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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Book of Common Prayer 2011

bcp2011.com | ancient worship for today's christian

Over the past couple months I have been working with the BCP2011 on both a devotional and church worship level. Though I haven't blogged much in recent times, I wanted to make some comments here about this prayerbook that require more than a Facebook post.Let me begin with my wholehearted recommendation of this prayerbook.

The BCP 2011 is edited by the Fr. Keith J. Acker, Pastor of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity in the Diocese of the West in the Reformed Episcopal Church.

Some introductory quotes:
"The Book of Common Prayer (2011) embodies the ancient tradition of two thousand years of Christians who have prayed together. This book incorporates the common prayer from the historic prayer books of the Anglican Church as received in North America. The first Book of Common Prayer (1549) is the standard framework for this prayer book, incorporating additions from later prayer books of the Anglican Communion." (page 1, BCP 2011)
"This Book is proposed for trial use by the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in North America for liturgical review. This Trial version has not been authorized, at present, for general use except as permitted by the ordinary of each diocese." (page 2, BCP 2011)
Here are some of the many reasons I recommend this book:

It is user-friendly and would be especially useful for newbies to praying the daily office. If you read Scott McKnight's book Praying With the Church or have been encouraged by Phyllis Tickle's works to pray the Daily Office or Divine Office, this prayerbook in the Anglican Tradition is straightforward simple to use. If you tried using the Episcopal BCP 1979 and gotten lost with it's options and distracted some certain theological matters, try again with this book. Various sections throughout the book also include informative introductions.

Evangelicals will greatly appreciate the BCP 2011 for 2 reasons: First, it uses the ESV Bible. In fact, it is also known as the BCPesv version. It includes a Liturgical Psalter with Psalms from the ESV.  From the website:
"This edition contains the ancient prayers and liturgies of the Anglican
tradition as used in North America, conformed to the Biblical phrasing
of the ESV Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®)"
Secondly, Evangelicals (as well as others) will appreciate the extensive Biblical referencing throughout the entirety of the book. It provides a Biblical reference for the collects and other written prayers, as well for the Eucharistic prayer but even for the Apostles Creed, the Kyrie, the Gloria in excelsis deo, the Offertory sentences, the Ordinal, the Catechism and much more. In fact, there is very little in the book that does not have a Bible reference notation. Several people in my church have exclaimed, "That's exactly what I was looking for!"

For those who would use this book in a worship setting, the textual color scheme is brilliant: "titles in blue, text in black, rubrics in red, posture in green" (website). The pages and text are readable and it's simple color scheme makes visibly appealing.

The BCP 2011 is modeled on Thomas Cramner's BCP 1549 but it is in modern English. This is very significant in the world of Anglicanism where the most faithful prayerbooks are written in old English / King James English. Many faithful Anglicans, especially those with a long history in the Episcopal Church, speak lovingly of the beautiful prose of the old English in the BCP 1928, BCP 1979 Rite I or other traditional prayerbooks. Though beautiful, and it is actually easy to speak during the liturgy, it is not missionally helpful. For me personally, the missional issue is of critical importance.

In one church that I have worshiped in recently that uses the American Anglican Missal (think: BCP 1928 + very Catholic, ancient additions) a visitor commented that he found the archaic English "oppressive". For newcomers to the Anglican tradition, liturgy itself requires an adjustment period to learn and become facile in its use. For some it is a barrier and no doubt spurred the development of the Seeker Movement. But when the liturgy hurdle is coupled with the language hurdle, the worship service becomes nearly inaccessible for many.

Not to belabor this point, I am convinced that the archaic language actual diminishes the importance of the incarnation which is vital to Anglican theology. The Pray Tell blog had a magnificent post entitled, Cramner's language considered unorthodox and harmful. The post quotes former Anglican, now Eastern Orthodox, scholar David Frost:
Despite being a lover of Renaissance literature, I have argued throughout my working-life that to create a special language for religion akin to ancient Hebrew or Sanskrit is the characteristic of cults — and the Christian faith should not be turned into a cult. It is contrary to the practice of the Apostles, for the gospel was communicated in the Greek koine, an international trading language whose counterpart today might be internet computer English.
To have a substantially different language for worship would seem to contradict the basic message of divine incarnation. When at Christ’s crucifixion the veil of the Temple was rent in two, the barrier between sacred and profane was shattered. It is all too easy to erect that barrier once again, and the barrier goes up imperceptibly as language grows old-fashioned and unfamiliar.
The greatest danger presented by imitation of Cranmerian English among the modern western Orthodox is that it may become yet another hierarchic, archaic language for worship that can protect and insulate one from its content, just as much as colourful ceremony and fine chanting.
The BCP 2011 is faithful to the ancient Anglican prayerbook tradition and making it accessible modern people. For those seeking a faithful Anglican BCP or eucharistic liturgy in contemporary English the choices are few. Also available are the Anglican Mission in Americas' Prayer Book and the Anglican Church in North America's trial use liturgy. Both are excellent resources, but this one should not be ignored.

The Daily Bible Readings for the Offices and Lectionary for the Propers work seamlessly together for those who want a 3 year lectionary cycle.
This book uses the historic Sunday readings for the Epistle and Gospel lessons with the optional readings form the Old Testament and Psalter (Book of Psalms) in the Sunday Propers. ... In an effort to provide a wider set of themes, the Sunday readings for Morning and Evening Prayer have adopted lessons and themes corresponding to the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), a three-year lectionary of Sunday reading themes. In this book, the Sunday readings for Morning Prayer roughly correspond to the RCL Year B, and the Sunday reading for Evening Prayer roughly corresponds to the RCL Year C, preserving the historic prayer for each Sunday of the Christian Year. (page 8, BCP2011)
Other random things I like: services for Morning & Evening Prayer + Compline; Healing Services; Services for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Good Friday; and lastly, it just feels good in my hand.

Overall, I like so much of this book. I had a copy of the book for nearly a month before I used it in worship. Now I have used it 4 times in public worship and have attempted to use it 'as is' with very few modifications to honor the spirit of the book and wisdom of it's editor and tradition.

I wanted to really love this as much in church as I do in the daily office. I'm not sure I do. The congregation has been very open to trying this and again, I was hoping to hear effusive praise for this change. I have not though I have not heard any complaints. Actually, I haven't heard any comments at all.

Part of the problem I am having is me. I am used to using the BCP 1979 Rite I and some of the language is so similar that I am tripping over myself to stick to the text and not say what is familiar. The other problem I am having is that it feels wordy and long. I am also considering moving the Prayers of the People back to our church's customary position, before the Offertory and after the sermon, though I want to give that some more research and consideration.

In the coming weeks, I will elicit some feedback from the church and make some decisions about it's continued use in church going forward. I am essentially, still a rookie priest and by no means a prayerbook scholar. There is a lot to like about this book and I highly recommend it. On a personal level, I have found a friend in this book for the daily office and will continue to use it.

Introductory price: $16.95. List price: $18.95. Order it at the bcp2011.com web site and pay via PayPal. I encourage you to buy one.