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    South African Alternative Forms for The Occasional Services (1926) and Holy Communion (1924)


Serious revision of services for the Church of South Africa began in the early 1900's, although some revision and experimentation dates back to as early as 1870. A proposal was made in 1915 to rearrange the Communion service along the lines of that used in Scotland and the U. S. This and other changes went through a long process of revision culminating in the 1924 Holy Communion service presented here, which was formally approved in 1929.

The services in both of these documents, Holy Communion and the Occasional Offices, are very similar to those in the 1954 South African Book of Common Prayer — we have Holy Communion from that book online for comparison.

Services included in the Occasional Offices are:

Public Baptism of Infants
Private Baptism of Children in Houses
Reception into the Congregation of Those Privately Baptized
Baptism to Such as Are of Riper Years
A Form of Confession and Absolution
Solemnization of Matrimony
Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth
Ministry to the Sick
Burial of the Dead

These services are all very similar to those found in the Church of England's 1928 Proposed Book of Common Prayer. The 1926 Occasional Offices were followed by other minor revisions, the last being in 1946, before the Prayer Book of 1954.

In the volume used here, the Occasional Offices are followed by the Alternative Holy Communion, a separate document which in this case was bound together with the Occasional Offices.

We have the entire volume available as PDF graphics, with extractable text. Note that this text has not been proofread and undoubtedly contains errors. See the link below.

The introduction to the Communion Service is given immediately below, which lays out the rationale for the changes to the 1662 BCP and also described the specific changes made.



Alternative Occasional Offices title page


1. THE Prayer Book has remained unchanged for more than 250 years; and it is felt that the time has arrived when it should be adapted to the altered needs of the age. The American Church and the Scottish Church have both revised the Prayer Book for their own use, and to-day the English Convocations are engaged in revision of parts of the Prayer Book under the Royal Letters of Business. Missionary Churches are also engaged in the same direction.

This widespread movement towards Prayer Book revision which is consistent with a deep affection for the Book of Common Prayer, proceeds from a desire to bring the Prayer Book into closer touch with present day needs, and into nearer agreement with the purest types of Services which have come down to us from the days when the Church was undivided.

2. The question of the extent to which the Church of the Province of South Africa has power, under its Constitution, to revise the Book of Common Prayer has been submitted to an eminent Lawyer, whose opinion is that, for reasons deemed adequate by the Provincial Synod, the Prayer Book may be revised or otherwise altered. It is not, in his opinion, necessary that the reasons determining the Synod should be such as apply exclusively to South Africa, in order that they may be adequate, but that any reasons which exist here for revision, even if they also exist elsewhere, are sufficient to meet the Proviso of the Constitution. One principal reason for the revision of the Holy Communion Service is that we are building up a large Native Church, and it is imperative that we give to the natives a Liturgy that is as intelligible and well arranged and as true to the purest types as we can make it.

3. The following are some of the General Considerations which govern this revision.

(1) It is important to bring out the fact that the Service of the Holy Communion is the great Thanksgiving or Eucharist of the Church. In the four accounts of the Institution the giving of thanks by Our Lord is as important a feature as the breaking of the bread or the words of administration. The Services which have come down to us from the early centuries of Christianity, as well as those in use in the Churches of our Communion in America and Scotland, show by their structure that, if the example of Our Lord is to be followed and we are to " Do this in remembrance of " Him, the note of Thanksgiving must be sounded more clearly than in the Book of 1661 (our present Book).

This note of Thanksgiving has always been represented in Christian Liturgies by the Preface ("It is meet, right . . . give thanks unto Thee" etc.) leading up to the Sanctus (" Holy, holy, holy"). But in our Service after that point this note is not again heard till after the Communion, whereas in the older Services the chief facts of Our LORD'S Life and Work are made the subject of Thanksgiving.

In this revised Service the whole of the central portion from the Preface to the Lord's Prayer has been, by some very few alterations, thrown into a definitely eucharistic form.

