WHAT IS often MISSING from the content of the new-style, church growth ANGLICANISM?
Not a few of the modern Anglican congregations, which are of a general evangelical and charismatic ethos, do not hand out any books to people when they arrive. No need to do so, for the words of songs and prayers are projected on to one or more screens in the worship center.
Other congregations—in fact many—also do not give out books but provide a service leaflet on which is printed all that it is judged the people need in order to follow and participate in the service.
In both these situations, only a minority of people bring a copy of the Bible to worship, and only usually where they need it for a Sunday School class or they expect an expository sermon.
In fact, the churches where it is “required” that people have a Prayer Book and possibly also a Bible in order profitably to participate in the liturgy are becoming amongst the would be orthodox a minority these days.
Why this introductory observations? Because I now want to make the (old-fashioned but still relevant) point that the possession and use of a personal Bible and a Prayer Book is really necessary for a Christian ,who desires to practice Christianity in the Anglican Way ( in contrast to say a generic evangelical way) in 2008.
Let us recall that one purpose of The Book of Common Prayer, first published in 1549, and now available in over 150 languages and in updated editions, is to provide a disciplined approach to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit for the whole of the Year—the regular year and the Christian Year. It does this not alone but with the Bible to which it is inextricably tied. The BCP seeks to bring order in our lives by placing them through good habit and holy discipline under the guidance of the Holy Trinity each day.
Critical to this engagement with God the Father through his Son are the two similar services called the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer. By use of these the church and each baptized believer enclose all space and time daily within the providence and grace of God. Each service provides opportunity for the confession of sin, the praying of psalms and collects, the singing of Canticles, the reading of the Old and New Testaments, and the offering of petitions and intercessions. By sharing in them, good habits of discipline, devotion, meditating, praying and hearing God’s Word are developed. And if one cannot meet with others to use them, one can do them alone as the basis of personal devotion and godly habit.
In the Prayer Book are also services for use at critical important moments in the whole life of the Christian—Baptism, Confirmation, and Marriage—as well as for times of extremity (visitation of the sick) and at death. Further, there are many memorable prayers of rich content and texture, and learned by heart these become prayers often offered to God in times of stress and strain, joy and delight.
Let us now return to the theme of modern methods of projecting the service and using leaflets for Sundays.
Here –whatever benefits may accrue--there is no encounter with The Book of Common Prayer as a planned collection of services to provide godly order and habit for the Christian church, home and individual believer. Here also—due to the lack on The BCP, there is no possibility of the worshippers turning over the pages of The BCP before and at the end of the service and getting a feel for where is in there. Further, in these congregations there is rarely any teaching about the beneficial form of disciplined prayer of Morning and Evening Prayer, which is at the heart of the Anglican Way. Jesus used the Psalter as his “Prayer Book” and the church in the daily and ordered use of the Psalter in M & E P seeks to imitate its Lord as well as prayr with and in him as his Body.
One may freely admit that it is very possible to be a good Christian without using The BCP! However, one cannot truly be an Anglican Christian unless one is within its long-standing and well-tried ways of ordered and disciplined, yet also fervent and effectual prayer, based on the use of the Daily Offices, by which one is united to Jesus Christ, the Mediator and High Priest, and to the Body of Christ on earth and in heaven.
One of my hopes with the publication of AN ANGLICAN PRAYER BOOK (a contemporary English form of the classic BCP) is that churches will not merely project its service of The Eucharist but will encourage people to buy and use a copy of the Prayer Book itself as a guide to their devotion and consecration to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.
[This new Prayer Book in hardback and superior paper is available from The PBS, Box 35220, Philadelphia, PA 19128-0220, delivered: it is published by the PBS for the AMIA: special rates for churches—call 1-800-PBS-1928]
firstname.lastname@example.org Quinquagesima 2008 www.pbsusa.org