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The Book of Common Prayer is the common title of a number of prayer books of the Church of England and used throughout the Anglican Communion. The first book, published in 1549 (Church of England 1957), in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English Reformation following the breach with Rome. Prayer books, unlike books of prayers, contain the words of structured (or liturgical) services of worship. The work of 1549 was the first prayer book to contain the forms of service for daily and Sunday worship in English and to do so within a single volume; it included morning prayer, evening prayer, the Litany, and Holy Communion. The book included the other occasional services in full: the orders for baptism, confirmation, marriage, 'prayers to be said with the sick' and a funeral service. It set out in full the Epistle and Gospel readings for the Sunday Communion Service. Set Old Testament and New Testament readings for daily prayer were specified in tabular format as were the set Psalms; and canticles, mostly biblical, that were provided to be sung between the readings (Careless 2003, p. 26).
The 1549 book was rapidly succeeded by a further more reformed revision in 1552 under the same editorial hand, that of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. It never came into use because, on the death of Edward VI, his half-sister Mary I restored Catholic worship. On her death, a compromise version, combining elements of the 1549 and the 1552 editions, was published in 1559. Following the tumultuous events leading to and including the English Civil War, another major revision was published in 1662 (Church of England 1662). That edition has remained the official prayer book of the Church of England, although in the 21st century, an alternative book called Common Worship has largely displaced the Book of Common Prayer at the main Sunday worship service of most English parish churches.
The Book of Common Prayer appears in many variants in churches inside and outside of the Anglican Communion in over 50 different countries and in over 150 different languages (Careless 2003, p. 23). Again in many parts of the world, more contemporary books have replaced it in regular weekly worship.
Traditional Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian prayer books have borrowed from the Book of Common Prayer, and the marriage and burial rites have found their way into those of other denominations and into the English language. Like the Authorized King James Bible, and the works of Shakespeare many words and phrases from the Book of Common Prayer have entered popular culture.
- 1 Full title
- 2 History
- 3 Prayer Book in the Anglican Communion
- 4 Religious influence
- 5 Literary influence
- 6 Copyright status
- 7 See also
- 8 Editions
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
The full name of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church according to the use of the Church of England together with the Psalter or Psalms of David pointed as they are to be sung or said in churches and the form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of bishops, priests, and deacons
The forms of parish worship in the late medieval church in England, which followed the Latin Roman Rite, varied according to local practice. These were termed local "use". By far the most common found in Southern England was the Use of Sarum. The rite was not consolidated into a single book. Instead, the forms of service that were to be included in the Book of Common Prayer were drawn from the Missal (for the Mass), Breviary for the daily office, Manual (for the occasional services; Baptism, Marriage, Burial etc), and Pontifical (for the services appropriate to a bishop—Confirmation, Ordination) (Harrison & Sansom 1982, p. 29). The work of producing English-language books for use in the liturgy was largely that of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury at first under the reign of Henry VIII, only more radically under his son Edward VI. Cranmer was, in his early days, somewhat conservative, an admirer, if a critical one, of John Fisher. It may have been his visit to Germany in 1532 (where he secretly married) which began the change in his outlook. Then in 1538, as Henry began diplomatic negotiations with Lutheran princes, Cranmer came face-to-face with a Lutheran embassy (MacCulloch (a) 1996, p. 215). The Exhortation and Litany, the earliest English-language service book of the Church of England, was the first overt manifestation of his changing views. It was thus no mere translation from the Latin: its Protestant character is made clear by the drastic reduction of the place of saints, compressing what had been the major part into three petitions (Procter & Frere 1965, p. 31). Published in 1544, it borrowed greatly from Martin Luther's Litany and Myles Coverdale's New Testament and was the only service that might be considered to be "Protestant" to be finished within the lifetime of King Henry VIII.
Prayer Books of Edward VICranmer's Prayer book of 1549.
It was not until Henry's death in 1547 and the accession of Edward VI that revision could proceed faster. Cranmer finished his work on an English Communion rite in 1548, obeying an order of Convocation of the previous year that Communion was to be given to the people as both bread and wine. The ordinary Roman Rite of the Mass had made no provision for any congregation present to receive Communion. So, Cranmer composed in English an additional rite of congregational preparation and Communion (based on the form of the Sarum rite for Communion of the Sick), to be undertaken immediately following the Communion, in both kinds, of the priest.
Further developed, and fully translated into English, this Communion service was included, one year later, in 1549, in a full prayer book, set out with a daily office, readings for Sundays and Holy Days, the Communion Service, Public Baptism, of Confirmation, of Matrimony, The Visitation of the Sick, At a Burial and the Ordinal (added in 1550) (Gibson 910). The Preface to this edition, which contained Cranmer's explanation as to why a new prayer book was necessary, began: "There was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted." Although the work is commonly attributed to Cranmer, its detailed origins are obscure (Procter & Frere 1965, p. 45) (MacCulloch (a) 1996, p. 414). A group of bishops and divines met first at Chertsey and then at Windsor in 1548, drawn from both conservatives and reformers, agreed only "the service of the church ought to be in the mother tongue"(Procter & Frere 1965, p. 47). Cranmer was a great plagiarist; even the opening of Preface (above) was borrowed (MacCulloch (a) 1996, p. 225). He borrowed much from German sources, particularly from work commissioned by Hermann von Wied, Archbishop of Cologne; and also from Osiander (to whom he was related by marriage) (MacCulloch (a) 1996, p. 414). The Church Order of Brandenberg and Nuremberg was partly the work of the latter. Many phrases are characteristic of the German reformer Martin Bucer, or of the Italian Peter Martyr, (who was staying with Cranmer at the time of the finalising of drafts), or of his chaplain, Thomas Becon. However, to Cranmer is 'credited the overall job of editorship and the overarching structure of the book' including the systematic amendment of his materials to remove any idea that human merit contributed to their salvation (MacCulloch (a) 1996, p. 417).
