Hang onto Your Hats: It’s Time for a New Book of Common Prayer

by

 

by Eric Bonetti

 

When the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) was released, many scholars felt that the task of revision was made more challenging by the theological changes that had occurred since the 1928 version. Indeed, some scholars claimed that the 1979 version represented an abandonment of the Tudor/Archbishop Cranmer notion of deity. Will we face similar challenges this time around? And how might our changing role in society affect the process of revision?

 

I suspect that, true to form, there will be many shifts in focus, while attempting to avoid painting those with differing views into a corner.

 

One big change, I suspect, will be to make the language of the BCP more gender neutral. It’s always struck me that one of the great ironies of the 1979 version, emerging as it did during the push for greater gender equality, is how obviously male-oriented the end result was. How many churches, for instance, which use Eucharistic prayer C, now insert the names of the matriarchs after the language, “Lord God of our Fathers: God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,”? Surely a good call, and one long overdue to be made official.

 

Similarly, has our view of race relations changed? I well remember the excitement of the 1970’s, where many in the church, myself included, felt that we were on the brink of much wider inclusion and social justice. But in light of recent racial issues in this country, have we made the progress we thought we would? Many Sundays, as I look out over the almost all white congregation in my parish, I sigh deeply, feeling like we have just not made the progress we had hoped for.

 

Of course, marriage equality will be a big issue. In this space, the hymnal will need to evolve, and the rubrics of the BCP as well, for our canons treat the rubrics of the BCP as binding, yet the BCP still treats marriage as being between a man and a woman. This, as well as race relations, might also be topics for inclusion in the Catechism.

 

More thorny will be open communion. Many churches practice de facto open communion, tactfully omitting any discussion in their Sunday bulletin of the need to be baptized to take communion. Other churches are quite clear that all are welcome – as long as they are baptized. Allowing freedom on conscience in this space will be tricky, but my hope is that we will adhere to the highest and best aspects of the via media.

 

Then there’s the perennial tension between high, low, and broad church proponents. It has been said that the 1979 BCP reflected the ascendancy of the high church movement, with greater emphasis on saints days, the Great Vigil of Easter, and more.

 

In this regard, my sense is that many parishes are becoming more liturgical and somewhat high church. Even the church of my childhood, once squarely in the low church tradition, now has a tabernacle and other “Catholic” accoutrements (along with some horrid woodwork dating from the late Seventies, which was intended to make the church less Gothic in appearance. Instead, it now looks like a badly done fast food restaurant.)

 

Even here in the Diocese of Virginia, which overall is decidedly low church, one sees more votive candles, aumbries, and other hints of an increased appreciation for our Roman heritage. So, I suspect these changes will be reflected in the new BCP.

 

There’s also the issue of what to do with some of the loose ends in the 1979 BCP. For instance, there’s the somewhat odd section for a “build-your-own-Eucharist.” Nice idea, but I suspect that anyone who’s been through seminary already has a pretty good idea of the constituent parts.

 

Meanwhile, one of the downsides of the via media is our tendency to weasel-word things when the going gets tough. Understandable, but it’s often the loose ends that get us in trouble. Yet, at the same time, are we still content to envision a God “up there,” a hell “down there,” and the other now-quaint phrases of the creeds? Is of understanding of God now one that transcends the specifics of time and space?

 

What do you think? What things do you need to see in the next Book of Common Prayer? And what things would you like to see go away?

 

 

Eric recently retired, and is enjoying hanging out, going to the gym, cycling, doing volunteer work, and teaching kids’ cooking classes, not necessarily in that order.

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71 Responses to "Hang onto Your Hats: It’s Time for a New Book of Common Prayer"
  1. Editing would be great. Why do some of the suggested forms for Prayers of the People suddenly switch from speaking TO God to speaking ABOUT God? And there's that achingly interminable sentence in the Ash Wed service, "It was also a time when those who because of notorious sin, had been separated from the body of the faithful, were dot dot dot wake me when it's over." But on the whole, other than tidying up some loose ends and rationalizing the canons and striking the needlessly masculine pronouns which make Rite II more sexist than Rite I, I hope we tread lightly. There are more important tasks facing the Church than liturgical revision, and we will distract into liturgical in-fighting if given the opportunity. It's a safe, familiar auto-default that allows us to talk about change without actually having to do much change.

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  2. As long as it's not "dumbed down" as so much text is anymore. And the option for a more lyrical, ancient verbiage remains to reach back through the millennia and link us to those who came before.

