Reprinted from the House of Deputies News
As a parish priest, I see a need for Common Prayer revision, but I am strongly opposed to Book of Common Prayer revision. Lest you imagine I am preparing to found the 1979 BCP Society, let me explain.
Certainly, parts of the Book of Common Prayer need to be revised and refreshed. From marriage liturgies that no longer reflect our current usage to limited options for gender-neutral or expanded language for God, our prayer book occasionally makes it clear that our church is in a different place than we were in the 1970’s (for which we can mostly be grateful). Many of the proposals at the General Convention for BCP revisions deal with important issues that our liturgical life will need to address to move forward.
At the same time, I desperately want to see revision that allows us to expand our resources without requiring a brand new Book of Common Prayer. I say this practically. My church probably has about four hundred 1979 BCPs in our building. On an average week, less than twenty of them get opened, and they are almost never touched on Sunday morning. Everything the congregation needs for our public worship services is in a bulletin. We’ve found that visitors are more likely to return if they can use a bulletin instead of a BCP and a hymnal and a bulletin. As a quick glance of the pages shows, even when we did use a couple hundred BCPs every week, mostly we used the same pages over and over again.
I have found, surprisingly, that I don’t even use my own BCP very often. I use apps for the daily office. When I go to the hospital, I have found that my phone contains the BCP, the Bible, and any hymns I might want to sing or play. I would also note that most of the BCPs I own currently have the wrong lectionary in them, so I have to use the internet or another resource to find the Sunday readings.
What I hope does not happen is that over the next six years we create the 2024 Book of Common Prayer that requires my congregation either to spend thousands of dollars on physical books that will never be used (and that we will want to change three years after they are published), or to have only the “old” prayer book in our pews. Our current prayer books are very helpful to find a collect before a meeting or to go into the chapel and read compline with the youth group. I also am not hearing any great outcry to remove significant pieces of the prayer book. Is anyone really suggesting we eliminate Rite I, for example, or forbid a couple from using the current marriage rite? Instead of focusing on what is in our printed books, which is cutting edge technology from 1550, let’s make the needed changes in our liturgical life in preparation for whatever the right technology will be for 2050.
Instead of a new book, we need new resources and a canonically appropriate avenue to authorize them for the whole church. At this convention, I would like to see the first reading of a constitutional amendment that creates such a process. Instead of new print publications, we need the capacity to create the resources that the church needs on an ongoing basis. Such a process will also be the easiest way to continue to offer the church’s liturgical resources in an increasing variety of languages (Spanish and French are only the beginning of the translations we currently need, and if our evangelism efforts are successful we will need translations in ten years into languages we have not even started to consider.).
I hope also that as we develop new resources, they are free to download in easily accessible formats for the entire church to use. Our pension fund does not need profits from our liturgical resources to keep retired clergy from poverty, and using an authorized Eucharistic prayer should not require an extra hour of work on the part of the parish staff.
I know that there are many reasons to look at the revision of our Book of Common Prayer. Focusing on the needs of our church’s congregational liturgical and prayer life, however, leads me to strongly support common prayer revision without revising the book.
The Rev. Adam Trambley, a deputy from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, is co-author of “Acts to Action: The New Testament’s guide to Evangelism and Mission.”
Your prayer life is like a fingerprint – no one has the same. Our journey through life says it all. I must admit though, “writing” about one’s prayer life comes close to asking about one’s sex life! To me it has been a private matter, but when asked to share about prayer, I wanted to do the subject justice by telling how I arrived at this point of life at the tender age of 79.
I grew up in the church and received Christ into my life at 26 years of age through reading an old book, “Transforming Friendship” by Dr. Leslie Weatherhead. I accepted Jesus as leader of my life and bridge to God, our Father, by His sacrifice on the cross. I had a conversion experience, was confirmed in the Episcopal Church and several years later experienced the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” during the Charismatic renewal in Pittsburgh. During this time I was in a prayer group of about 30 plus people for a period of five years. This was an intense time of Bible study, personal growth and prayer.
The first reality I discovered after my conversion experience was that Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit wanted a “relationship” with me. It was an intimacy of mind and heart that was so overwhelming. What developed then was a “trust” – that no matter what my thoughts were, I could speak to this Trinity with total honesty, provide an open mind and be assured that I would receive guidance, comfort, forgiveness and spiritual grace.
