Edited by Prudence Dailey
Continuum, Nov. 2011
Softcover, 216 pages, $21.95
AS THE SUBTITLE suggests, this volume offers a celebration of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer by women and men who use it, love it, and desire to share its treasures with others. While some discussion of earlier antecedents (1549, 1552, 1559) and later developments is included, the focus remains on the 1662 gold standard.
Much like The Oxford Guide to The Book of Common Prayer: A Worldwide Survey, this volume collects essays by a wide variety of authors – priests, laypeople, college principals, bishops – not all of whom are scholars. Following an introduction by His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the book falls into four categories: history, language, worship, and mission.
The first section starts with an adroit exploration of medieval piety and the Sarum Rite by Neil Patterson, followed by two capable studies of English society and the English Reformation as related to the formation of the Prayer Book by Raymond Chapman and David Loades, respectively. Some treatment of the last 200 years of the Book of Common Prayer would have marked a welcome addition.
The language section includes two highly devotional essays by P.D. James and David Curry, demonstrating the power of words to form the soul and community, followed by perhaps the most scholarly chapter in the volume, a study by Ian Robinson of the prose and poetry of the Prayer Book.
The four chapters on worship take up in turn Holy Communion (Gavin Dunbar), Scripture (Roger Beckwith), lectionaries (David Phillips), and the place of the classic Prayer Book in a world with an increasingly dizzying array of liturgical options (Peter Moger). This section succeeds in reflecting on the Prayer Book as a living instrument for our journey of salvation.
The section on mission looks up and out to the future, specifically to the youth in our midst. Those who doubt classical Anglicanism’s power in the contemporary post-everything world will do well to consider carefully these three essays by C. Peter Molloy, George Sumner, and Fredrik Arvidsson.
Terry Waite’s postscript, “A Very Present Help in Trouble,” and an afterword by the Bishop of London provide a fitting blessing to the celebration, with some recognition of the current struggles of the Anglican Communion.
In all, the volume provides a most accessible and well-written introduction to the Book of Common Prayer that is both interesting and spiritually invigorating. Several essays would provide an excellent addition to adult confirmation, inquirers, or formation classes. Others, such as Ian Robinson’s chapter, may interest only the most committed of Anglican liturgical aficionados. TAP
Jason Ballard, an aspiring priest in Austin, Texas, keeps a blog at atribecalledanglican.wordpress.com.
This review first appeared in The Living Church magazine.
Postscript: There is a sizeable contingent of Canadians among the book’s contributors, all of whom have written in the pages of the Anglican Planet. Along with the Planet’s Editor-in-Chief, C. Peter Molloy, there is also David Phillips, George Sumner, David Curry and Gavin Dunbar.