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  3. I doubt there will be a wholesale revision. The expense of books will be hard on any who still use books. Probably more alternative and supplemental rites. One sad thing about current usage is the full printed bulletins - and the seeming loss of the use of any services other than Eucharist and Burial.

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  4. I think TEC can learn a lot from our ELCA brothers and sisters. Take a look at the 2006 "Evangelical Lutheran Worship."

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    • I agree. Much to be learned about user-friendly formatting and about more modern but still liturgically rigorous content.

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  5. Seriously, when the arguments are over and the dust has settled, those who do the housekeeping will need to know if churches will need 3 Sunday services? Will we have Rites I, II, and III? Some will find this funny or think I'm being sarcastic. Not true. I was there in 79 and it was fun but it was also deadly. We still have churches where Rite I is the main service and we are now blessed with the Anglicans, some who want our building and our land
    I'm not saying don't do it. Just saying, be careful, the soul gets bruised too.

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  6. Rather than a perspective of "dumbing down," wouldn't it be wonderful to use the perspective of "lifting up?" As a non-seminary trained layperson, I love Rite III, or "build-your-own Eucharist."

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    • I recall when The Anglican Digest used to have their "heart sad" feature, one of the items was about the anniversary celebration of a priest, and a bottle of CHAMPAGNE was popped during Holy Communion! That is my problem with the "build your own eucharist." And when Bishop Gene Robinson and his ex wife did a "do it yourself" divorce rite, I found THAT more disturbing than his gaiety! Why didn't he marry a man to start with?

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      • At the time of +Gene's marriage - that was the pressure of society - a way to "change" - they always cared for each other and as far as I know have a good relationship that supports their children. They divorced according to the laws of the state. As we have no ritual way to express our regrets and sorrow when a marriage ends - they used one developed with other clergy. There is no "rule"that prohibits this. As they say on The Composers' Datebook - all music was once new. Same with liturgies -- they don't come down by the pen of God - those that pass the test of time continue - the rest fade.

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  7. Rite 1, Rite 2, and Rite 3 -- might need to do this on volumes.

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  8. The Episcopal Church in which I grew up, is better at rearranging chairs than any group since cave men stopped using rocks to rest on.

    The reason for thes not so gradual decline of the Episcopal Church is that it has adopted and devoted too much time to liberal political and social causes

    I tried for years to get Trinity Cathedral to help me with a serious family need. I never got a return phone call. Understand, not one.

    I know a member of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina who made a serious mistake and went to Federal Prison. He was a lifetime Episcopalian, and he was truly sorry for the white collar financial misconduct. Do you think anyone from the church visited him ?

    If I were going to do anything to help the Church, I would find Priests who take care of their parishioners first and worry about what pronoun to substitute for God's choice a lot less.

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    • John Harte. TEC failure to minister to the brethren in crisis is completely inexcusable. There is only one explanation: they had 'nothing to offer' So staying away, was actually wise on their part.

      Hallelujah. Jesus never ignores his sheep. He is always faithful. Jesus is alive and well in every jail & prison ...and he is at the ready for anyone that calls on him
      for family crisis large & small. We are blessed!

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    • Mr. Harte, I'm sorry for your and your acquaintance's bad experience, but it is hardly a universal characteristic of the whole Episcopal church, and to paint with such a broad brush is both unjust and unjustified.

      The Episcopal church I attend not only reaches out to members in trouble or tribulation, but even to non-Episcopalians in bad straits — often offering help before being asked.

      As for "devoting too much time to liberal political and social causes," I haven't found much of that in the Episcopal Church, either.

      Rather, I've found devotion to a very honest and soul-searching application of core gospel values (loving God, loving neighbor, loving enemy and treating others the same way we want to be treated) to the pressing questions of the day that, for good or ill, impact our lives and those of our fellow human beings in the world around us.

      Despite naysayers who can never say anything nice about Episcopalians — yet, oddly, frequent Episcopalian blogs with inexplicable regularity — the Episcopal Church does much good in the cause of Christ Jesus, despite any shortfalls or failings (which are present in every religious community and individual on the face of the earth).

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    • John Harte, I am sorry to hear that no one visited your friend when he was in prison. I don't know the circumstances of this individual's situation, but oftentimes when someone is in prison it can be far from their home town and congregation, especially so in the Federal system, so it is not realistic to expect someone from his home congregation to visit him if he is incarcerated in a facility far away. Having said that, members of his parish could be encouraged to write to him.

      If anyone knows of a situation like this, try to contact a parish close to the prison and ask if someone will visit that person in prison. (Be aware that there are some hoops to jump through before someone could visit an inmate, so patience is essential.) Otherwise a local parish has no way to know if an Episcopalian is in a prison in their area.