The Communion service of 1549 maintained the format of distinct rites of Consecration and Communion, that had been introduced the previous year; but with the Latin rite of the Mass (chiefly following the familiar structure in the Use of Sarum), translated into English. By outwardly maintaining familiar forms, Cranmer hoped to establish the practice of weekly congregational Communion, and included exhortations to encourage this; and instructions that Communion should never be received by the priest alone. This represented a radical change from late medieval practice—whereby the primary focus of congregational worship was taken to be attendance at the consecration, and adoration of the elevated Consecrated Host. In late medieval England, congregations only regularly received Communion at Easter; and otherwise individual lay people might expect to receive Communion only when gravely ill, or in the form of a Nuptial Mass on being married.
Introduced on Whitsunday 1549, after considerable debate and revision in Parliament—but there is no evidence that it was ever submitted to either Convocation—it was said to have pleased neither reformers nor their opponents, indeed the Catholic Bishop Gardiner could say of it was that it "was patient of a catholic interpretation". It was widely unpopular in the parishes, especially in places such as Devon and Cornwall (Duffy (b) 2003, p. 131). Particularly unpopular was the banning of processions and the sending out of commissioners to enforce the new requirements. There was widespread opposition to the introduction of regular congregational Communion, partly because the extra costs of bread and wine that would fall on the parish; but mainly out of an intense resistance to undertaking in regular worship, a religious practice previously associated with marriage or illness.Cranmer's Prayer book of 1552.
The book was, from the outset, intended only as a temporary expedient, as Bucer was assured having met Cranmer for the first time in April 1549: 'concessions...made both as a respect for antiquity and to the infirmity of the present age' as he wrote (MacCulloch (a) 1996, p. 411). It kept the appearance of the Mass but abandoned its theology. AH Couratin in a set of unpublished Oxford University lectures from 1958 described it as a "bogus Mass". Both Bucer and Peter Martyr wrote detailed proposals for modification; Bucer's Censura ran to 28 chapters which influenced Cranmer significantly though he did not follow them slavishly and the new book was duly produced in 1552, making "fully perfect" what was already implicit (Procter & Frere 1965, p. 71) (McCulloch 1996, p. 505). The policy of incremental reform was now unveiled: more Roman Catholic practices were now excised, as doctrines had in 1549 been subtly changed. Thus, in the Eucharist, gone were the words Mass and altar; the 'Lord have mercy' was interleaved into a recitation of the Ten Commandments and the Gloria was removed to the end of the service. The Eucharistic prayer was split in two so that Eucharistic bread and wine were shared immediately after the words of institution (This is my Body..This is my blood...in remembrance of me.); while its final element, the Prayer of Oblation, (with its reference to an offering of a 'Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving'), was transferred, much changed, to a position after the priest and congregation had received Communion, and was made optional with an alternative prayer of thanksgiving provided. The Elevation of the Host had been forbidden in 1549; all manual acts were now omitted. The words at the administration of Communion which, in the prayer book of 1549 described the Eucharistic species as 'The body of our Lorde Jesus Christe...', 'The blood of our Lorde Jesus Christe...' were replaced with the words 'Take, eat, in remembrance that Christ died for thee..' etc. The Peace, at which in the early Church the congregation had exchanged a greeting, was removed altogether. Vestments such as the stole, chasuble and cope were no longer to be worn, but only a surplice. It was the final stage of the reformers' work of removing all elements of sacrificial offering from the Latin Mass; so that it should cease to be seen as a ritual at which the priest, on behalf of the faithful offered Christ's body and blood to God; and might rather be seen as a ritual whereby Christ shared his body and blood, according to a different sacramental theology, with the faithful.
Cranmer recognized that the 1549 rite of Communion had been capable of conservative misinterpretation and misuse, in that the consecration rite might still be undertaken even when no congregational Communion followed. Consequently, in 1552 he thoroughly integrated Consecration and Communion into a single rite, with congregational preparation preceding the words of institution—such that it would not be possible to mimic the Mass with the priest communicating alone. He appears nevertheless, to have been resigned to being unable for the present to establish in parishes the weekly practice of receiving Communion; so he restructured the service so as to allow ante-Communion as a distinct rite of worship—following the Communion rite through the readings and offertory, as far as the intercessory "Prayer for the Church Militant".
Diarmaid MacCulloch suggests that Cranmer's own Eucharistic theology in these years approximated most closely to that of Heinrich Bullinger; but that he intended the Prayer Book to be acceptable to the widest range of Reformed Eucharistic belief, including the high sacramental theology of Bucer and John Calvin (MacCulloch (a) 1996, p. 615). At the same time, however, Cranmer intended that constituent parts of the rites gathered into the Prayer Book should still, so far as possible, be recognisably derived from traditional forms and elements.
In the Baptism service the signing with the cross was moved until after the baptism and the exorcism, the anointing, the putting on of the chrysom robe and the triple immersion were omitted. Most drastic of all was the removal of the Burial service from church: it was to take place at the graveside. In 1549, there had been provision for a Requiem (not so called) and prayers of commendation and committal, the first addressed to the deceased. All that remained was a single reference to the deceased, giving thanks for their delivery from 'the myseryes of this sinneful world'. This new Order for the Burial of the Dead was a drastically stripped-down memorial service designed to undermine definitively the whole complex of traditional beliefs about Purgatory and intercessory prayer (Procter & Frere 1965, p. 81) (Duffy (a) 1992, pp. 472-5).
