This is the first in a series of articles in which I propose to examine An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) that was released this month. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) was published for The Anglican Mission in the Americas by Preservation Press of the Prayer Book Society of the USA. The editors of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) hope that the services in the book will also be used by other Anglicans and Episcopalians both in North America and elsewhere in the English-speaking world. The services are described as "contemporary English services based on those in The Book of Common Prayer and The Ordinal, in their English 1662, American 1928, and Canadian 1962 editions." An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) is a revision of the services that were authorized for restricted trial use in Anglican Mission churches in 2006.
As forms for public worship and private devotions the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) suffer from much the same weaknesses as did the trial services. They are even more disappointing than the trial services because the editors of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) had every opportunity to remedy these weaknesses but did very little.
In the services of Morning and Evening Prayer in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) seasonal introductory sentences replace the penitential introductory sentences that are an important feature of The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and its reformed predecessors—the 1552, 1559, and 1604 Prayer Books. The replacement of penitential introductory sentences with seasonal ones it must be noted is a feature of The Episcopal Church’s The Book of Common Prayer of 1979 and the Church of England’s Alternative Service Book 1980.
The penitential introductory sentences are as Swiss scholar-pastor Samuel Leuenberger points to our attention in Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest—The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England: An Evangelistic Liturgy one of a number of "revivalistic elements" in the Prayer Book. These sentences with the Exhortation help to prepare the congregation for the General Confession that follows. They focus the attention of the congregation upon the depravity of humanity, their own sinful condition, and the need for repentance. They are an integral part of the Biblical and Reformation theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
While seasonal introductory sentences may be desirable, they do not serve the same function as the penitential introductory sentences. In recognition of the different functions of seasonal and penitential introductory sentences a number of the more recent service books such as An Australian Prayer Book (1978) follow the seasonal introductory sentence with one or more penitential introductory sentences.
An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) retains a number of rubrics in the services of Morning and Evening Prayer, which prescribe postures that might be better determined by local circumstances and custom. The rubrics, for example, direct the whole congregation to "keel" [sic] with the minister for the General Confession, a posture that may be impractical in many of the non-traditional settings in which Anglican Mission congregations frequently worship.
An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) makes no provision for the substitution of metrical psalms for prose psalms. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) unfortunately, like the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, when it comes to the Daily Offices, appears to presuppose that every congregation has a choir of trained singers, and worships in the setting of a cathedral or college chapel. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) also adopts the unfortunate practice of requiring the singing or recitation of the Gloria Patri after each Psalm. Most Anglicans and Episcopalians in the United States, who regularly pray the Daily Offices, using the 1928 or 1979 American Prayer Book, are accustomed to saying the Gloria Patri after the last Psalm.
An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) makes no provision for the use of other versions and forms of the Canticles printed in the book. Nor does it make any provision for the substitution of hymns or other songs of praise for the canticles. Congregations that do not have a choir, cannot chant, contain a significant number of children, or worship in a setting with acoustics not conducive to chanting are left with no alternative but recite the Canticles, which is thoroughly unsatisfactory when Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer is the main service on the Lord’s Day.
The versions of the Canticles in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) do not particularly lend themselves to singing or recitation. A number of them are taken from the English Standard Version of the Bible and contain obscure and awkward phrasing. They are ill suited for liturgical use. For example, "And has raised up a horn of salvation for us," "Because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from high…" and "Lord, now you are letting…." Other versions of these Canticles better suited for use in the liturgy are available. I am mystified why the editors of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) did not make use of them since the shortcomings of the Canticles printed in the book were drawn to their attention.
Users of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) are limited to the Canticles from the 1662 Prayer Book—Te Deum, Benedicite, Benedictus Dominus Deus, Jubilate Deo, Magnificat, Cantate Domino, Nunc Dimittis, and Deus Misereatur and one additional Canticle from the 1928 American Prayer Book—the Benedictus es. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) makes no provision for abbreviating the Benedicite (1928 English Prayer Book) or substituting the shorter Laudate Dominum—Psalm 148 (1926 Irish Prayer Book). Canticles such as The Song of Isaiah—Isaiah 12:26 (1929 South African Prayer Book; 2004 Irish Prayer Book) and Great and Wonderful—Revelation 5:3,4 and 5:13b (An Australian Prayer Book 1978) for which a number of excellent contemporary settings already exist and which might have greatly enriched the worship of Anglican Mission churches did not make the cut.