      Many prisons, both Federal and state, have chaplains whose role is to provide support to the inmates. However there are only three Episcopal chaplains in the entire Federal prison system, so Episcopalians who are incarcerated should reach out to whatever chaplains are available in the facility they are in.

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  9. Keep the Creeds. Keep Rite I. Make Rite II more gender-inclusive, with the understanding that there's nothing wrong with referring to God as "He". Have a form for a contemplative Eucharist with 20 minutes for silent meditation in lieu of a sermon. Use Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer more, even if they end up as preludes to eucharists. Don't sell the farm to unitarians in chasubles.

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  10. Leave it alone, and add to it if need be. With all TEC has went through in the last decade, I hope the "powers that be" have enough sense to leave well enough alone and not deepen the fractures in the church with a major revision.

    Personally, I'm afraid of what kind of revised version we might end up with. Now, I'm more open minded than most, but this nonsense about not referring to God as "He", or dumbing down the liturgy to something akin to (as somebody else said) "Unitarians in chasubles" has the potential to make the arguments of the 1970's look like a Parish Vestry disagreeing about what color to paint the restroom.

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  11. I for one would probably advocate for at least 10 more years with our current edition. The very idea that I could no longer licitly use Rite 1, use the current catechism or marriage rites would probably result in my joining "The Society for the Preservation of the 1979 BCP".

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  12. Episcopal Red Meat Alert!!
    I guess a revision of the Prayer Book is inevitable after 40 years. Like others here, including the author, I dread the process because I fear it will become a convenient and welcome distraction at a time in our Life as a Church when our best minds and energies would be better spent on helping this world survive "populism".

    At its best, a revision will reflect a TEC that's in touch with the present world (reason); faithful to our theology(Scripture); and that still honors our 230 year heritage in the United States (tradition).

    I think that the BCP ---as is---is an exquisite testament to our Anglican/Episcopal liturgical heritage that needs little improvement except that it would profit from nuanced changes in the text that reflect the significant theological and social shifts since 1979. For example, I would not be against including a mass-setting built around a liberation theology that profiles communities under siege in our country or globally at any given time.

    Fr. Bonetti's take on the task ahead is similar to my own: For me, the task ahead means honoring the spirit of the BCP over the letter; honoring the music of the BCP over the word.

    Above all: First, do no harm.

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  13. How about some return to "poetry" in the liturgy. I really miss the lush cadences in the prayers of the 1928. More gender inclusiveness, reverence for the earth and more attention to the beauty of language. Those would be my wishes.

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    • I agree with you, but what do we delete? I know: Let's ask King Solomon!

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      • We could remove the ordination services and Consecration of a Church and put them in the Book of Occasional Services.

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  14. In the Catholic church after the original translation into English back in 1973 was put in to use work began on a new translation of the Roman Missal starting in the 1980s and proceeding up through the 1990s. It was a collaborative effort between clergy, Latin experts, scholars, liturgists, and other experts. It had been approved by all the English speaking conferences. Then the Vatican stepped in and decided not to approve the 1998 translation for use. The Vatican then used its own panel to devise a new translation, giving us the rather stilted and stuffy translation the Catholic Church started using in 2011.

    One the things that made me happy when I came over to the Episcopal Church is that by and large many of the prayers I grew up in the Catholic Church are used in the Episcopal Church, with only slight variations to some of the wording. In the scheme of things the 2011 translation was not the main reason why I had left the church, but I will say that it didn't feel the same or as spiritually enriching as it did before after the new translation came in to force.

    I hope that if the Episcopal Church sees fit to implement a new version of the BCP, that the revisions are done by people that know what they are doing, and that the church doesn't do what the Vatican did when faced with the proposed 1998 translation of the Roman Missal.

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  15. I actually think that we should have a Rite III that is "gender neutral", and should keep Rites I and II as they are. I would, however, suggest moving Eucharistic Prayer C to Rite III, and take it out of Rite II.

    I worry that a revision of either the Hymnal or the BCP at this time would present more divisions than it would be worth. The fights over the necessity of the Creed, open communion, and so many other divisive issues would not be good for us. It would, I fear, drive even more wedges into the already pre-existing divisions between High, Broad, and Low Churches; between liberals and conservatives; between traditionalists and modernists; and between many other factions in the Church.