Cranmer's work of simplification and revision was also applied to the Daily Offices, which were to become Morning, and Evening Prayer; and which he hoped would also serve as a daily form of prayer to be used by the Laity, thus replacing both the late medieval lay observation of the Latin Hours of the Virgin, and its English equivalent, the Primer. This simplification was anticipated by the work of Cardinal Francis Quiñones, a Spanish Franciscan, in his abortive revision of the Roman Breviary published in 1537 (Procter & Frere 1965, p. 27). Cranmer took up Quiñones's principle that everything should be sacrificed to secure continuity in singing the Psalter and reading the Bible. His first draft, produced during Henry's reign, retained the traditional seven distinct Canonical hours of Office prayer; but in his second draft, while he retained the Latin, he consolidated these into two (Procter & Frere 1965, p. 34). The 1549 book then dispensed with the Latin, and with all non-biblical readings; and established a rigorously biblical cycle of readings for Morning and Evening Prayer (set according to the calendar year, rather than the ecclesiastical year) and a Psalter to be read consecutively throughout each month. He provided that the New Testament (other than the Book of Revelation) be read through three times in a year, while the Old Testament, including the Apocrypha would be read through once. Of the set canticles, only the Te Deum was retained of the non-biblical material. In the 1552 Prayer book, this pattern was retained, (as it was in 1559, except that distinct Old and New Testament readings were now specified for Morning and Evening Prayer on Sundays). Following the publication of the 1552 Prayer Book, a revised English Primer was published in 1553; adapting the Offices and Morning and Evening Prayer, and other prayers, for lay domestic piety (MacCulloch (a) 1996, p. 510).
The English Prayer Book in the reign of Mary
Before the book was in general use, however, Edward VI died. In 1553, Mary, upon her succession to the throne, restored the old religion. The Mass was re-established, altars, roods and statues were re-instated; an attempt was made to restore the Church to its Roman affiliation. Cranmer was punished for his work in the English Reformation by being burned at the stake on 21 March 1556. Nevertheless, the 1552 book was to survive. After Mary's death in 1558, it became the primary source for the Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer, with subtle if significant changes only.
Hundreds of Protestants fled into exile—establishing an English church in Frankfurt am Main. A bitter, and very public, dispute ensued between those, like Edmund Grindal and Richard Cox, who wished to preserve in exile the exact form of worship of the 1552 Prayer Book; and those, like John Knox the pastor of the congregation, who regarded that book as still partially tainted with compromise. Eventually in 1555 the civil authorities expelled Knox and his supporters to Geneva, where they adopted a new Prayer Book The Form of Prayers, that derived chiefly from Calvin's French La Forme des Prieres(Maxwell 1965, p. 5). Consequently, when the accession of Elizabeth I re-asserted the dominance of Protestantism in England, there remained a significant body of Reformed believers who were nevertheless hostile to the Book of Common Prayer. John Knox took The Form of Prayers with him to Scotland, where it formed the basis of the Scots Book of Common Order.
1559 Prayer Book
The alterations, though minor, were however to cast a long shadow. One related to what was worn. Instead of the banning of all vestments save the rochet (for bishops) and the surplice for parish clergy, it permitted 'such ornaments...as were in use...in the second year of K. Edward VI'. This allowed substantial leeway for more traditionalist clergy to retain at least some of the vestments which they felt were appropriate to liturgical celebration. It was to be the basis of claims in the 19th Century that vestments such as chasubles, albs, and stoles were legal. At the Communion, the words from the 1549 book 'the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ' etc. was combined with the words of Edward's second book, 'Take eat in remembrance.' etc. The instruction to the congregation to kneel at the Communion was retained; but the accompanying Black Rubric denying any "real and essential presence" of Christ's flesh and blood, was removed (MacCulloch (a) 1996, p. 527). The conservative nature of these changes underlines the fact that Protestantism was by no means universally popular – a fact that the queen herself recognized: her revived Act of Supremacy, giving her the ambiguous title of Supreme Governor passed without difficulty, but the Act of Uniformity 1559 giving statutory force to the Prayer Book, passed through Parliament by only three votes (MacCulloch (a) 1996, p. 101). It made constitutional history in being imposed by the laity alone, as all the bishops, except those imprisoned by the Queen and unable to attend, voted against it (Guy 1988, p. 262). Convocation had made its position clear by affirming the traditional doctrine of the Eucharist, the authority of the Pope, and the reservation by divine law to ecclesiastics 'of handling and defining concerning the things belonging to faith, sacraments, and discipline ecclesiastical' (Clarke 1954, p. 182).
After the several innovations and reversals, the new forms of worship took time to settle in. Among Cranmer's innovations, retained in the new book was the requirement of weekly communion. In practice, as before the Reformation, many received communion rarely, as little as once a year in some cases; George Herbert estimated it as no more than six times (Marsh 1998, p. 50). However practice was variable: very high attendance at festivals was in most places the order of the day and in some places regular communion was very popular, in other places they stayed away or sent "a servant to be the liturgical representative of their household." (Maltby 1998, p. 123) (Furlong 2000, p. 43). Few parish clergy were initially licensed to preach by the bishops; in the absence of a licensed preacher, Sunday services were required to be accompanied by reading one of the homilies written by Cranmer (Chapman 2006, p. 29). George Herbert was however, not alone in his enthusiasm for preaching which he regarded as one of the prime functions of a parish priest (Maltby 1998, p. 67). Music was much simplified; and a radical distinction developed between, on the one hand, parish worship where only the metrical psalms of Sternhold and Hopkins might be sung; and on the other hand, worship in churches with organs and surviving choral foundations, where the music of John Marbeck and others was developed into a rich choral tradition (Procter & Frere 1965, p. 125) (Marsh 1998, p. 31). The whole act of parish worship might take well over two hours; and accordingly, churches were equipped with pews in which households could sit together (whereas in the medieval church, men and women had worshipped separately). Diarmaid MacCulloch describes the new act of worship as, "a morning marathon of prayer, scripture reading, and praise, consisting of mattins, litany, and ante-communion, preferably as the matrix for a sermon to proclaim the message of scripture anew week by week." (Furlong 2000, p. 43).
