Anglican Essentials, Class 4

Class 4: Liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer

This class lets us experience an actual liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer. Here we will see some of the differences between the 1979 Episcopal version (Table of Contents given in Class 2) and the 2019 version from the Anglican Church in North America; a bookmarked pdf 2019 version for easier use is here.

The Book of Common Prayer has shaped Anglican worship and liturgy since its inception with the first version of 1549. This is what Canon William Bright said of the Prayer book in a commentary on it he wrote in 1922:

The careful selection of words, the artistic adjustment of clauses, the melodies which haunt the ear and live in the heart fulfill an important function in what may be called the education of the human spirit. They satisfy the sense of religious beauty, they stock the mind with holy memories; they hint at the vastness of Divine truth in comparison of man’s attempt to speak of it; they make the soul’s conscious approach to God more steadily reverent, and therefore more healthily real.

Quoted in “The Worship of the Church” by Massey Shepherd

“Liturgy” quite literally shapes every aspects of our lives. The writer James K. A. Smith has written eloquently about “secular liturgies” such as the “liturgy of the stadium” or the “liturgy of the mall,” and how their spaces and practices order our desires in definitive ways. “Liturgies,” as Smith uses the term, situate us within stories about who we are and what we are for. The habits acquired through ongoing participation in Christian “liturgies” also shape our everyday lives in countless ways by situating us in the most ultimate narrative–as we learned in Class 1, the Story of God, creation, Israel, Jesus, and new creation. Smith says:

Worship is the arena in which God recalibrates our hearts, reforms our desires, and rehabituates our loves. Worship is not just something we do; it is where God does something to us. Worship is the heart of discipleship because it is the gymnasium in which God retrains our hearts.

From “You are what you love: the spiritual power of habit

Anglican spirituality is both corporate and personal, designed to shape our hearts, our minds, and our desires not only on Sunday but on every day. Therefore, the Prayer Book gives forms for corporate worship through the church year and additional forms for personal devotion on a daily basis. The 1979 and 2019 versions do the latter differently, as explained below.

The Daily Office of the 1979 Prayer Book is based on a two-year cycle which goes through most, but not all of the Bible, with readings each day from the Old Testament, and a New Testament Epistle and one of the four Gospels, plus one or more Psalms.

An online Daily Office from the 1979 Prayer Book is available here. Click on the image to go to the daily service and readings. Or navigate the site for other options.

The Daily Office of the 2019 Prayer Book is based on a one-year or two-year reading of the complete Bible in sequence. In the one-year cycle, there are Old and New Testament readings for the morning and a different set for the evening. In the two-year cycle, only one of the two sets is used each day. With either cycle, you go through all books of the entire Bible, reading each in sequence (Chapter 1, chapter 2, etc). With either cycle, the traditional reading of the Psalms is also done each day, with all Psalms read within each month.

An online Daily Office from the 2019 Prayer Book is available here. Click on the “Calendar” tab to go to the Morning, Midday, Evening, or Compline services and readings for the day. The “Settings” tab allow you to choose either the one- or two-year cycle of Bible readings, as well as other settings.

This link gives the Table of Contents and Preface to the Anglican Church in North America 2019 Book of Common Prayer. The Preface gives a brief account and explanation of historical Christianity in England and the Anglican Prayer Book tradition.

A “Rookie Anglican Guide” to the 2019 Book of Common Prayer gives a lot of practical information about how to use it and explanations of its content and history. It uses a question and answer format.

This class will examine the Table of Contents of the 2019 Prayer Book and go through a simple Prayer Book liturgy such as Morning Prayer or Midday Prayer.

(Return to Introduction or go to start of Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, or Class 4)