    If it is to be revised, we need to stop allowing the above-referenced Unitarians-in-Chasubles to control the dialogue, and open a space for those who, of late, have been excluded from the dialogue, and have been ridiculed, mocked, and otherwise suppressed by the aforementioned Unitarians-in-Chasubles. All voices, including the Unitarians-in-Chasubles, the conservatives, and the Anglo-Catholics, need to be heard, and respected.

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  16. There are certainly good reasons to revise the BCP. I submit that now is not the time. Rather, in a politicallychallenging time, we should keep our focus on the sick, the hungry, and the refugee. Fix the BCP later.

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    • Why can't it be done at the same time? We have all been given many gifts, some gifts different for one, than the gifts given another. We could be a church that utilizes the talents of everyone at all times, instead of having pet themes that we all must focus on at the same time.

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  17. I comment as one who is new to the church. I have attended an Episcopal church for less than a year, and I never belonged to any church before that. As such, I do not express here any strong recommendations for or against changing language or meaning in the BCP. I will say that I think experiential liturgy is more important than rational exposition of belief because it provides an immersive experience that can transport and transform people of wide-ranging beliefs.

    If there is any revision, I would like to see reorganization to make the BCP more user-friendly to a newcomer. A newcomer is not going to initiate their experience with regular practice of the daily office. The Eucharist and other components that deal with a typical Sunday service should be at the beginning, not in pages 200 or 300 something. Perhaps the BCP could even be split into two or more volumes, allowing churches to save money by stocking their pews with a shorter, easier-to-use-on-Sunday first volume, but also allowing individuals to purchase the single-binding version if they like.

    I don't feel that it is my place, as a newbie, to make a long list of specific recommendations. But, generally speaking, any revision should seriously consider ease of use by a newcomer, especially when attendance and growth are relevant matters.

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    • Mr. McClain - thank you for your input. I personally think a fresh view can be very helpful - sometimes people who've been with something too long might have trouble "seeing the forest for the trees", as it were.

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    • Thank you, Mr. McClain, for your refreshing take on change in TEC. Welcome to our tradition.

      I remember when I first joined TEC lo' these 30 years ago and the chief stumbling block I encountered was managing the Prayer Book. I dutifully fiddled and fussed trying to find the correct pages during service (I soon found that the limp and gray-eared pages were usually the ones), but found no grace in this and felt uncomfortably like a "newbie" and an outsider. (Often, some well-meaning neighbor would lean over and find the page for me---drawing further attention and embarrassment.) Confirmation had nothing on this; THIS was my Episcopal rite-of-passage.

      These days others, like myself, enjoy printed Sunday bulletins which obviates the need for the BCP altogether during service. (This reality is discomforting; has the BCP in the pew gone the way of the Bible in the pew?) But the fact is that not all parishes print elaborate bulletins every week.

      Making the BCP "worshiper-friendly" might just be the greatest accomplishment in the revision. It's really quite a beautiful document. Finding ways to make it more accessible for 21st century eyes would be quite a coup.

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  18. Don't believe it. It's too soon. The 1928 BCP lasted about 50 years, which puts us about 2029 with revising the 1979 BCP. The CofE did the Alternative Service Book in the 1980's, which may be a good answer for the Episcopal Church in the next few years.

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    • 1979 - 1928 = 51

      But the 1979 BCP didn't drop out of Heaven nor was it written on buried gold plates which someone found. It took many years of work leading up to 1979.

      Starting work now may allow for a finished product in 2029.

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  19. I was a teenager when we went through the trials and tribulations of the transitional "zebra" prayer book, and I do not look forward to a repeat of that era. I worry that revising the current BCP may be as devisive as replacing the 1928 version eas, and I am not sure that our shrinking church need any more potential for schism or division.

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  20. I've been saying this for about 15 years now! :-0

    I don't think anyone wants to re-play the trauma of going from the 1928 to the 1979---but after having used the text for *50* years, what else could one expect? The '28 BCP had become a habit by then. No, the BCP needs to be revised every generation (and call me old-fashioned on this one---as sewn-together book, not just a digital download).

    "In the beginning was the Word"...but THE Word is Christ. The words can become just another idol, if they aren't in harmony with the Body of Christ, the Church. Living words, for living liturgy, require re-evaluation, on a regular basis---which takes time. Start the BCP revision---well, since we can't start it 15 years ago---ASAP!

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  21. Oh, rats! I just purchased a new combination BCP/Hymnal...

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  22. Methinks thou hast opened a tin of worms. I canst not wait to filleth out the first survey though the process is so long I have little doubt but that the words of the '79 BCP will commend by soul to my Lord's eternal care. I once vowed I'd join the Prayer Book Society before going through revision again. But now I say, bringeth it on.

