My mother kept two things on the nightstand next to her bed: a Bible, and The Book of Common Prayer. The Prayer Book was always on top of the Bible.
In the first twenty years or so of my ordained ministry I remember distinctly visiting with active Episcopalians and almost always finding a copy of the BCP in plain sight. Nowadays, that is rare.
I suspect that there are two main reasons, among others, why this has happened. First, most members of Episcopal congregations now are relatively new “converts” and they have not had time to absorb the ethos that the BCP presents.
The other reason is the practice of having an order of worship—a full text of the service presented in bulletin format—instead of using the book itself. The reason for that is a practical one: trying to figure out how to navigate through the book in the midst of a service is daunting for the newcomer. For many it is rather like reading a city map in a foreign language: it just does not make any sense.
For Anglicans—that Christian tradition based in the history of the Church of England like The Episcopal Church—the BCP is a compendium of practicalities as well as a sign of unity. The title gives a hint of this: it is a book (a text), it is common (in the local language, and used by everyone), and it is about prayer and worship. It is the concrete expression of our worship: lex orandi, lex credendi. that which is prayed becomes what is believed.
With the Bible the BCP contains what we believe. It is both a liturgical statement of faith and the thing that guides our formation in the faith. It is meant to be used by congregations, by small groups, by monastic communities, and by individuals. And—no surprise here—it is available online.
I would like to “open the BCP” to you. Many of you are aware of the discussion group that meets on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday at the Amber Family Restaurant in Spanish Fork. I have been asked by a few people to offer a survey of The Book of Common Prayer with a focus on its usefulness for individuals. I will begin that conversation on Tuesday, May 3, and continue as desired. Anyone is welcome. You need not eat (but the desserts are excellent!), and children are welcome.
It will be necessary to have some BCPs available, whether in text or electronic form. I have a few available for sale in my office. You can download a pdf version or use an online version at the links below, among others. I will bring along a few copies to share.
Download by section: http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/formatted_1979.htm
Purchase digital version from Google books: https://www.google.com (search term: Episcopal Book of Common Prayer).
Use online: www.bcponline.org
Purchase hardcopy (my favorite supply house, located in Seattle):www.episcopalbookstore.com
Also available at amazon.com
Books & other interesting Episcopal stuff is available at the small bookstores located in the Cathedral Church of St Mark and Good Shepherd, Ogden (they will both be open at Diocesan Convention next weekend).~ Peter+