Saturday, October 01, 2011

How relevant is the Book of Common Prayer

I lurk on a list about the Episcopal Church. I'm an Episcopalian myself. We have this Book of Common Prayer which includes all of the most common of services such as Eucharist, Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination, Reconciliation, Burial. We also have in it two forms of Daily Prayers: Morning, Noon, Evening and Compline. I like to call the latter the night might service.

I mention all this for the benefit of those who may have never heard of the BCP as we like to call it. On this list where I lurk, someone mentioned a new collection of prayers that are now available for use and raised the question of how kosher is their use since they are not part of the BCP. We Episcopalians are know to be big on right order and appropriateness. The original question then raised questions about the relevancy of the BCP to the 21st Century, how are we gonna keep them down in the pews now that any number of other things happen on Sunday mornings. And has the BCP lost its entertainment value.

Perhaps it is because I've spent 29 years as Benedictine, albeit as a solitary, but what I value about the BCP is the ability to sink into the words. We Benedictine read the same portion of the Rule on the same day every year except for a bit of slight of hand in Leap Years. When we pray the Daily Office, we pray the same psalms on the same days , often at the same time of day. Day in and day out. Year in and year out.

Some gentle readers maybe thinking "oh yuck, could it get more boring than this?" IMO, if that is the reaction, it is because the reactor is looking for the wrong thing. The point of the RB is the same as the point of the BCP. Both are meant to form Christians as Christians to serve and love the Most High God, to learn to love unconditionally every other person in the world and to find Christ in every man, woman and child.

There are rhythms and currents within the RB and the BCP that get inside a person and work on one much in the same way, I think , as the sacraments do. Sure the sacraments pin us to a moment, the moment when we participated in the sacrament but the BCP And the RB take us to a place outside of the space-time continuum to where the Holy Spirit can have Her way with us and us probably unknowing of it until we are changed, subtly and inexorably.

I know this because I think I first began to experience this current BCP through the Green Book in I believe autumn of 1974. Which is also when I finally began to attend a TEC parish regularly for the 1st time. So let's round up and subtract 1975 from 2011 and that gives us 36 years of exposure to the '79 BCP. I am a much better person today then I was. I will spare you the details. I still have significant problems. But almost 4 decades of praying the same words day in and out, year in out, decade in and out have contributed to making me stronger, healthier, nicer, all that good stuff. Most important, I begin to get a glimpse of what iot really means to be a Christian.

Seems to me that TEC may be loosing sight of that. Seems to me TEC may be falling into the trap of thinking that liturgy should have entertainment value. If we switch to that way of thinking, then we lose the formative aspect of the BCP and the liturgies it communicates.

Yes I know it may feel more than a bit like how are we gonna keep down on the farm now that they've seen Paree. I know around here in San Diego, many of our churches are losing members to mega churches with exciting power point presentations, strobe lights and rock music. And yes, I know that God can use anything and God does use everything, but where is the challenge to grow and develop into the full stature of Christ in these mega churches with their checklists of what it is to be a Christian and if a person can't check everything off they are not saved.

I don't think we can pick and choose what parts of Scripture we are going to follow and I don't think we can pick and choose parts of the BCP. The entirety of both is for our very best good to help us present ourselves as an offering to God.

Labels: , , ,