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  23. Hopefully another full scale revision will be put off into the indefinite future. I tremble with dread to think what might come now given the theological turmoil we are in. People seem to believe that giving holy communion to the unbaptized is simply an argument about procedure when, in fact, it is a theological argument of the first importance. It is about insuring, insofar as that is possible, a healthy church that is a church rather than a syncretistic hybrid. It is about a church maintaining its discipline as a church in order to answer the always valid question; Who is a part of the church? Who is a part of Christ's Body? Contrary to so much popular thought, boundaries are not bad, but quite necessary and, yes, life giving!

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    • I agree: Boundaries are good; canonical identity is good; and evolution is also good. One's identity, be it a person's or a religious tradition's, should never be static----but as dynamic and evolving as the Body of Christ.

      The eternal cycles of continuity and discontinuity are the essence of progress and growth. Resisting evolution is as destructive as dictating an end result. This is God's work.

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  24. As an Anglocatholic and a solitary religious as well as a church musician, I have a long list of wants.

    For the daily office, I would like to see the inclusion of a full set of the liturgy of the hours having every possible option included (e.g. appropriate antiphons for all the Psalms and Canticles, full sets of propers as well for lesser feasts and fasts). I would like to see a full set of offices as well moving back to the classic seven-fold daily office as at least an option. Ideally, a separate office book would include everything one needs to say/sing the office individually or in community. We would have the psalms fully pointed and the music for the liturgies included/interlined along with the texts. We would include appropriate hymns in the office as well. Having said all that, I would have the "full" book (probably books) include "every bell and whistle possible" for them, but with the option to reduce to simpler uses down to just a "bare minimum" if that is what is felt desirable. Allowing for multiple Psalm schemes (e.g. the seven week, a two week or weekly, the old serial monthly) would be useful as well. Considering that very few congregations pray the office regularly if at all, the "full" office described above could be "echoed" in a simplified form in a main combined prayerbook for the pew for Sunday, seasonal or occasional use. This could be without music in order to allow for the choral offices that so many in traditional cathedrals and choirs enjoy.

    For the "Mass book," I would like to see a continuation of the reforms made in the 1979 prayerbook that brought us back into the mainstream catholic western liturgical tradition. I would like to restore specifically the "full" rite with all the parts of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus/Benedictus/Agnus Dei). None of that should be in the congregational book musically but in the "hymnal" be it paper/digital or a combination of both (with free option to print ad lib and good software for preparation of Sunday leaflets). I would "ditch" the "odd" "Baptismal" eucharistic rite as the separate entity we now have. Baptism would occur as a rite within the context of the Eucharist or, if necessary, separately. Having Baptism should not displace the normal rite of the mass (e.g. Kyrie, Gloria). I would like to restore the traditional minor propers to the book itself (Introit, Offertory, Communion, etc) and have a version of those fully pointed for choral/cantoral use. The texts should be part of the propers (lessons, collects) and in the main congregational use for meditation/contemplation. Proper prayers for offertory, post-communion, would be useful material as well.
    Additionally, I would like to see the office and the mass "in conversation" with one another again, with the office perhaps taking from the Mass certain readings/themes, perhaps sharing a single Gospel reading for a Saturday vigil office that "anticipates" the Sunday mass gospel. I would like to "unbreak" the relationship between the lectionary and the collects as it now stands and get them back together again.

    Finally, while I have no problem with well-done "inclusive" language, options should continue for at least those musical portions of the liturgy that have a "history" to continue in their "original" forms, keeping traditional language canticles, for example, to preserve the musical heritage/treasures of the church.
    I am less clear about the rest of the prayerbook rites that are not "frequently" used. We should probably keep baptism, confirmation, marriage, rites for anointing/healing and burial in the "main" basic prayerbook. Other things such as ordinations, consecrations of people/things, etc, should move "out" of the main prayerbook to an expanded "occasional" service book that might exist mostly as a "digital" version available for printing for the occasions as required.
    Is that enough?

    If we include all the "bells and whistles" in the volumes published, we should include some sort of navigational aid, brackets/bars, etc. so that persons/congregations can "select down" from the "full menu" to choose simpler versions. It is much easier to "subtract" from a prayerbook and simplify than it is to expand.

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  25. Patriarchal language and the archaic myth-making centered on such a dominant and controlling power structure is far and away the most egregious component in the BCP. There is no sustainable future if this is maintained in a revised prayer book (and within the music of the church). It has to go, completely and fast...

