Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Book of Common Prayer and how we use it: Introduction

Brandy asked me to write a bit about how we use the prayer book in our family and I’d be glad to share that as best I can (even though I know I still owe y’all an Abolition of Man post), but first I thought I’d give some background information so you can see where my husband and I are coming from.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist church, going to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and youth camp every summer. I loved that church and am so grateful for the pastor we had and his Bible teaching. Though I’d loved Jesus as far back as I could remember, it wasn’t until I was fifteen that I made a public profession of faith in him and was baptized. I figured I’d spend the rest of my life in that church.

My husband’s family started out Southern Baptist, then attended various charismatic churches for several years, but joined an Episcopal church around the time he was twelve because it had an active youth group that they wanted him to be part of. This particular church also had a charismatic bent, which wasn’t unusual in mainline churches in the seventies.

When I was nineteen, one of my friends started going to a Southern Baptist church that had had a charismatic revival, and I liked her new friends so much that I started going there on Sunday nights. You might expect that it would be hard for a Southern Baptist girl to fit into a charasmatic church, but I had a kind of conversion there, and loved that church and those people.

Speaking of love…
That’s where Mike and I met. :-) After we married we joined a non-denominational charismatic church that was considered to be very conservative by other charismatics. That was in south Georgia where we lived for the first six years of our marriage.

Then we moved to Upstate New York and attended an Assembly of God church for the eleven months were there. After that we moved to Alabama and spent several months looking for a good charismatic church, but never found one that suited us, so we joined an SBC that a coworker of Mike’s invited us to.

Then in the spring of 1998 we moved to Virginia and began looking for another charismatic or Baptist church. After a long and fruitless search we wound up, through a series of fortunate events which I will not go into here for brevity’s sake, joining a Presbyterian church. And when I say “join” I mean whole hog. It really was another conversion experience and on the day we joined we had all of our children, there were five at the time, baptized, and if you know anything about Southern Baptists and charismatics you’ll realize what a huge change that was.

Into the desert
In the fall of 2001 we were sent to Texas where the nearest Presbyterian church of the same denomination was two hours away. We went there for a couple of months, but really, it was just too much. There was another conservative Presbyterian denomination that was only an hour and a half away, so we visited there for nearly a year. Eventually though, Mike decided that we needed to be part of a community that was closer to home, so we began attending the Traditional service at the base chapel.

This was a good choice for us for another year or so, especially the Wednesday night Bible study and Evening Prayers led by the Lutheran chaplain. But then the base chapel isn’t technically a church and the elders of the Presbyterian church we belonged to in Virginia wanted us to join a real church. Owing to some things that were going on at the chapel we realized that not only should we do what the elders suggested, but do it posthaste.

Knowing my husband had an Episcopal background, someone recommended one of the two Episcopal churches in town—the priest was a friend and very conservative. We tried it and loved it, so we joined there.

In 2005 my husband retired from the military and we moved here (we’re back in Virginia, but three hours away from our former church). After a while we decided that we needed to find a more conservative, or “Traditional,” as Anglican-speech puts it, church, but we wanted to stay within the Anglican tradition, so now we belong to an Anglican church that uses the older Book of Common Prayer—the 1928 one.

We have much to be grateful for. Every church we’ve been touched by has enriched us. Love of Scripture from the Baptists. Zeal from the charismatics. Deep wonder at God’s supreme power and goodness from the Presbyterians. The beauty of holiness from the Lutherans.

And from the Anglicans? That’s so hard to define. We didn’t mean to stay Anglican. It was meant to be a temporary lodging until we could get back to the Presbyterians. But after eight years in this tradition, the Anglican church has become our home, with all that that implies and I can’t imagine being anything else now.

I don’t mean to insult anyone else’s church service, and I’ve participated in and been blessed by and loved many different styles of worship, but let me tell you, the Anglicans know How to Do Church. When we visit other churches, we feel like we’ve been to a really good Bible study, good Christian fellowship, but it just doesn’t feel like Church.

Please, please, please don’t take that as an insult to other churches. I’m just telling you how I feel about my own church, and I know you love your church tradition as much as I love mine. At least, I hope you do. Just take it the same way you’d take it if someone said, “No one can make Sunday dinner like my Mama.” You know that’s not really a swipe at your mama.

But now, I think I finally understand what is meant by the term Mother Kirk.

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You can read Part 2 here.

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Edited to add:

I've created a new tag "Book of Common Prayer" and have scanned over my older posts trying to tag things that mention the BCP or quote from it. I didn't tag all the Psalms I've posted, but all those Latin titles for the Psalms come from the Psalter in the BCP.

There were a handful where I mentioned it so briefly that I decided not to tag them. Mostly they were short quotes from the book. In the post "Grief, a year later," when I said, "I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come," that's from the Nicene Creed, which we recite every Sunday after the Scripture readings.

In a couple of different places I mentioned that some of my favorite words are these:

"With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and all my worldly goods I thee endow," from the 1662 BCP.

"Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again," said by the congregation during the Eucharistic Prayer, 1979 BCP.

"These are the gifts of God for the people of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving," said by the priest while holding the bread and the cup, just after the breaking of the bread, inviting God's people to the Table, 1979 BCP.


  1. Whew! You had quite a journey! I like your point about each group imparting something. I think that not only does the "members of a body" (each offering something different) apply to individuals in a local church, but also ti all congregations making up the Church.

    There are things we would prefer different in our church (more of a "Doing Church" culture is one of them, though ours would look that way from a mainline church), but our current church is our family and we couldn't leave them without it being over an essential point and worth the heartbreak. I think that's the way it's supposed to be.

    I grew up in a charismatic church, and my parents became reformed when I was in middle school. We switched churches when I was 12, just the right age for me to inhale good teaching. I met my husband at that church and it is the church we are still a part of. It's from a continental/Dutch reformed tradition rather than presbyterian, but they are very similar.

  2. I understand your point about preferring some things to be different -- it's like that for me too, which is what I meant by saying that this church has become "home, with all that that implies." The good, the bad, and the ugly. ;-)

    I think it's wonderful that y'all are still in the same church -- it's just as monumental a thing as still being in your hometown, with relationships that go back not just years, or decades, but possibly even generations. That's not something to give up lightly.

  3. Kelly, it was so good to read your story! I've participated in it here and there, but I've never heard the whole thing. It's lovely.

    We've done a lot of church-hopping in the 6 years we've been married and somehow feel that some sort of string keeps puling us back to the Episcopal (well, Anglican really) service.

    It doesn't matter how bad the (thankfully short) sermon is, the service is full of grace. We've decided to keep visiting the episcopal church whose preschool our children attend (until we move soon).

    There is a woman rector for crying out loud, but every time we go, we leave blessed. Full of wonder, awe, gladness, joy and encouragement from the Word.

    It reminds me that Lewis says that we cannot be both devotional and critical at the same time, and a familiar liturgy in worship allows us to be devotional.

    Like you said, it seems that Anglicans knew how to do church. :)

  4. I was looking for "how to use book of common prayer" and found your site. I just want to say, thank you so much for this post! I have been moving from different churches, traditions since I was 6, and never really feel so connected to a church till I found the episcopal (anglican) tradition. As much as I loved my friends back in non-denominational church and the great times I have had, I can not imagine going back at all. I am so glad I am not the only one who felt that way. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. I'm glad it was helpful, Hsin! Thanks for commenting -- I love hearing from other people.


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