BY THE BISHOP OF MANCHESTER
I HAVE been asked to write a preface to these suggestions for Prayer Book revision, although
I have had no share in framing them, but those who have done this are well known to me, and I cordially commend their work to the consideration of all members of the Church of England, as that of men drawn from all 'parties' in the Church, well versed in liturgiology, experienced in the spiritual work of parishes, and eager to help in making our worship the worthiest that can be offered to God as well as the most strengthening for the life of Christian discipleship. At a time when the revision of the Prayer Book is occupying the minds of all Church people suggestions are to be welcomed from every quarter, provided they are offered in sincerity and spring from a desire for the highest welfare of the whole Church. Many men of very different ecclesiastical traditions who have seen the forms here set forth have preferred them to any others that have been put before us. It is possible that here we have proposals on which something like an agreed solution of a specially delicate and important problem might be found.
This book, like the English Church Union's Green Book, was written in response to the initial draft for a new Book of Common Prayer, which would replace, or be an alternative to, the 1662 B. C. P.
The authors are only identified as "a group of clergy", but apparently included Mervyn Haigh, Russell Barry, Leslie Hunter, Richard Parsons, Frederick Dwelly, Percy Dearmer and possibly others. Most later became bishops, and most also had been chaplains in the Great War. This greatly affected them, as it did many in Britain, and so, after the War, they sought to make the Church and its liturgy more relevant to the times.
This group was thus seen as "liberal" with most of the book being quite different than the 1662 BCP - it is clear that they saw it as an alternative and not a replacement for the 1662 BCP. Although nothing here became officially adopted by the Church, much of the book did foreshadow content found in later Books of Common Prayer.
The book is presented in two ways: first as HTML (links immediately below), and secondly the complete text as PDF graphics. The PDF file does include extractable text, but this has not been proofread and so contains errors.
THE service here set out is a portion of a larger whole which will be published in sections during the spring and summer. It is offered to the Church as an example of the way in which those who compiled it would like to see the 'Alternative Book' now before the National Assembly amended and amplified.
One alternative is a necessity, and as that alternative is experimental they would like to see the opportunity used more boldly than the official committee seem to think desirable.
The Church of England has in its several schools of thought a singularly whole experience of spiritual life. All that has been true and good in the thought and traditions of the Catholic, Evangelical, and Liberal sections of the Church ought to be brought together in the revised Prayer Book. This has been the conscious aim of the group of clergy who are putting out the services of which the first is here published.
They have also tried to be true to the principles of the authors of the present Prayer Book and compile services which without sacrifice of beauty are in a language men and women of the twentieth century are likely to understand, and which reflect the social and political conditions of this age as accurately as the Book of Common Prayer reflects those of Tudor England.
During the last three centuries the field of knowledge has been enlarged, and many of the ideas which seemed true and real in the sixteenth century are no longer acceptable to-day. Disparity between the forms of worship and the truest beliefs of men undoubtedly weakens the spiritual power of the Church. A Book of Common Prayer therefore, which is to help forward a revival of Christianity in this country, and make reunion more possible in its religious life, must not fall below the truest and most Christian conception of God and the Kingdom of God. It must also express the warm humanity of Christ which has always touched the hearts of men and won their loyalty.
Further, the rigorous and undeviating uniformity of the existing Prayer Book seems at the present time a weakness rather than a strength in the Church's life, and it is an open question whether it ever achieved the unity of spirit for which its authors hoped. The group of clergy who are putting forward these services do not wish to see a multiplicity of 'uses' but they are convinced that there must be more elasticity in the services of the Church and a freer use of occasional litanies, prayers, and thanksgivings than there has been in the past. They are therefore including a number of such forms and prayers, which may be used after the third collect in Morning and Evening Prayer and at other times and in other ways.
These are the chief aims that have guided the group in their work, and they are putting it out in instalments so that they may benefit from criticisms and suggestions before it is published in one volume.
2. THE ORDER OF HOLY COMMUNION.
In the following order for the administration of the Holy Communion an attempt has been made to simplify as far as possible the sequence of the service, and to make clear, by the manner of their setting forth, its principal elements. We have endeavoured to preserve what seems to have been proved by practical experience to be of lasting value in the distinctive characteristics of the English Rite, without ignoring its weaknesses; these we have sought to remedy by the study of other liturgies with which the compilers of our present Order were less familiar than the present generation. It has been our desire to emphasize the Priesthood of the whole Body of Christ, and to increase the opportunities for Prayer said by priest and people together.
We are agreed that the various sections included in the Prayer of Consecration should all be contained in that prayer, but some of our number would not object to a different arrangement of them, which though less in conformity with early usage, would preserve the words of institution in their present place as the climax of this Prayer; viz. exordium, commemoration, oblation, invocation, words of institution, (with the consequent omission of the conclusion, the place of which would then be taken by the Lord's Prayer and its doxology). But to most of us the disadvantages of this arrangement seem to outweigh its advantages, from the Evangelical no less than from the Catholic point of view.
By providing for certain omissions and for brief alternative forms for parts of the service, we offer the possibility of a considerably shorter Liturgy for use on week-days, and on days when there are several celebrations of the Eucharist.
Alterations of familiar and beloved words and phrases have not been lightly suggested. We have tried to bear in mind not only the claims of truth and sincerity, but the impressions made by the unaltered words on the minds and hearts of our people. So far as was possible we have relegated the rubrics to the end of the service, where also will be found the variable portions of the Liturgy. We therefore ask all into whose hands this service may come to read it through carefully from beginning to end, including the rubrics, that they may obtain some idea of the scheme as a whole before criticizing its parts.
Foreword. Bishop of Manchester
Alternative Collects, Epistles, and Gospels
Foreword. Bishop of Manchester
Sentences of the Scriptures for the Opening of Morning and Evening Prayer
Introductions to Morning and Evening Prayer
The Ministration of Public Baptism of Infants
The Order of Confirmation
The Solemnization of Marriage
The Thanksgiving of Parents after the Birth of a Child
A Form of Confession and Absolution
The Ministry to the Sick
On Visiting a Sick Person
The Communion of the Sick
The Laying on of Hands
The Anointing of the Sick
The Order for the Burial of the Dead
At the Burial of a Child
An Order which may be used when neither of the foregoing is suitable
I. IN PREPARATION FOR HOLY COMMUNION
II. For use after 3rd Collect at Morning or Evening Prayer on appointed days and other times at the Minister's discretion
1, 2, 3. ADVENT. Suitable for use in times of national crisis
Thanksgivings for the Kingdom
Litany of the Divine Will
4, 5. CHRISTMAS. Of the Incarnation
Suitable for use at gatherings for workers among children
6. EPIPHANY. Suitable for use at services for the extension of Christ's Kingdom
7. LENT AND PASSIONTIDE. Suitable for use in all times of Tribulation
8. EASTER, ASCENSION. Suitable for use on Days of Renewal.
9, 10. PENTECOST. Suitable for use at gatherings of Church workers
11, 12. IX PENTECOST. Suitable for use at gatherings of such as serve mankind by industry and learning.
13. SAINTS' DAYS
14. DAYS OF COMMEMORATION
15, 16, 17, 18. GENERAL USE. Thanksgiving and Praise and Intercession.
19. THE LITANY, Prayer for all Conditions, General Thanksgiving (from B. C. P.)
III. AT SERVICES FOR CHILDREN
IV. PRAYERS AND BIDDINGS
Download the entire book as PDF graphics (size = 16MB)
This book is listed as 1923/2 in David Griffiths' Bibligraphy of the Book of Common Prayer.