Many ordinary churchgoers—that is those who could afford a copy as it was expensive in terms of most people's incomes—would own a copy of the prayer book. Judith Maltby cites a story of parishioners at Flixton in Suffolk who brought their own prayer books to church in order to shame their Vicar into conforming with it: they eventually ousted him (Maltby 1998, p. 44). Between 1549 and 1642, roughly 290 editions of the prayer book were produced (Maltby 1998, p. 24). Before the end of the Civil War and the introduction of the 1662 prayer book, something like a half a million prayer books are estimated to have been in circulation (Maltby 1998, p. 24).
On the queen's death in 1603, this book, substantially the book of 1552, having been regarded as offensive by the likes of Bishop Stephen Gardiner in the sixteenth century as being a break with the tradition of the Western church, as it was, by the seventeenth century had come to be regarded by some as unduly Catholic. The objections of the English Puritans were; firstly, that it was improper for the lay congregation to take any vocal part in prayer (as in the Litany or Lord's Prayer), other than to say "Amen"; secondly, that no set prayer should exclude the option of an extempore alternative from the Minister; thirdly, that the Minister should have the option to omit part of the set liturgy at his discretion; fourthly, that short Collects should be replaced by longer prayers and exhortations; and fifthly, that all surviving "Catholic" ceremonial should be removed (Harrison 1982, p. 53). On the accession of James I, following the so-called Millenary Petition, the Hampton Court conference of 1604—the same meeting of bishops and Puritan divines that initiated the Authorized version of the Bible—resisted the pressure for change (save to the catechism) (Procter & Frere 1965, p. 138). By the reign of Charles I (1625-1649) the Puritan pressure, exercised through a much-changed Parliament, had increased. Government-inspired petitions for the removal of the prayer book and episcopacy 'root and branch' resulted in local disquiet in many places and eventually the production of locally organised counter petitions. The government had its way but it became clear that the division was not between Catholics and Protestants, but between Puritans and those who valued the Elizabethan settlement. (Maltby 1998, p. 24). The 1559 book was finally outlawed by Parliament in 1645 to be replaced by the Directory of Public Worship, which was more a set of instructions than a prayer book. How widely the Directory was used is not certain; there is some evidence of its having been purchased, in churchwardens' accounts, but not widely. The Prayer Book certainly was used clandestinely in some places, not least because the Directory made no provision at all for burial services. Following the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the establishment of the Commonwealth under Lord Protector Cromwell, it would not be reinstated until shortly after the restoration of the monarchy to England.
John Evelyn records in his Diary, taking Communion according to the 1559 Prayer Book rite:
Christmas Day 1657. I went to London with my wife to celebrate Christmas Day. . . Sermon ended, as [the minister] was giving us the holy sacrament, the chapel was surrounded with soldiers, and all the communicants and assembly surprised and kept prisoners by them, some in the house, others carried away... These wretched miscreants held their muskets against us as we came up to receive the sacred elements, as if they would have shot us at the altar.
Prayer Book in ScotlandLaud's abortive 1637 Prayer book.
In 1557, the Scots Protestant lords had adopted the English Prayer Book of 1552, for reformed worship in Scotland. However, when John Knox returned to Scotland in 1559, he continued to use the Form of Prayer he had created for the English exiles in Geneva, and in 1564, this supplanted the Book of Common Prayer under the title of the Book of Common Order.
Following the accession of King James VI of Scotland to the throne of England, his son King Charles I, with the assistance of Archbishop Laud sought to impose the prayer book on Scotland (Perry 1922). The book concerned was not, however, the 1559 book but very much that of 1549,the first book of Edward VI. First used in 1637, it was never accepted, having been violently rejected by the Scots. Following the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (including the English Civil War), the Church of Scotland was re-established on a presbyterian basis but by the Act of Comprehension 1690, the rump of Episcopalians were allowed to hold onto their benefices. For liturgy they looked to Laud's book and in 1724 the first of the 'Wee Bookies' was published, containing, for the sake of economy, the central part of the Communion beginning with the Offertory (Perry 1922, Chapter 4).
Between then and 1764, when a more formal revised version was published, a number of things happened which were to separate the Scottish liturgy more firmly from either the English books of 1549 or 1559. First, informal changes were made to the order of the various parts of the service and inserting words indicating a sacrificial intent to the eucharist; secondly, as a result of Bishop Rattray's researches into the liturgies of St. James and St. Clement, published in 1744, the form of the invocation was changed. These changes were incorporated into the 1764 book which was to be the liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church (until 1911 when it was revised) but it was to influence the liturgy of the Episcopal Church in the United States.A completely new revision was finished in 1929, and several alternative orders of the communion service and other services have been prepared since then.
