The Book of Common Prayer
The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is a permanent feature of the Church of England's worship. It is loved for the beauty of its language and its services are still widely used. It is also the foundation of a tradition of common prayer and a key source of the Church of England's doctrine.
It is loved for the beauty of its language and its services are still widely used.
The first official liturgical text in English appeared in 1544 and the first complete Book of Common Prayer in 1549. The book went through several revisions until 1662, since when the wording of its services has remained unchanged.
The services which it contains, especially Morning and Evening Prayer and Holy Communion, are still used (with minor modifications or additions) in many churches throughout the country, including St Nicolas'.
It has served as a model and inspiration for worship throughout the rest of the Anglican Communion. It is also one of the three historic formularies of the Church of England, in which its doctrine is to be found (the other two, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the Ordinal, are customarily published in the same volume).
It cannot be altered or abandoned without the approval of Parliament.
Text above adapted from www.cofe.anglican.org
The BCP Online
Large sections of the Prayer Book have been published online. If you would like to read it for yourself, you will find the Communion Service here and the text of Morning and Evening Prayer here.
Known & Loved
Until the middle of the 20th century, when liturgies in modern English began to be introduced into Anglican worship, the BCP was used in almost every service of the Church of England . The language may have seemed old fashioned to some, but the patterns and phrases of the 17th century texts had become old and trusted friends. Their vocabulary, over time, had worked its way into the very DNA of church life.
Even today, many older Anglicans can recite long sections of the Prayer Book from memory; and younger worshippers, encountering the 1662 liturgy for the first time, are often gripped by its poetic beauty. (Worship, after all, should be beautiful). In recent years, it has even won a place in the hearts of young festival-goers at Greenbelt.
The BCP at St Nicolas'
At St Nicolas', the BCP is in regular use at Holy Communion on Sundays at 8.00 am and Thursdays at 11.00 am. It is also used in Evening Worship (Evensong) at least once a month and during staff prayers on weekday mornings.
Did You Know...?
The traditional English way of addressing God as "thou" ("...hallowed be thy name ... thy kingdom come ... write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee...") is not, as is often thought, a way of speaking formally or of showing deference. Quite the opposite in fact!
"Thou" is the English equivalent of the French "tu" or the German "du" (you), an intimate word used only between people who know each other well. In the BCP, we are therefore invited to speak to God as we would to a friend. This has always been the Christian understanding of the kind of relationship with God to which Jesus calls us.
Language must evolve, of course: that is what it does. But some would argue that the relatively recent loss of "thee" and "thou" from our everyday vocabulary (except in Yorkshire, of course!) has robbed us of a valuable insight.