An interview with Samuel Bray: Part 2
By Jake Dell
(To read Part 1, click here.)
In what ways do you think Evangelical Anglican worship might need to be corrected or reformed by the 1662 IE?
It used to be the case that Evangelical Anglicans were strong supporters of the Book of Common Prayer, and you don’t have to go back to Charles Simeon. Just go back to anytime before the 1960s. But it’s the subsequent history that means your question needs to be asked.
I think the answer is going to vary a lot between different jurisdictions, dioceses, and parishes. Some may simply use the 1662 IE, provided there’s the proper ecclesiastical authorization. Some may want to use it for early services, or daily prayer services, or red-letter days. Some may want to use for an occasional “Anglican Heritage” service. Some may want to use it for adult catechesis classes.
But the question is too easy if a church is using the 1662 IE. Let’s assume it isn’t, maybe because there’s no ecclesiastical authorization or there’s a local commitment to what is called, somewhat misleadingly, “contemporary language.” In other words, what lessons can be drawn for Evangelical Anglican worship in a parish that doesn’t use the 1662 IE?
A tome should be written on this, but let me toss out four lessons.
First, pay attention to the opening. Many Evangelical Anglican services start with an up-beat song or call to worship. The 1662 services start in a very different place, and they express a different understanding of what it is that separates us from God—what we need to deal with—before we can be called to worship. They start with sin. That’s true of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. That’s true of the Litany. That’s true of the Communion service. That’s true of the Baptism services. A lot of Evangelical Anglicans and Episcopalians would agree with this theology, but if it’s not expressed liturgically, well, at a minimum it’s a missed opportunity.
Second, read all the Scripture you can. The 1662 services have a rich feast of Psalms and lessons. We often think we read a lot of Scripture, but the 1662 services can reset our baseline. That may require some patience at first. But it’s often the case that a longer reading—like the entire chapters of the Old Testament that are usually the 1662 Sunday first lessons—is actually easier to follow. Instead of a couple paragraphs here and a couple paragraphs there, it is a sustained narrative, read aloud just as it was meant to be read.
Third, don’t skip the exhortations. There are a lot of standard elements in the 1662 services that are still permitted in later prayer books, but they aren’t usually said. Think of the Decalogue and the exhortation in the Communion service. But these are an important part of how the liturgy expresses doctrine—and ethics!—and supports catechesis.
Finally, a little variety goes a long way. The 1662 services are psychologically astute, because there’s a little variation but not very much. That allows memory to take hold; that allows the worshiper to stop fumbling with the service and start praying—what C. S. Lewis was talking about when he said that for a liturgical service, as long as we’re counting our steps, we aren’t really dancing. So take a hint from the 1662 on avoiding variations.
Next time: What’s “common” about yet another Book of Common Prayer?