The Book of Common Prayer
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    1786 Proposed U. S. Book of Common Prayer


Title page for 1786 Proposed BCPThe Proposed Prayer Book of 1786 was the first effort of the U. S. Episcopal Church to produce its own Book of Common Prayer, a process which was necessitated by the separation of that church from the Church of England caused by the Revolutionary War. Although the Book was authorized in nearly every state, it was the result of a convention of only a portion of the American Church, as can be seen on the title page at right. Its publication received much resistance, with many believing it deviated too much from its predecessor, the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer. Accordingly, its life was relatively short, being replaced by a formally authorized Prayer Book in 1790.

The book appears to be largely the work of the Rev. Dr. William Smith of Maryland, and the Rev. William White of Philadelphia, later Bishop of Pennsylvania. Although many assumed that only minor, necessary revisions would be made to the English 1662 Book, quite a number of changes were actually made, mostly along the same Latitudinarian lines which inspired the abortive 1689 attempt at revision (note the great praise accorded to the 1689 book in the Preface). Some of the main changes include:

  • The term "Minister" is substituted for "Priest" in most places where it occurs.
  • Although the Absolution of Sins is included, the term "absolution" isn't used.
  • Some grammatical changes were made in the Lord's Prayer (retained in subsequent books).
  • The phrase "He descended into hell" was omitted from the Apostles' Creed.
  • The Gloria Patri was omitted in most places.
  • Prayers for the King and Royal Family were altered or dropped.
  • Parents were allowed to be sponsors in Baptism (retained in subsequent books).
  • The sign of the Cross was made optional in Baptism (retained until the 1928 Book).
  • The Nicene Creed was omitted in Holy Communion (this proved to be probably the most controversial change).
  • The Communion service closely follows the English 1662 service, rather than the Scottish Rite, as in subsequent books.
  • The Athanasian Creed is omitted.
  • Everything after the Blessing is omitted in the Marriage service (retained in subsequent books).
  • Burial was allowed to those unbaptized.
  • Several services were added, namely the Visitation of Prisoners (taken from the Irish BCP), a Harvest Thanksgiving service, and a service for Independence Day; the first two were retained in subsequent books.
  • The Churching of Women and Commination Services were dropped; the first was later restored, while the Commination was not.
  • The 39 Articles of Religion underwent extensive revision, and were reduced to 20 in number.
  • The Psalter was totally revised, resulting in 60 "psalms", each made up of individual verses chosen from different Psalms.

We additionally have online some of the background history of this book, and reactions to it.

Prior to this book, Anglicans/Episcopalians in this country were "on their own" concerning what to do about the English Book of Common Prayer they had been using, in light of the Revolution. Most churches would simply alter the prayers for the King and Royal Family somewhat; some illustrations of this (literally) are given in an excellent Library of Congress exhibit on Religion and the American Revolution.

We are presenting this electronic version of the U. S. 1786 Proposed Book of Common Prayer in hopes that it will prove useful and instructive to the Church. Parishes might find it useful in recreating historical services, for example, to celebrate the anniversary of the parish. Others might find it instructive to compare the changes, additions, and deletions, which have taken place in the various versions of the Book of Common Prayer.

The texts below were taken from three sources: everything up through and including Holy Communion was taken from a Xerox copy of the original. Other sections were taken either from Prayer Book Parallels, by Paul Marshall, or from Liturgiæ Americanæ (1907), by William McGarvey. Both of these books give parallel column renditions of the various editions of the American Prayer Books. A reprint of this book issued in 1873 by the Reformed Episcopal Church was also consulted. All these books are listed in David Griffiths' Bibliography of the Book of Common Prayer as 1786/9, 1989/1, 1907/12, and 1873/18, respectively.

As an aid to readability, the old-style lower case "s" (which looked like an "f") has been replaced by its modern equivalent. In all other ways we have attempted to keep the appearance as close to the original as HTML and a limited choice of fonts allows.

A 1789 reprint of this book, published in England for the benefit of English bishops (Griffiths 1789/8), is available online from the Internet Archive, in PDF graphics and plain text formats, and also from Google Books as PDF graphics.



CONTENTS of this B O O K.

1 THE Preface.
2vertical spacer Tables of the Moveable and Immoveable Feasts, and of the Days of Fasting and Abstinence through the whole Year.
3vertical spacer Tables of Lessons of Holy Scripture, to be read at Morning and Evening Prayer, throughout the Year.
4vertical spacer Tables for finding the Holy-Days.
5vertical spacer The Order for Daily Morning Prayer. [Includes the Litany]
6vertical spacer The Order for Daily Evening Prayer.
7vertical spacer Prayers and Thanksgivings upon several Occasions, to be used before the two final Prayers of Morning and Evening Service.
8vertical spacer Collects that may be said after the Collects of Morning or Evening Prayer, or Communion, at the Discretion of the Minister.
9vertical spacer The Order for the Administration of the Lord's Supper, or Holy Communion.
10vertical spacer The Collects, Epistles, and Gospels to be used throughout the Year .
11vertical spacer The Ministration of Public Baptism of Infants, to be used in the Church.
12vertical spacer The Ministration of Private Baptism of Children in Houses.
13vertical spacer The Ministration of Baptism to such as are of riper Years, and able to answer for themselves.
14vertical spacer A Catechism; that is to say, an Instruction to be learned by every Person before he be brought to be confirmed by the Bishop.
15vertical spacer The Order of Confirmation, or laying on of Hands upon those who are baptised, and come to Years of Discretion.
16vertical spacer The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony.
17vertical spacer The Order for the Visitation of the Sick.
18vertical spacer The Communion of the Sick.
19vertical spacer A Form of Prayer for the Visitation of Prisoners.
20vertical spacer The Order for the Burial of the Dead.
21vertical spacer Forms of Prayer to be used at Sea.
22vertical spacer A form of Prayer and Thanksgiving to Almighty God, for the inestimable Blessings of Religious and Civil Liberty; to be used yearly on the Fourth Day of July, unless it happen to be on Sunday, and then on the Day following.
23vertical spacer A Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving to Almighty God, for the Fruits of the Earth and all the other Blessings of his merciful Providence; to be used yearly on the first Thursday in November.
24vertical spacer Articles of Religion.
25vertical spacer The Psalter: selected from the Psalms of David.
26vertical spacer Psalms fitted to the Tunes used in Churches, selected from the Psalms of David; Portions of which are to be sung at suitable Times in Divine Service, according to the Discretion of the Minister.
27vertical spacer Hymns suited to the Feasts and Fasts of the Church, and other Occasions of Public Worship; to be used at the Discretion of the Minister.

All the above files in WordPerfect 6.0 format, compressed (size=66K )


The author is greatly indebted to the Rev. Thomas Rightmyer for providing a copy of parts of this book.

Web author: Charles Wohlers U. S. EnglandScotlandIrelandWalesCanadaWorld