The first Book of Common Prayer came into use on the Day of Pentecost, June 9, 1549, in the second year of the reign of King Edward the Sixth. From it have descended all subsequent editions and revisions of the Prayer Book according to the use of the several Churches of the Anglican Communion.
A “high holy day” indeed, for us Anglicans! The use of The Book of Common Prayer, and more broadly the Common Prayer tradition of which it is the centerpiece, is the hallmark of the particular Anglican expression of Christianity. Nor for nothing is the BCP often referred to as “Thomas Cranmer’s immortal bequest”! Read on for more…
The Book of Common Prayer 1928, which is the Prayer Book of my (and our, if you are a member or friend of St. Bede’s Anglican Mission) ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the United Episcopal Church of North America (UECNA), is the last American Prayer Book to be unquestionably in the direct line of descent from the 1549.
The 1979 Prayer Book, as used by The Episcopal Church (TEC, formerly Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, or PECUSA), while it has its pluses, is more of a “book of alternative services,” and its theology can get a bit hazy, at times.
I don’t share the dislike, bordering on downright antipathy, of some traditional Anglicans for the ’79, so long as it’s understood for what it is – a book of alternative services – and is not confused with being “the” Book of Common Prayer, and as long as it is interpreted in accordance with the classical Common Prayer tradition: 1549-1662 in the UK, 1789-1928 in the US. With those caveats, it contains useful resources.
But the 1549 is the original! “The” Book of Common Prayer, as it were… although the 1662 has been the standard for three-and-a-half centuries, and remains so, for the Church of England, today. And it is that first Prayer Book – the one that began it all, so to speak – that we celebrate today!