Dick Hunt's Blog

April 19, 2012

BCP (Book of Common Prayer.)

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BCP (Book of Common Prayer.)
by Dick Hunt, Thursday, April 19th, 2012.

I cut my Spiritual Teeth on the great book which has been the anchor and guide to the Anglican Communion of the Anglican Communion until very recent years. I am most unhappy that for the last century or more, various groups within the Church in the Western nations have been trying to undercut it’s use and sideline it in numerous  ways.  The process in Canada was speeded up  with the production and distribution of the “Book of Alternative Services” in 1983, by General Synod as prepared by the Doctrine and Worship Committee. I was introduced to it just about the time I retired from full time Parish Ministry in 1985. Since then, it has been in general use in most Parishes in Canada.  In a great many Parishes I am aware of, it has fully replaced the Book of Common Prayer. A similar Liturgy has been in use in the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A., with similar results.

The Book of Common Prayer was produced by Archbishop Cranmer about 350 years ago and has been a marvelous guide and force for unity of Biblical belief, doctrine, worship, teaching, devotion and pastoral life until recently. By setting it aside and using more recently produced and experimental books, a great many loopholes and ill advised options have been imposed upon Parishes, Congregations and individuals who have been given no effective voice in the changes and chances that have been opened up in our midst. Doctrines have been stretched out of shape and subtly changed; customs and traditions, firmly based on Scripture have been eliminated, marriage laws many centuries old have been abandoned in favour of numbers of other customs, in attempts to please everyone.
I will give you a few examples which will illustrate my points. A few years ago, a woman here in MR where I live, with a Lutheran background began to attend services in a  Anglican Church near her home.  Shortly after, at a regular Communion Service she was “affronted” by a word in the “B.A.S.”Eucharistic Prayer 4, which seriously affronted her, as she said to me on the phone. Center, page 201, “from the ‘primal elements’ came to her to mean, “we came from the Apes.”

Without changing anything in the B.C.P., I was visited in a Parish where I ministered in Rural Alberta by a young Pastor of the Evangelical Free Church, who requested from me a copy of the B.C.P. to use with his youth study group as his Church could not supply anything as good as the Anglican Catechism. He was delighted when I gave him a copy.

In the same  Parish, just as I completed a funeral service for a prominent citizen of the area, a lady from the Baptist Church stayed behind to speak with me and she was weeping copiously. I knew her well asked her what was making her so troubled.  She said, “oh Dick, it was the service, it was so beautiful, it was right out of the Bible. I am just so moved by it.” There is a good reason why the B.C.P. has been nicknamed, ‘The Bible Arranged For Public Worship” I recently met her daughter here in Maple Ridge and shared the story with her. The Baptist Minister in the same town said to me “If you Anglicans ever wake up to what you have, the rest of us will have to join you.” I have used the B.C.P. as my guide to teaching, challenging, admonishing, preaching and counseling for marriage, Baptism, Confirmation and every other purpose in active ministry, for 60 years.

On the other hand, the B.A.S is filled with loopholes which allow those who are so moved to gloss over the challenges and directions so clearly set forth in the B.C.P. That has allowed much tampering and revision of the teachings of Holy Scripture and much that has been held to be Divinely inspired by nearly every Christian group in the world since the time of Christ’s birth, ministry and death, resurrection, ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit. In many ways the B.A.S. is people centered, obviously in an attempt to draw people into the church and give them “something to do”. The B.C.P. is God centered and effective in drawing our attention to God in Christ which is the whole objective of worship. The B.C.P. service of Holy Communion is in Prayer and Praise of what God is doing and will do in the lives of worshipers.

Gone from the worship in the new book are the meaningful, expressive services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, replaced by the merest shadow of people centered devotion  in the B.A.S.  The sidelining of the great devotional use of The Venite, the soaring beauty and God-centric TeDeum, the Benedicitus, the Magnificat, the Nunc Dimitus and other Canticles. though printed in the new book have been dropped from use. In effect, we do not use many of the resources which so enriched the worship and the challenges of the Prayer Book  and which were elbowed out of our consciousness of our beautiful services of the past. We were wonderfully revitalized and enriched by the music and words of that great book, the B.C.P.   Replacing so much of the glorious  worship of the past is the people centered modern songs which are subjective and lacking in devotion to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even in many of the old hymns in the new books, words have been changed which remove the deep worship of the original copy.

There seems to be no end of the attempts to keep on producing new forms for the Eucharist,  I have lost track of the numbers.  In addition to the six forms, plus two adaptations of the Prayer Book Communion in the B.A.S., there are other copies with still newer attempts to fill gaps which only exist because the B.C.P. has been discarded as beyond the attention or notice of “Intelligent, Sophisticated People”. The new “Services of the Word” have no depth or challenge in them and will never be instruments of conversion to bring new people to believe in the Living God. The age of altering past “truths and methods” to attract todays hungry, searching, often desperate and lonely people will not fly.  It is when we share the simple, effective Gospel of Jesus Christ from our hearts of love, that  people will respond. It is not, “come and be like us” but “come and meet the Lord Jesus in our fellowship in worship” that we will see people respond to the challenge.

The Book of Common Prayer, carefully translated into the many languages of the worlds’ people who have been brought to God in Christ and cherished by them as sacred to their use has been a powerful instrument for unity wherever it is used. The attempts to satisfy people in the so called advanced nations of the west for more sophistication  has done great violence to the Unity of the Anglican Communion and continues to do so, even as the Churches of the west are in decline and shrinking in numbers and influence. When will the authorities get the message staring them in the face and in their budgets and in their emptying and closing buildings? The Power of God to convert and renew and save is the same as ever.  We are called to share the Gospel of the Crucified, Risen and ascended Lord with the hungry, and the fields are ripe for the harvest!

1 Comment »

  1. Rev. Hunt: This is a most excellent comparison of types of worship. Of course, the Book of Common Prayer is so far ahead of any other attempt at liturgy – even at 350 years old! Would you give me permission, as you did once before, to make this into a Tract with full acknowledgement of your authorship. Please e-mail me, or telephone at 604-463-5300.

    Comment by George A. Ferguson (a member of the Parish of St. Bride - The Traditional Anglican Church of Canada — May 5, 2012 @ 12:21 am

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