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  26. Actually, Richard, it is in returning to the themes of the past that will make Christianity have staying power. It is unfortunate that you see oppression. I see a wondrous order in miracles wrought by One who is both King and Lord. Those titles and the miraculous nature of the same are very much worth preserving.

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    • You might visit liturgy.co.nz and have put to rest the idea of the glory that many believe is A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa. Liturgy in that Anglican province is currently in quite a mess, starting with the much-praised prayerbook.

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  27. "What do you think? What things do you need to see in the next Book of Common Prayer? And what things would you like to see go away?"

    Will any of the prayers for animals that were approved be able to be added to the BCP? I'm hoping that some will be accessible by people who might not have access to the Book of Occasional Services or whatever liturgical resource they're going to end up in.

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  28. I share with many others that, except for a few canonical changes around the marriage rites and a few others, we have not yet really experienced this edition fully, and thus there is no impetus for change. I have a list of things I'd like too, but none are critical or of first importance. Let's live into this edition for a while yet. The only other thing I might suggest (and this can be done with diocesan permission now) is to use an inclusive language Psalter, such as the St. Helena Psalter, in public worship.

    I'd also suggest that more broadly, there is little desire for wholesale change coming from the laity, but generally speaking, just the clergy. Our ongoing poll at the Facebook public group: "Prayer Boo Revision: Discussion and Debate" at https://www.facebook.com/groups/bcprevision/ seems to suggest similar. In our ongoing poll asking about the SCLM
    s 4 or 5 paths forward, the current breakdown is:

    #4 Deepening our Relationship with the '79 BCP: 85
    (#5) Technical fixes only: 36
    #2 - Create Book(s) of Alternative Services, and leave the BCP 1979 alone: 32
    #1 Revise the Book of Common Prayer: 21
    #3 - More talking, listening, researching, and discerning: 6

    Across the >500 members of this group, the strong current opinion is that less is better.

    I invite all readers here to check out this FB group and consider following it. I'm posting this discussion there as well.

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  29. I am of two minds on this. Those of us educated to this book when it was new (the second reading in Convention, by which this became the Book of Common Prayer, and so "1979" came while I was in seminary), may remember that it was conceived as transitional. The late Marion Hatchett said it was imagined as being relevant for perhaps 30 years, after which it should be revised again (and perhaps again and again at that interval). I appreciate much that has been approved "for trial use," and regret that most folks never experience it because it's not in "the Book." At the same time, I regret that the 1979 Book has not been used fully (how often have you heard Prayer D, or seen "Thanksgiving for the Birth of a Child?"), and so few have experienced the breadth within it. Not quite 40 years ago many of us imagined the traditional language would fade in interest as less comprehensible and less relevant; and we've been proven wrong, or at least limited in our foresight. Not quite 40 years ago many of us thought in fact that the contemporary language of the '70's would be less relevant, too; and while we've been largely right, I can't say that I've seen much coherent application of our current vernacular in worship. And, I'm pretty sure that not quite 40 years ago we had any expectation that young adults would be asking, "What is a book?"

    In our history it was 100 years between the first American Prayer Book (1789) and the second (1892); and then only 35 years between the second and the third (1928). There were 52 years between the third and the fourth; and it we want it to be only 52 years between the fourth and the fifth, we need at least to be thinking about it now.

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    • I enjoy Eucharistic Prayer D but when I ask other clergy about this, the reply is "beautiful, but too long."

      It's Prayer C that I can't stand.

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  30. I love the richness of the BCP and all the information available in it other than offices, rites and collects. I do desperately wish that the word "people" or "human" had been used instead of "men" or "man" in many places. In this day and age- and especially in the 1970's when this revision was finalized- using nothing but a male gender pronoun is off-putting to many, including myself, a cradle Episcopalian.

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  31. This piece is assuming there will be a revision. We are a long way off from even making that decision.

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    • True enough; but next year is a General Convention year, and I would be shocked if we didn't get at least one resolution speaking to this.

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  32. Thanks for commenting; please use your full first and last name in the future - thx, Editor

    Thoughts in bulleted form:
    - It's not about me. It's Common prayer. We all have our personal preferences, but it's not about me, or you. It's about us!
    -As Episcopalians we don't really have belief statements or official dogma. We pray what we believe and we believe what we pray. In that, our BCP really matters! Our theology is woven in every fiber of our books of common prayer- so it has to be continually be made new.
    - God is always speaking. Prayers for all those who take counsel for the church as we lead up to GenCon in Austin in 2018 where this hard, holy work continues.

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    • Yes, we have belief statements. They're called the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.