(2) This revision of the Service in the direction of more definite thanksgiving, helps to bring out the fact that the Eucharist has a Godward side as being the offering to God of a corporate act of worship and praise. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, in their reply (1897) to the attack made by the Pope on our status as a Church, emphasised this fact. Thanksgiving lifts us up in thought to God in Heaven, where the whole Church offers its worship continually. The present revision concentrates attention more upon the heavenly sphere in which the worship of God is accomplished, than upon the earthly altar which is the symbol of the true, and the offering made in the Eucharist is seen to be that of the whole Church and not simply of the Celebrant.

At the same time the necessity of personal devotion and the reality of the personal gift in the Sacrament of the Holy Communion are maintained unimpaired.

(3) The rearrangement of the Service now makes it more possible to explain the relation of the various parts of the Service to one another, and to see the continuity of subject in each part. E.g. The removal of the Prayer of Humble Access from its place between the Sanctus and the Consecration relieves the worshipper of the distraction of having to turn to the thought of his own unworthiness when the mind should be concentrated on God and His Love. Thus the order of thought in the revised Service is as follows:—

First by Confession and Absolution the congregation is prepared for the supreme act of worship.
  Then, in the Preface, Sanctus and Prayer of Consecration, no longer interrupted by the Prayer of Humble Access, we lift up our hearts in an unbroken act of Praise and Thanksgiving.
  And having completed this offering with the Lord's Prayer, we then prepare ourselves for the reception of the Holy Gifts by acknowledging our unworthiness and praying that our communion may be for the benefit of our bodies and souls.
  It will be found that the present revision therefore makes the Service very much easier of explanation to Confirmation Candidates and others preparing for Communion.
  It is interesting to note that in other Revisions of the Communion Service—Scottish, American, and Lusitanian—similar attempts have been made, to repair the dislocation of the Canon.

alternative Holy Communion title page

Download the entire volume as PDF (size = 13MB).

4. With regard to some special points to be noticed :—

(1) Permission has already been given (Canons p. 138) to omit the Decalogue on Week Days and at all Eucharists but one on Sundays. The Gospel Summary of the Law is permitted in place of the Decalogue. Bishop Gore has pointed out in Appendix xiii. to the Report of the Committee Appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on the Teaching Office of the Church, "that there are weighty reasons against the constant recitation of the Ten Commandments in their Jewish form."

(2) In the Prayer for the Church Militant, besides some verbal alterations, an attempt has been made to meet a need which, while always legitimate, has, during the War, become more insistent.
    (a) A more definite remembrance is made of the faithful departed, and
    (b) a special thanksgiving is inserted for the grace of God manifested in the Saints which has enabled them to be examples unto us.

Thus the doctrine of the Communion of Saints, whether our thoughts turn to all those who by membership in Christ's Body are called to be Saints, or to those who by their faithful following of Christ's example have been counted worthy to be called Saints, is made part of our Prayer; and we are reminded that we approach God's throne not as individuals but as members of the mystical Body of Christ Our LORD.

(3) The use of the existing Proper Prefaces is extended, and Proper Prefaces are provided in this revision for certain greater Days of the Church's Year (e.g. Epiphany) for which in our present Prayer Book no provision is made.

(4) The reunion of the Prayer of Oblation with the Prayer of Consecration, followed by the Our Father makes it clearer ;—
    (a) that we must first present Christ and His merits before God as the justification for our approach,
    (b) that we then present ourselves trusting in the merits of our Head,
    (c) that having been thus lifted up into the heavenly sphere we can say the Prayer which Christ taught us,
    (d) and last, because greatest privilege of all, receive Him Who is our Life.

(5) The Lord's Prayer is the greatest of all. prayers, and contains in itself Worship, Intercession, Petition, Penitence, and Praise. It is therefore specially suitable as the conclusion of the solemn Prayer of Consecration, for it gathers up, in the highest form, all that has been prayed for therein.

5. With regard to the doctrine underlying this revised Service the Bishops are confident that it adheres, with the utmost loyalty, to "The Faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, as taught in the Holy Scriptures, held by the Primitive Church, summed up in the Creeds and affirmed by the undisputed General Councils. (Declaration of Fundamental Principles; and Article I of the Constitution.)


Last updated 3 Oct. 2017

Web author: Charles Wohlers U. S. EnglandScotlandIrelandWalesCanadaWorld