Tuesday, December 14, 2004

What is “the Prayer Book Society of the U.S.A.”?

It is generally agreed that The Book of Common Prayer (first edition 1549) is both one of the great treasures of the English language and one of the few books that helped to create modern English prose. In fact, scholars tend to group together this Prayer Book, the King James Version of the Bible (1611) and the plays of Shakespeare, as the major influences upon the development of the English language in its formative period.

The literary genius behind the composition of the first two editions of The Book of Common Prayer (1549, 1552) was Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII & Edward VI.

This Prayer Book reached its definitive English edition in 1662 and this edition was used in the British Colonies in America until it was revised to be appropriate for the new American nation in the late eighteenth century. It has had three editions in the USA, 1789, 1892 and 1928. Thus the classic BCP was the official Prayer Book of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA from its origins until very recently.

In 1976/79 the [Protestant] Episcopal Church of the USA adopted as its official prayer book a new kind of collection of services, in which were portions of the original Prayer Book, howbeit in a revised form, along with a variety of new liturgies. Instead of calling this new Book by a new name, such as “An American Prayer Book,” the Episcopal Church called it “The Book of Common Prayer” as if it were simply a revised edition of the classic BCP of 1662 or 1928.

The Prayer Book Society of the USA seeks to preserve for use and with understanding the classic and historic Prayer Book in its latest American edition of 1928. The Society is committed to the view that not only in its use of the traditional English language of prayer, but also in its forms of worship, prayer and doctrine it is one of the treasures of the Church of God in the West. In short, it was and remains an excellent Liturgy.

We believe that the classic BCP provides through its regular use an introduction to what C.S.Lewis called “Mere Christianity” and others have called “Basic Christianity.” Also, along with this, it provides the structure and basic content of what may be called the historic Anglican Way of worship, discipline and doctrine. Thus by its regular use a Christian is enabled to live within the Church Year in union with our Lord Jesus Christ and in fellowship with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

Further, the BCP contains a presentation of what may be described as disciplined personal and corporate Christianity & Worship, which pre-dates the rise of modern individualism and individualistic subjectivism. Thus it provides a welcome and healthy change from, and challenge to, much modern thinking, feeling and behaving both in society and in the modern church.

Why not take the time to procure a copy and to sample its prayers and collects, its canticles and psalms, its doctrine and morals, its sanctification of time and its hallowing of the year (Oxford University Press of NYC publishes the editions of 1662 & 1928 in various formats)?

You will find that The Book of Common Prayer (1928) is still used in a minority of parishes in the Episcopal Church and in a majority of the parishes of the Anglican jurisdictions in the USA, which are known as the Continuing or Separated or Extra-Mural Anglican Churches.

In Canada, England and Australia the classic BCP remains in canon law the first prayer book of the Anglican Churches.

The Prayer Book Society seeks to make sure that the BCP is always in print and available. Further, the Society produces CD’s of services from the BCP, has a web site which is regularly maintained, publishes a bi-monthly magazine called The Mandate, and from time to time publishes books and booklets.

The Society is part of an international family of societies and they are found throughout the English-speaking world – Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, & Australia..

You are warmly invited to take a trial membership for a year and thereby receive the magazine and letters. If you have access to the world-wide web, please go to our website and from there to other similar sites to learn more about us, our purpose and our friends – www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928

To go on our List, please send you name and address and a donation (we suggest a minimum of $28.00) to The Prayer Book Society, P.O. Box 35220, Philadelphia, Pa. 19128-0220.

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