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  33. Well, let me get this straight...people are actually using the BCP 1979? I'm being catty...but, every time we have a change of priests over in our corner of the world...they dream up a service, have it printed (they usually make a mishmash - taking from all three Rites - OR - they use the New Zealand BCP) and hand it out to us before the service...get a surprise every week. I'm with a few other people on this website - there are other windmills we can be jousting with - like more people-friendly priests, or youth programs that help keep our young people, or more interesting adult Sunday School programs. I'm a life-long Episcopalian and we just seem to be drifting away. You ought to see the outside of our door to the Sanctuary...it looks like a parking lot for walkers. Somebody in the community asked me if we were like the Quakers...
    Our communities do not know what we have to offer...but, then, neither do I.....church is just a habit anymore...besides...it's the only vehicle I have to find out who is in the hospital, has died, has been put into a home...

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  34. I think keeping both Rite I Eucharistic Prayers, slightly modifying Rite II prayers to make them more inclusive (ex. adding Sarah et. al. to the Prayer C), and then adding a Prayer E and F should be sufficient. We currently have permission to use any Prayers of the People as long as it has all of the required components.

    The "it's too soon" sentiment ignores the fact that, at the earliest, we will have a schedule in 2018, an initial draft in 2021, and have to approve changes in 2024 and 2027. More likely than not, we'll have the "2030 BCP" which will be little more than 50 years after the 1979 BCP, which was little more than 50 years after the 1928 BCP. I think we can manage that.

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    • Tom, in reality, it was more than 50 years. All the American editions up through the '28 one were fairly conservative revisions of the 1662 BCP. So, in reality, we have had hundreds of years with it. I'd suggest that 2 generations of a quite dramatic break from the 1662-1789-1892-1928 cycle are not nearly enough, even in this hyper-connected age. Let's be more deliberate, not less.

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    • Although, Tom, there's no mandate that revision take that long, or be that extensive. I would disagree on technical grounds with Brother Solon, as the 1789 book was in some very significant ways different from 1662, and that was not recovered so much until 1892. On the other hand, as I recall, 1928 wasn't so great a change from 1892 - mostly a more "modern" 19th century take on 16th century English usage.

      So, would it need to take so long? That would depend on whether we felt the need to start from scratch again or simply needed to update. If Prayers A and B, for example, were simply replaced by texts already approved for trial use, would we need to go through four editions again (1970 Green Book; 1973 Zebra Book; 1976 Blue Book [first reading of final text]; 1979 Prayer Book [second reading of final text])? And, did that help? As I recall, the point of having those multiple editions was to allow clergy to educate the Church. In fact that was applied very unevenly, and resistance to change was determined. So, would we just give up on trying to educate people into the change, and just go for the final edition?

      I still recall one of the most moving statements, made at an open forum on prayer book revision at the 1979 General Convention. An elderly priest discussed taking his first cure out of Seminary in 1928 - a small church in Wyoming, as I recall. The congregation that called him was so excited that they had just bought "the new Prayer Books" - by which was meant that they had finally replaced their worn copies of the 1789 Book with new copies of the 1892 Book. He made the pastoral decision to appreciate their excitement and commitment, and their expense, and bring in the 1928 Book only as the new books wore out. His call to the 1979 Convention was not to stall or prevent revision. It was to allow the process of transition to be organic, to happen over time, and "Don't stick beans up our noses!" I wonder what would have happened had we done so - simply no longer printing 1928 Books, and allowing each congregation to adapt as they needed to replace worn editions. Human beings behaving as we do, that would have been too little control for some, and too much control for others. In any case, we don't have to revise the same way we did in coming to the 1979 Book.

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  35. "What would you like to see go away?" That's an easy one. The archaic 'Elizabethan' English that no English speaking country in the world uses in the 21st century. There's nothing particularly religious or poetic or sentimental or even traditional -- ER I said her church's should use contemporary language so as to be understood -- about it.

    Perhaps it's the Medieval Augustinian pessimism about human nature for which we seem to reserve it (Rite 1 in Advent and Lent, Rite 2 the rest of the year) that appeals. But we can assuage our yearning for guilt and humility perhaps even more effectively with the language as we speak it.

    Do we need more Eucharistic Prayers? A suffices for ordinary time, B lends itself to Christmas/Epiphany, and D is great for the great 50 days of Easter. C reminds us that God creates out of love, loves what is created, and it is good.

    The focus was on the Eucharist last time around. Now maybe it needs to be on other offices and sacraments, e.g., marriage about which our theology has expanded tremendously.