1662 Prayer BookThe Prayer book of 1662 angered the Presbyterians.
The 1662 prayer book was printed only two years after the restoration of the monarchy, following the Savoy Conference convened by Royal Warrant to review the book of 1559.(Procter & Frere 1965, p. 169). Attempts by Presbyterians led by Richard Baxter to gain approval for an alternative service book failed. In reply to the Presbyterian Exceptions, some 600 changes were made to the book of 1559, mostly minor; giving the Puritans little of what they wanted, but implementing rather more (though by no means all) of changes suggested by High Anglicans (Edwards 1983, p. 312). Among them was the reference, in the prayer for the Church Militant, those 'departed this life in thy faith and fear' thus contradicting the statement at the beginning of the prayer that it was for the church 'militant here in earth'. Secondly, an attempt was made to restore the Offertory. This was achieved by the insertion of the words 'and oblations' into the prayer for the Church and the revision of the rubric so as to require the monetary offerings to be brought to the Table (instead of being put in the poor box) and the bread and wine placed upon the Table. Previously it had not been clear when and how bread and wine got onto the altar. The so-called manual acts, whereby the priest took the bread and the cup during the prayer of consecration, which had been deleted in 1552, were restored; and an "Amen" was inserted after the words of institution and before the Communion, hence separating the elements of Consecration and Communion that Cranmer had tried to knit together. After the communion, the unused but consecrated bread and wine were to be reverently consumed in church rather than being taken away for the Priest's own use. By such subtle means were Cranmer's purposes further confused, leaving it for generations to argue over the precise theology of the rite. One change made that constituted a concession to the Presyterian Exceptions, was the updating and re-insertion of the so-called Black Rubric, which had been removed in 1559. This now declared that kneeling in order to receive the communion did not imply adoration of the species of the Eucharist nor 'to any Corporal Presence of Christ's natural Flesh and Blood'—which, said the rubric, were in heaven, not here.
Unable to accept the new book 1,760 ministers were deprived of their livings (Procter & Frere 1965, p. 201). In effect, the 1662 Prayer Book marked the end of a period of just over 100 years, when a common form of liturgy served for almost all Reformed public worship in England; and the start of the continuing division between Anglicans and Nonconformists (Edwards 1983, p. 313). The actual language of the 1662 revision was little changed from that of Cranmer. With two exceptions, some words and phrases which had become archaic were modernized; secondly, the readings for the Epistle and Gospel at the Holy Communion, which had been set out in full since 1549, were now set to the text of the 1611 Authorised Version of the Bible. The Psalter, which had not been printed out in the 1549, 1552 or 1559 Books—was in 1662 provided in Miles Coverdale's translation from the Great Bible of 1538.
It was this edition which was to be the official Book of Common Prayer, during the growth of the British Empire, and, as a result, has been a great influence on the prayer books of Anglican churches worldwide, liturgies of other denominations in English, and of the English language as a whole.
Further attempts at revision
After the 1662 prayer book, development ceased in England until the twentieth century; that it did was, however, a bit of a close run thing. On the death of Charles II his brother, a Roman Catholic, became James II. James wished to achieve toleration for those of his own Roman Catholic faith, whose practices were still banned. This, however, drew the Presbyterians closer to the Church of England in their common desire to resist 'popery'; talk of reconciliation and liturgical compromise was thus in the air. But with the flight of James in 1688 and the arrival of the Calvinist William of Orange the position of the parties changed. The Presbyterians could achieve toleration of their practices without such a right being given to Roman Catholics and without, therefore, their having to submit to the Church of England, even with a liturgy more acceptable to them. They were now in a much stronger position to demand changes that were ever more radical. John Tillotson, Dean of Canterbury pressed the king to set up a Commission to produce such a revision (Fawcett 1973, p. 26). The so-called Liturgy of Comprehension of 1689, which was the result, conceded two thirds of the Presbyterian demands of 1661; but when it came to Convocation the members, now more fearful of William's perceived agenda, did not even discuss it and its contents were, for a long time, not even accessible (Fawcett 1973, p. 45). This work, however, did go on to influence the prayer books of many British colonies.Edward Bouverie Pusey, a leader of the Oxford Movement.
By the 19th Century other pressures upon the book of 1662 had arisen. Adherents of the Oxford Movement, begun in 1833, raised questions about the relationship of the Church of England to the apostolic church and thus about its forms of worship. Known as Tractarians after their production of 'Tracts for the Times' on theological issues, they advanced the case for the Church of England being essentially a part of the 'Western Church', of which the Roman Catholic Church was the chief representative. The illegal use of elements of the Roman rite, the use of candles, vestments and incense, practices known as Ritualism, had become widespread and led to the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874 which established a new system of discipline, intending to bring the 'Romanisers' into conformity (Carpenter 1933, p. 234). The Act had no effect on illegal practices: five clergy were imprisoned for contempt of court and after the trial of the much loved Bishop Edward King of Lincoln, it became clear that some revision of the liturgy had to be embarked upon (Carpenter 1933, p. 246). One branch of the ritualistic movement argued that both 'Romanisers' (by imitating the Church of Rome) and their Evangelical opponents (by imitating Reformed churches) transgressed the Ornaments Rubric of 1559, 'that such Ornaments of the Church, and of the Ministers thereof, at all Times of their Ministration, shall be retained, and be in use, as were in this Church of England, by the Authority of Parliament, in the Second Year of the Reign of King Edward the Sixth'. These adherents of ritualism, among whom one will find Percy Dearmer and others, claimed that the Ornaments Rubric prescribe the ritual usages of the Sarum Rite with the exception of a few minor things already abolished by the early reformation. Following a Royal Commission report in 1906, work began on a new prayer book, work that was to take twenty years.
