Skip to comments.Common Prayer Today [CofE]
Posted on 08/04/2005 8:03:49 AM PDT by sionnsar
Now the definitive edition of Common Worship: Daily Prayer has come out, it is a good time to ask whether this book meets the needs of the Church of England. Once Church of England Christians were bound together by the Book of Common Prayer. Some - but not all, by any means - still use this book for their prayers. Many at the evangelical end of the Church, but more at the 'higher' end, will already be used to a different daily office: the Franciscan office book, for instance, or the Taizé Office; the Roman Catholic Divine Office or the office book of a particular religious community with which they are associated, and so on. The question is, should we now switch to Daily Prayer?
There are at least two good reasons why we might answer Yes to that: for the sake of unity, and because it helps us pray. 'Unity' here means unity within the Church of England. Although there are many friendships which cross our party divides, our church is not seen - by us, by outsiders - to be using the same prayer book. Surely the compilers of Daily Prayer hoped to promote a new visible unity for they have provided a highly flexible book which could meet the needs of any group or individual, irrespective of churchmanship. Everything in it is scriptural, and the most common rubric is the word 'may'! Of course, its in-built options could lead to a situation where, although we might be holding the same book in our hands, the unity is more apparent than real. But we have to start somewhere, and that is a risk worth taking. Does it help us pray? Those Anglicans already used to an office will slip into this one more quickly than others. The principle of 'reciting' given words - even scriptural words - rather than creating afresh our own words each time will strike some as artificial. It can be that - but need not be. For millennia devout people have grown into holy words by using them over and over again - and so grown a little into holiness. Any office form of prayer belongs to that kind of praying.
This book looks formidable at first sight: it has no fewer than six ribbon markers - and on occasion (if we follow the lectionary fully) we need them all! But actually the forms of prayer it provides are simple and straightforward, and we only need to get into the variable material once at home with the constant bits. No common text is precisely what 'I' want, and to use this book will invite sacrifices from all of us - 'high and low, rich and poor, one with another'. As someone coming from the 'higher' end of the Church of England, I suspect those Anglicans already more used to another much-loved office book, may be more ready to give that up and go with Daily Prayer if they sense that those only used - for instance - to free prayer are willing to give this book a go. Perhaps, who knows, in God's good time, we might be coming together again as a church that is known by its use of the same Book of Common Prayer.
John Armson used to teach liturgy and spirituality in the ecumenical Federation of Theological Colleges at Cambridge before becoming Principal at Edinburgh Theological College, and then Precentor at Rochester Cathedral. He is now retired.
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