An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) betrays a lack of familiarity with the development of the monastic Daily Offices from which Anglican services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer were derived. In the early monastic morning office the Lord’s Prayer formed the conclusion of the office. Over the centuries the monastic morning office accumulated a series of collects and an anthem to the Blessed Virgin Mary after the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer that begins the services of Morning Prayer and Evening in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and follows the Absolution in the 1552 Prayer Book is a later addition to the monastic morning office. An Anglican Prayer Book permits the omission of the Lord’s Prayer before the Prayers, the original Lord’s Prayer, from Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer if the initial Lord’s Prayer, the later addition, is said. If one of the Lord’s Prayers should be optional, it ought to be the initial Lord’s Prayer.
The Collect for Peace in the service of Morning Prayer is a poor alternative for Cranmer’s translation of the Latin original. It show how greatly impoverished the English language has become in the last 100 years. The Collect for Grace compares poorly with other contemporary versions of this collect. The petition asking God to guide and govern the congregation so that they do right in God’ sight sounds like an afterthought.
The rubrics on page 17 are poorly written and in regards to the sermon appear to contradict the introductory notes on page 2. They permit an anthem or hymn after the Third Collect, followed by the Litany. However, the use of the Litany at this point renders redundant the Suffrages and Collects that precede the Litany. It also makes the Prayers and the Thanksgivings unnecessarily lengthy. A much better option would be to permit the use of the Litany after the Apostles’ Creed and omit the remainder of Morning or Evening Prayer.
A Prayer for the Clergy and People lacks the poetry of other contemporary versions of the same prayer. Here is an example:
"Almighty and eternal God, you alone work great marvels: send down the health-giving spirit of your grace on all bishops and pastors and the congregations committed to their care. And, so that we may all truly please you, pour on us the continual dew of your blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honor of our advocate and mediator, Jesus Christ. AMEN."
A Prayer for All People contains a number of awkward phrases. Better contemporary versions of this prayer are available. For example:
"O God, the creator and preserver of all mankind, we pray for people of every race, in every kind of need: make your ways known on earth, your saving health among all nations. We pray for your Church throughout the world: guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life. We commend to your fatherly goodness all those who are in any way afflicted or distressed in body, mind or spirit [especially …]; comfort and relieve them in their need, give them patience in their sufferings, and bring good out of all their troubles; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN."
The inclusion of A Prayer for God’s Continual Help in the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer is an innovation carried over from the trial services. This collect is found in a number of Anglican service books after the Service of Holy Communion. It is one of several collects that may be used to conclude that service when there is no communion. It is also the collect used at the conclusion of ordinations. In the 1926 Irish Prayer Book it is one of a number of collects that may be used in the Communion Service after the Collect of the Day or before the Blessing, as a concluding prayer. Its inclusion in the Daily Offices in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) appears to be largely idiosyncratic.
An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) makes no provision for the congregation to join with the officiating minister in the General Thanksgiving or the Grace, two widespread practices in the Anglican Communion in the 21st century.
An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) contains no occasional prayers or thanksgivings for use with Morning or Evening Prayer. It makes no provision for open prayer at either service.
I hope that the services in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008)are not intended in their present form to be a permanent Liturgy of any Anglican jurisdiction. Rather they will be further revised and polished. In their present form the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) do not represent Anglican common prayer at its best. They are amateurish and clumsy. For congregations for whom Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer is the main service on the Lord’s Day the services are likely to form another barrier or obstacle that they must overcome in advancing the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Church and the world. They are certainly not friendly to congregations with limited musical resources worshiping in non-traditional settings with less than ideal acoustics.
Paul F. Bradshaw, Daily Prayer in the Early Church: A Study of the Origin and Early Development of the Divine Office, New York: Oxford University Press 1982
Stella Brooks, The Language of The Book of Common Prayer, London: Andre Deutsch Limited 1965
Samuel Leuenberger, Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest—The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England: An Evangelistic Liturgy, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 1990
James Hasting Nichols, Corporate Worship in the Reformed Tradition, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press 1968