers and Thanksgivings is provided in an appendix of sorts near the back of the book.  This is, basically, the modern equivalent of the earlier, traditional, collection.

On the ACNA page for Texts for Common Prayer, and thus what will probably show up in the 2019 Prayer Book, is a list of 123 prayers and collects.  A few of them are occasion-specific (like for a birthday, or for someone’s healing) but most of them are perfectly appropriate for general use.  To this end, it is the recommendation of this Customary to work through all (well, most) of these prayers on a regular basis towards the end of Morning and Evening Prayer.  This is a two-week rotation of prayers, averaging about 4 or 5 prayers per Office.

Week I                              Office                          Week II

95-96, 107-108             Sunday Morning          97, 99-102
98, 103, 106, 109-110   Sunday Evening           104-105, 111-113

1-5                               Monday Morning         6-10
11-15                           Monday Evening          16-19

26-31                           Tuesday Morning         25, 32-37
70-73                           Tuesday Evening         38-41

48-53                           Wednesday Evening     42-47

78-82                           Thursday Morning       90-94
114, 120-123                Thursday Evening        115-119

54-58                           Friday Evening             59-63

20-24                           Saturday Morning        64-69
85-89                           Saturday Evening            74-77, 84

Let’s look at why this scheme is recommended the way it is.

Sunday, being the principle day of worship for the church gathered, has the section of prayers labeled At Times of Prayer and Worship as well as the prayers on Death, the Departed, and the Communion of Saints, as that is when most of the saints on earth are gathered.  The assigned prayers skip around, numerically, in order to avoid prayers that are too similar from being read at the same Office.

On Monday the prayers start at the beginning of the list, covering the section For the Church.  In general, the prayers for the morning are more specific and the prayers for the evening are more general or topical.

Tuesday morning covers the next section, For the Nation, again arranging the prayers so that too-similar collects aren’t prayed on the same day.  Depending upon which country you hail from, certain prayers along the way will be appropriate to omit (mainly in the USA versus Canada distinction).  In the evening, one day dips into the Personal Devotions list and the other starts the For Society section.

Wednesday morning is omitted, because that’s a traditional time for saying the Great Litany.  The evening finishes the For Society section and begins the next section, Intercessions For Those in Need.

Thursday morning skips ahead to more of the Personal Life and Personal Devotions sections, while Thursday evening (in light of the day’s traditional Eucharistic theme) covers most of the Thanksgivings.

Friday morning (like Wednesday morning) is omitted so you focus on the Great Litany.  The evening covers the rest of the prayers For Those in Need where Wednesday left off.

Saturday covers the prayers about Creation and Family Life, as well as Personal Life and Devotion.  The creation theme matches the Morning Prayer Collect recommended for Saturdays (Collect for Sabbath Rest), and the family section is chosen to match the fact that Saturday is often a “day off with the family” for much of the working world.  The remaining personal devotions also serve as a sort of introspective preparation for corporate worship on the following morning.

For sake of simplicity, “Week I” should line up with odd-numbered weeks in the liturgical calendar, and “Week II” with even-numbered weeks.  For example, yesterday was (in modern reckoning) the 7th Sunday after the Epiphany, so this week could be considered an odd-numbered week.