In 1927, this proposed prayer book was finished. It was decided, during development, that the use of the services therein would be decided on by each given congregation, so as to avoid as much conflict as possible with traditionalists. With these open guidelines the book was granted approval by the Church of England Convocations and Church Assembly. Since the Church of England is a state church, a further step; sending the proposed revision to Parliament; was required, but the book was rejected in December of that year when the MPs William Joynson-Hicks and Rosslyn Mitchell "reached and inflamed all the latent Protestant prejudices in the House" and argued strongly against it on the grounds that the proposed book was "papistical" and was a restoration of the Roman Mass and implied the doctrine of Transubstantiation. The next year was spent revising the book to make it more suitable for Parliament, but it was rejected yet again in 1928. The attitude of Parliament however altered nothing except the attitude of the bishops to the law of the land. They authorized the book on their own authority and some clergy used it, including those baptising in the Crypt Chapel of the House of Commons.
The effect of the failure of the 1928 book was salutary: no further attempts were made to change the book, other than those required for the changes to the monarchy. Instead a different process, that of producing an alternative book, led to the publication of Series 1, 2 and 3 in the 1960s, the 1980 Alternative Service Book and subsequently to the 2000 Common Worship series of books. Both differ substantially from the Book of Common Prayer, though the latter includes in the Order Two form of the Holy Communion a very slight revision of the prayer book service altering only one or two words and allowing the insertion of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) before Communion. Order One follows the pattern of modern liturgical scholarship.
In 2003, a Roman Catholic adaptation of the BCP was published called the Book of Divine Worship. It is a compromise of material drawn from the proposed 1928 book, the 1979 ECUSA book, and the Roman Missal. Catholic converts from Anglicanism within the Anglican Use published it primarily for their use.
Prayer Book in the Anglican Communion
With British colonial expansion from the seventeenth century onwards, the Anglican Church was planted across the globe. These churches at first used and then revised the use of the Prayer Book, until they, like their parent, produced prayer books, which took into, account the developments in liturgical study and practice in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which come under the general heading of the Liturgical Movement.
William Bedell had undertaken an Irish translation of the Book of Common Prayer in 1606. An Irish translation of the revised prayer book of 1662 was effected by John Richardson (1664-1747) and published in 1712. It has been revised several times, and the present edition has been used since 2004.
United States of AmericaThe American Prayer book of 1789.
The Episcopal Church separated itself from the Church of England in 1789, having been established in the United States in 1607. Its prayer book, published in 1790, had as its sources, the 1662 English book and the 1764 Scottish Liturgy (see above) which Bishop Seabury of Connecticut had brought over following his consecration in Aberdeen in 1784, containing elements of each (Perry 1922). The preface to the 1789 Book of Common Prayer says "this Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship...further than local circumstances require." There were some notable differences. For example, in the Communion service after the words of institution there follows a Prayer of Oblation from 1549, but into which were inserted the words 'which we now offer unto thee' (in small caps) with reference to the 'holy gifts' An epiclesis was included, as in the Scottish book, though modified to meet reformist objections. Overall the book was modelled in the English Prayer Book, the Convention having resisted attempts at deletion and revision (McGarvey & Gibson 1907).
Further revisions occurred in 1892 and 1928, in which minor changes were made, removing, for instance, some of Cranmer's Exhortations and introducing such innovations as prayers for the dead.
In 1979, a more substantial revision was made. There were now two rites for the most common services, the first that kept most of the language of 1928, and the second using only contemporary language (some of it newly composed, and some adapted from the older language). Many changes were made in the rubrics and the shapes of the services, which were generally made for both the traditional and contemporary language versions. However, there was arguably a greater degree of continuity than was the case in England, which may account for the fact that all the books of the series, from 1790 to 1979 retain the same title. The 1979 book owes a good deal to the Liturgical Movement and to the 19th century Catholic revival.
Even so, the revision caused some controversy and in 2000, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church issued an apology to those "offended or alienated during the time of liturgical transition to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer."
The Prayer Book Cross was erected in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in 1894 as a gift from the Church of England. Created by Ernest Coxhead, it stands on one of the higher points in Golden Gate Park. It is located between John F. Kennedy Drive and Park Presidio Drive, near Cross Over Drive. This 57 ft (17 m) sandstone cross commemorates the first use of the Book of Common Prayer in California by Sir Francis Drake's chaplain on June 24, 1579.
Joseph Gilfillan was the chief editor of the 1911 Ojibwa edition of the Book of Common Prayer entitled Iu Wejibuewisi Mamawi Anamiawini Mazinaigun (Iw Wejibwewizi Maamawi-anami'aawini Mazina'igan) (Wohlers 2007, Chapter 68).
The Anglican Church of Australia, until 1981 officially known as the Church of England in Australia and Tasmania, became self-governing in 1961. Among other things the General Synod agreed that the Book of Common Prayer was to 'be regarded as the authorised standard of worship and doctrine in this Church ...'. In 1978 An Australian Prayer Book was produced which sought to adhere to this principle, so that where the Liturgical Committee could not agree on a formulation, the words or expressions of the BCP were to be used (The Church of England in Australia Trust Corporation 1978). The result was conservative revision.
In 1995 a similar process could be observed as elsewhere with the production of A Prayer Book for Australia which departed from both the structure and wording of the BCP. The process was accompanied by numerous objections, notably from the deeply conservatively evangelical Diocese of Sydney which noted the loss of BCP wording and of an explicit 'biblical doctrine of substitutionary atonement'. On the other hand, the rest of the Australian church has not proved as difficult as prayer book revisers might have supposed. The Diocese of Sydney has developed its own small prayer book, called Sunday Services, to supplement the existing prayer book and preserve the original theology, which the Sydney diocese asserts has been changed.