My family then moved to north central Pennsylvania and I became very active in my church, becoming LEM II, choir, altar guild, vestry and ECW leader. I also attended several classes at the Diocesan School for Ministry and was appointed to the Diocesan ECW Board as the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer Representative. I attended Cursillo and gave a couple talks at the Diocesan Mission Conference. It was during this period that I wrote a prayer/poem, Special Friend. All this activity occurred during 30 years.
Looking back I must confess – studying the Bible had been like reading a history book and just provided verification for my conversion and spiritual experiences. The BCP (Book of Common Prayer) was not a book I turned to for “spiritual uplifting”. Also, prayer came with difficulty – whether said out loud or in my mind. I never seemed to have the “right words” and I didn’t feel comfortable praising God either – “why did He need praised?”
But, nevertheless, Our Lord had a Way – a niche and I never saw it coming. I believe it began when I was preparing a talk and was searching the BCP when I came across the definition of prayer (page 856). “Prayer is responding to God, by thoughts, by deeds with or without words.” Now that put me into a Receiver position, i.e., I did not have to make up beautiful words to pray – instead I was to receive and respond. God was the Initiator – but how was I to respond?
This quest led me into Contemplative Prayer. I read Thomas Merton’s “Open Mind, Open Heart” and listened to Thomas Keating’s lectures on “Centering Prayer.” I did not have to “make up” anything – just be quiet! I also learned that God did not need me to praise Him for His benefit or ego. God wanted me to praise Him for my benefit. My praise was to open my heart to Him. Again, the BCP: ( page 857), “……God’s Being draws praise from us.” Now that was a very good reason to me!
The “speaking in tongues” gift that I had received over 50 years ago also served the purposes of praising God – in a prayer language. Occasionally, when I could no longer think of what to say, I could use my voice to express what my heart felt. It was like expressing love using your voice and you knew that what you said was right and not orchestrated – you did not have to think about what to tell God how or what you wanted Him to do; you just provided the sacrifice of your time and voice. This I could do out loud or silently.
Also, if ever I have the opportunity to participate in “laying-on-of-hands” for prayer ministry, I encourage it. There is a special intensity which breaks through and creates community and sharing of one spirit. It is like a marriage of our spiritual selves together for the common good.
I have now arrived on my prayer journey. Now upon hearing Scripture and BCP prayers in church, I know they have been written by others who have been inspired. My approach to prayer now begins with honesty of mind and heart. As I begin to be open in prayer, I usually like to “name” what I am thinking. I try to find a word to best express what is bothering me or the reason I think this or that. It is kind of like confession. I then turn that thought to God’s will for healing, forgiveness or release. I lift up names in petition knowing that God knows their needs. I like to practice silence in the style of contemplative prayer – just basking in His presence. “For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough” (Claire, Outlander by D. Gabaldon, Chpt. 38). Occasionally, I use my prayer language – especially in times of joy. I also delight in His blessings and gifts of ideas or humorous coincidences that could only come from God’s unique Grace and Blessings. Prayer has become a very safe and loving place. Amen.
Diane Pyle is a member of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Emporium, and the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer Representative on the Diocesan ECW board.
With the concurrence of Bishop Sean Rowe and in the spirit of Dr. Sam Shoemaker, who 60 years ago encouraged committing to a 30 – Day period of prayer, we are promoting a prayer effort in support of General Convention and the election of a new Presiding Bishop in Salt Lake City.
From June 3 to July 3, prayers will be offered daily. We ask that all persons in the diocese join together in this prayer.
This Call to Prayer is being promoted by the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer, Diocesan Representative and Episcopal Church Women Board. See below for the text of the prayer.
Diane Pyle, AFP Diocesan Representative
30 Days – Call to Prayer
For General Convention and Presiding Bishop
June 3 – July 3, 2015
Almighty and ever living God, source of all wisdom
and understanding, be present with those who take
counsel at General Convention of The Episcopal
Church, Salt Lake City for the renewal and mission
of your church.
Guide the minds of those who shall choose a
Presiding Bishop, a faithful pastor who will care for
your people and equip us for our ministries.
Teach us in all things to seek first your honor
and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right and
grant us both courage to pursue it and grace to
accomplish it through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen
-excerpts from BCP, page 818