The enduring value of the Book of Common Prayer

Added about 6 years ago by Kevin Carey

GUEST BLOG: #BookOfTheMonth author Kevin Carey explores the enduring appeal of the old familiarity of the Book of Common Prayer.

Since the arrival of the Alternative Service Book and then Common Worship, many have assumed that the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is now only used for Matins and Evensong. Far from it. All over the country there are Eucharists being celebrated with the BCP. Some parishes have a weekly BCP Eucharist while others are limited to once a month, but those who attend value the traditional forms of prayer and familiar passages of Scripture.

One such BCP devotee was my Spiritual Director who complained that the weekly reading commentaries were limited to Common Worship (CW), so I decided to put this right.

The BCP Lectionary is far more coherent than CW and, even more interestingly, the Collects actually relate directly to the Scripture. So nowadays, as a Reader in my own church, I am often faced with a Collect for the Day which does not relate to the Scripture because of the three-year cycle and the use of the same Collect in different services. It was therefore a pleasure to write about a Collect, Epistle and Gospel that all related to each other.

Because there was such a yawning gap in BCP commentary, I found that there was a great deal of room for what preachers’ call "application"—for finding a contemporary angle; for seeing something new in the old words. The assumption that people who use revered liturgy don't need contemporary preaching is just plain wrong.

As a preacher myself, I write the bulk of each sermon as much as a month before delivery, leaving myself room to add in contemporary references at the last minute. I am all too aware, though, that many preachers settle down on a Saturday afternoon with a blank page and a blank mind induced by panic. This book is mostly for them. It sets out the main strands of theology in the Collect, Epistle and Gospel and ends with some questions, the answers to which should readily form the structure of a sermon. I would not even mind if a preacher simply picked up the book and read one of my uniformly 1000-word essays verbatim.

Stir Up, O Lord has sold steadily every October as theology students settle down to their courses. I am glad of that. Although the BCP is no longer as fashionable as it once was, as long as people want to study the text, they are entitled to some clear, simple guidance, which is what I hope I have provided.

With a new liturgical year just around the corner, what better time to pick up this excellent companion to the Book of Common Prayer? Get your copy of our #BookOfTheMonth for £14.99.

Kevin Carey was Chairman of RNIB, the UK's leading blindness charity, and is a Reader in his parish church. He has been a Member of General Synod, and is a chorister, theologian, novelist, and classical music critic.

Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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