The Anglican Church of Canada developed its first Book of Common Prayer separately from the English version in 1918. The revision of 1962 was much more substantial, bearing a family relationship to that of the abortive 1928 book in England:. The language was conservatively modernized, and additional seasonal material was added but, as in England, while many prayers were retained the structure of the Communion service was altered: a Prayer of Oblation was added to the Eucharistic prayer after the 'words of institution', thus reflecting the rejection of Cranmer's theology in liturgical developments across the Anglican Communion. A French translation, Le Recueil des Prières de la Communauté Chrétienne, was published in 1967.
After a period of experimentation with the publication of various supplements, the Book of Alternative Services was published in 1985. This book (which owes much to Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and other sources) has widely supplanted the 1962 book, though the latter remains authorised. As in other places, there has been a reaction and the Canadian version of the Book of Common Prayer has found supporters.
The Church of South India was the first Episcopal uniting church of our age, consisting as it did, from its foundation in 1947, at the time of Indian independence, of Anglicans, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Reformed Christians. Its liturgy, from the first, combined the free use of Cranmer's language with an adherence to the principles of congregational participation and the centrality of the Eucharist, much in line with the Liturgical Movement. Because it was a minority church of widely differing traditions in a non-Christian culture (except in Kerala, where Christianity has a long history), practice varied wildly but the retention of Cranmerian language, and a sympathy with his theology, in the 2004 revision, is a reminder of both the richness of his language and the breadth of his influence.
The Book of Common Prayer has had a great influence on a number of other denominations. While theologically different, the language and flow of the service of many other churches owes a great debt to the prayer book. In particular, many Christian prayer books have drawn on the Collects for the Sundays of the Churches Year—mostly translated by Cranmer from a wide range of Christian traditions, but including a number of original compositions—which are widely recognized as masterpieces of compressed liturgical construction.
John Wesley, an Anglican priest whose revivalist preaching led to the creation of Methodism wrote, "I believe there is no Liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety than the Common Prayer of the Church of England." Many Methodist churches in England continued to use a slightly revised version of the book for communion services well into the 20th century. In the United Methodist Church, the liturgy for Eucharistic celebrations is almost identical to what is found in the Book of Common Prayer.
A unique variant was developed in 1785 in Boston, Massachusetts when the historic King's Chapel (founded 1686) left the Episcopal Church and became an independent Unitarian church (Kings Chapel 2007). To this day, King's Chapel uniquely uses the The Book of Common Prayer According to the Use in King's Chapel in its worship (Kings Chapel 2007).
Together with the Authorized version and the works of Shakespeare, the Book of Common Prayer has been one of the three fundamental underpinnings of modern English. As it has been in regular use for centuries, many phrases from its services have passed into the English language, either as deliberate quotations or as unconscious borrowings. They are used in non-liturgical ways. For example, many authors have used quotes from the prayer book as titles for their books.
Some examples of well-known phrases from the Book of Common Prayer are:
- "Speak now or forever hold your peace" from the marriage liturgy.
- "Till death us do part", from the marriage liturgy.
- "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust" from the funeral service.
- "From all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil" from the litany.
- "Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" from the collect for the second Sunday of Advent.
The phrase "till death us do part" has been changed to "till death do us part" in some more recent prayer books, such as the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer.
References and allusions to Prayer Book services in the works of Shakespeare were tracked down and identified by Richmond Noble (Noble 1935, p. 82). Derision of the Prayer Book or its contents "in any interludes, plays, songs, rhymes, or by other open words" was a criminal offence under the 1559 Act of Uniformity, and consequently Shakespeare avoids too direct reference; but Noble particularly identifies the reading of the Psalter according to the Great Bible version specified in the Prayer Book, as the biblical book generating the largest number of Biblical references in Shakespeare's plays. Noble found a total of 157 allusions to the Psalms in the plays of the First Folio, relating to 62 separate Psalms—all, save one, of which he linked to the version in the Psalter, rather than those in the Geneva Bible or Bishops' Bible. In addition, there are a small number of direct allusions to liturgical texts in the Prayer Book; e.g. Henry VIII 3:2 where Wolsey states "Vain Pomp and Glory of this World, I hate ye!", a clear reference to the rite of Public Baptism; where the Godparents are asked "Doest thou forsake the vaine pompe and glory of the worlde..?"
More recently, P.D. James used phrases from the Book of Common Prayer and made them into bestselling titles—Devices and Desires and The Children of Men, while Alfonso Cuarón's 2006 film Children of Men placed the phrase onto cinema marquees worldwide.
In most of the world the Book of Common Prayer can be freely reproduced as it is long out of copyright. This is not the case in the United Kingdom itself.
In the United Kingdom, the British Crown holds the rights to the Book of Common Prayer. The rights fall outside the scope of copyright as defined in statute law. Instead, they fall under the purview of the royal prerogative and as such, they are perpetual in subsistence. Publishers are licensed to reproduce the Book of Common Prayer under letters patent. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the letters patent are held by the Queen's Printer, and in Scotland by the Scottish Bible Board. The office of Queen's Printer has been associated with the right to reproduce the Bible for many years, with the earliest known reference coming in 1577. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the Queen's Printer is Cambridge University Press. CUP inherited the right of being Queen's Printer when they took over the firm of Eyre & Spottiswoode in the late 20th century. Eyre & Spottiswoode had been Queen's Printer since 1901. Other letters patent of similar antiquity grant Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press the right to produce the Book of Common Prayer independently of the Queen's Printer.
The terms of the letters patent prohibit those other than the holders, or those authorised by the holders from printing, publishing or importing the Book of Common Prayer into the United Kingdom. The protection that the Book of Common Prayer, and the Authorized version, enjoy is the last remnant of the time when the Crown held a monopoly over all printing and publishing in the United Kingdom.