    Speaking of the last round of revision, I swore if revision ever came again in my lifetime, I'd join the retrograde Prayer Book Society. Now, not so sure, especially knowing that the process is so long, that the '79, Rite II, Burial Office will be said over my grave long before a new book rolls off the press or appears in pixels..

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    • Some observations on language—

      Penitential/non-penitential and Elizabethan/modern are orthogonal. Penitential language need not be Elizabethan.

      Honestly, I would drop Rite I. Its language may be “beautiful,” but it is not readily accessible or meaningful to the modern worshiper.

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  36. This thread has been one heck of a ride--as I thought it would be; I'm sure the Prayer Book Society is having its share of chuckles.

    This is what I've learned: We are tasked with providing Episcopal parishes with a Living Prayer Book for years to come. Judging from a few of the time estimates stated here, some of us will not see it to fruition. Ultimately, the revised BCP will become a gift-of-legacy for a new generation. It will require: lots of love and commitment for heritage, spirit and the music of the task; a willingness to let go of old thinking in favor of Resurrection Eyes; and a dollop of prescience.

    What do I want? In addition to the above, I'd like a different typeface (font)---or two, for the new BCP; something warmer and more spacious for the eyes. Onward!

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  37. What others are thinking: "I'm amazed that we continue to say the Nicene Creed. In what other area of life would be tolerate being told what to believe by a 4th century council of men who have been appointed by empire? So my feeling about the Nicene Creed is, yes, it's part of our family history so it has a place in the library, but let's make sure it's in one of the farthest corners of the library instead of placed beside the front door as required reading for everyone to come in. This is a piece of theology from a moment in time when we very dangerously came into a type of subservience to empire, and that empire worship has continued to be part of a lot of Western Christianity." ~ John Philip Newell (on Episode 133 of Rob Bell podcast)

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  38. I'm curious. How would the presence of women (except to serve afternoon tea) or the absence of the
    imperial call have changed anything in the Nicene Creed? Despite, or perhaps because or the civil and religious disputatious mix, it emerged as a very sophisticated summary of essential Christian doctrine and a standard of orthodoxy that has held up for over 1,400 years. There is no better lens through which to read and understand the Gospel. It deserves its place in the liturgy. Blessed are those who thought it through and gifted us with it.

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  39. I’ve always said that I hoped prayer book revision wouldn’t be done in my lifetime. At this point, it surely won’t be completed in my lifetime, but I hope it will happen in my son’s lifetime.

    Might I suggest that revision could start with decisions that would require serious consideration but not theological warfare. We could decide on: (1) fonts; (2) order of items, whether or not every item is included or whether additional items of the same sort are added (e.g., Eucharistic Prayers); (3) whether more one color is to be used (as for the New Zealand book); (4) various editing conventions (use of commas, capitalization, etc.; both “Catholic” and “catholic” appear in the 1979 book, and it isn’t clear why); conventions for rubrics, which are sometimes unclear in the current book; (5) rules for line breaks; and (6) other issues that don’t immediately come to mind. Next, we might graduate to such issues as the use of pronouns and how we refer to God. (Referring to God as “It” or “They” seems most logical, though I doubt either of those will fly.) Agreeing on some theological issues may not be too hard (e.g., eliminating of the filioque clause or perhaps coming to some consensus on open communion). Finally, we can tackle the architecture of particular services. Any takers?

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  40. I would like to see/experience more poetry and imagery in the prayerbook. I've thought of most of 1979 as the "Hey you God" book. I wonder that we need a new book in a digital age. Perhaps keep what we have and add more alternatives. Think we should put our energies more into the call of our PB to the Jesus movement

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  41. As a few others have noted, the SCLM will give General Convention multiple options on how to proceed, ranging from leaving the current book in place unchanged to full-scale revision, and several options on the spectrum in between. See https://standingcommissiononliturgyandmusic.org/2016/12/02/four-possible-paths-for-the-book-of-common-prayer/ So it's not at all clear that "Its time for a new Book of Common Prayer." I've no crystal ball, but my guess is we won't go the full revision route. Some kind of alternative service book seems more likely to me.

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  42. As a few others have noted, the SCLM will give General Convention multiple options on how to proceed, ranging from leaving the current book in place unchanged to full-scale revision, and several options on the spectrum in between. See https://standingcommissiononliturgyandmusic.org/2016/12/02/four-possible-paths-for-the-book-of-common-prayer/ So it's not at all clear that "Its time for a new Book of Common Prayer." I've no crystal ball, but my guess is we won't go the full revision route. Some kind of alternative service book seems more likely to me.

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