This protection should not be confused with Crown copyright, or copyright in works of the United Kingdom's government; that is part of modern UK copyright law. Like other copyrights, Crown copyright is time-limited and potentially enforceable worldwide. The non-copyright Royal Prerogative is perpetual, but applies only to the UK; though many other Royal Prerogatives apply to the other Commonwealth realms, this one does not.
It is common misconception that the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office holds letters patent for being Queen's Printer. The Controller of HMSO holds a separate set of letters patent, which cover the office Queen's Printer of Acts of Parliament. The Scotland Act 1998 defines the position of Queen's Printer for Scotland as being held by the Queen's Printer of Acts of Parliament. The Controller of HMSO holds the position of Government Printer for Northern Ireland.
As mentioned above, the The Episcopal Church's book is always released into the public domain. Trial use and supplemental liturgies are however copyrighted by Church Publishing, the official publishing arm of the church.
See alsoWikisource has original text related to this article: Book of Common Prayer Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Book of Common Prayer
- Anglican devotions
- Book of Common Order
- Prayer Book Society of Canada
- Prayer Book Rebellion
- Thirty-Nine Articles
- Anglican Church of Canada (1962). The Book Of Common Prayer. Toronto: Anglican Book Centre Publishing, 736. ISBN 0-92184-671-1.
- Church of England [1549 & 1552] (1977). The First and Second Prayer Books of King Edward VI. London: Everyman's Library. ISBN 0460004484.
- Church of England  (1999). The Book of Common Prayer. London: Everyman's Library. ISBN 1-85715-241-7.
- The Episcopal Church (1979). Book of Common Prayer (1979). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195287134.
- The Church of England in Australia Trust Corporation . An Australian Prayer Book (in English). St.Andrew's House, Sydney Square, Sydney: Anglican Information Office Press, 636 p. ISBN 0-909827-7-96.
- Careless, Sue, Discovering the Book of Common Prayer: A hands-on approach (Volume 1:Daily Prayer), Toronto: Anglican Book Centre Publishing, ISBN 1-55126-398-x
- Chapman, Mark, Anglicanism: A very Short Introducion, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0192806939
- Carpenter, Spencer Cecil, Church and people, 1789-1889; a history of the Church of England from William Wilberforce to "Lux mundi.", London: SPCK
- Church of England, The Book of Common Prayer, London: Everyman's Library (published 1999), ISBN 1-85715-241-7
- Church of England, The First and Second Prayer Books of King Edward VI, London: Everyman's Library, ISBN 0460004484
- The Church of England in Australia Trust Corporation, An Australian Prayer Book, St.Andrew's House, Sydney Square, Sydney: Anglican Information Office Press, ISBN 0-909827-7-96
- Clarke, William Kemp Lowther, Liturgy and worship : a companion to the prayer book of the Anglican communion, London: SPCK
- Duffy (a), Eamon, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580, Yale University Press, ISBN 0300108281
- Duffy (b), Eamon, The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village, Yale University Press, ISBN 0300098251
- Edwards, David, Christian England: From the Reformation to the 18th Century, Collins, ISBN 0002151456
- Fawcett, Timothy J., The liturgy of comprehension 1689: An abortive attempt to revise the Book of common prayer, Mayhew McCrimmon, ISBN 0855970316
- Gibson, E.C.S, The First and Second Prayer Books of Edward VI, Everyman's Library
- Guy, John, Tudor England, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0192852132
- Harrison, D.E.W. & Sansom, Michael C, Worship in the Church of England, London: SPCK, ISBN 0-281-03843-0
- Kings Chapel, <http://www.kings-chapel.org/history.html>. Retrieved on 10 October 2007
- Maltby, Judith, Prayer Book and People in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521453135
- Marsh, Christopher, Popular Religion in Sixteenth-Century England: Holding their Peace, Macmillan, ISBN 0312210949
- Maxwell, William, The Liturgical Portions of the Genevan Service Book, The Faith Press
- MacCulloch (b), Diarmaid, “Introduction”, in Church of England, The Book of Common Prayer, London: Everyman's Library, 1999, ISBN 1-85715-241-7
- McGarvey, William & Gibson, Frederick, Liturgiæ Americanæ or the Book of Common Prayer as used in the United States of America compared with the proposed book of 1786 and with the Prayer Book of the Church of England and an historical account and documents, Philadelphia Church Publishing Company
- Noble, Richmond, Shakespeare's Biblical Knowledge and Use of the Book of Common Prayer, SPCK
- Perry, W., Scottish Prayer Book, Its Value & History, Mowbrays
- Procter, F & Frere, W H, A New History of the Book of Common Prayer, St. Martin's Press
- Wohlers, Charles, “Chapter 68 - The Algonquian”, The Book of Common Prayer among the Nations of the World, vol. Family, <http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/Muss-Arnolt/part7b.htm>. Retrieved on 10 September 2007
Chronological order of publication (oldest first)
- Harrison, D.E.W . Common Prayer in the Church of England. London: SPCK.
- Forbes, Dennis (1992). Did the Almighty intend His book to be copyrighted?, European Christian Bookstore Journal, April 1992
- Hatchett, M.J. . Commentary on the American Prayer Book. Harper Collins.
- MacCulloch, Diarmaid (2001). The Boy King: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation. ISBN 0-312-23830-4.
- Hefling, C.; C. Shattuck (2006). The Oxford Guide to The Book of Common Prayer: A Worldwide Survey. ISBN 0-19-529756-3.
- Books of Common Prayer, from various Provinces of the Anglican Communion, at The Society of Archbishop Justus.
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