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Prayer Book Society Conference

Notes on speakers at the Prayer Book Society Conference 2012 Friday 14th – Sunday 16th September
Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln


Friday 14th September
The Revd Professor Raymond Chapman (Emeritus Professor of English at the University of London) English Society, Religion and the Book of Common Prayer

Saturday 15th September
Professor Brian Cummings (Professor of English at the University of York)
The Genesis of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer

  • During the Cromwellian government the Cathedrals in England fell into severe disrepair: many were used as market places or for stables. There was a rudimentary form of liturgy for births, marriages and  funerals not based on the Cranmer Prayer Book. Many people broke the law and retained the Prayer Book for occasions when required and for Services.

  • Charles II experienced a variety of different liturgical styles while in exile for 9 years (1651-60). As a result of his experiences in exile, on his restoration to the throne of England he wanted to re-ignite support for Cranmer’s 1549 version of the Book of Common Prayer. The Savoy Conference was held in 1661. This conference was chaired by Gilbert Sheldon, Bishop of London and brought together key ecclesiastical leaders:  Laudians keen on the Prayer Book and Presbyterians, keen on sermons and Psalms, to debate the issue. Cosins (Bishop of Durham) spearheaded the Laudians and Baxter the Presbyterians. Sheldon made the Presbyterians declare their requested ‘exceptions’ first and the resulting arrangement was a 1662 Book of Common Prayer very close to Cranmer’s version published in 1549.

  • Alternatives to the Prayer Book introduced in the 1960’s have had no more than 20 years lifespan

  • The Book of Common Prayer has an unique status as a Formality of the Church of England.

  • Charles Wesley: ‘ I believe that there is no liturgy in the world either in ancient or modern language which breathes more of a solid scriptural rational purity than the Common Prayer of the Church of England’



The Rt Revd Donald Allister. Bishop of Peterborough
The Book of Common Prayer in use

  • There is and always has been a wide variety in how Prayer Book services are presented. E.g. with regards to robbing, position of the Clergy at the Altar, whether items are sung or said;

  • There is a sad dearth of well informed and well read people making decisions at the highest level in the Church of England

Summary notes Annual General Meeting Saturday 15th September

  • Mr John Service has been engaged by the Prayer Book Society for furthering the education of Clergy in the use of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer

  • 30 Bishops (including the Bishop of Chester) and 10 Deans are members of the Prayer Book Society

  • A special resolution was proposed by the Chairman: The Charity is established for the advancement of the Christian religion as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer; and, in the furtherance of this Object, for the promotion of the worship and doctrine  enshrined in the Book of Common Prayer and its use for services, teaching and training throughout the Church of England and other Churches in the Anglican tradition

  • PRAXIS is a portal for continuing education in the liturgy of the Prayer Book Society.

Sunday  16th September
The Revd Canon Andrew Hawes (Editor Designate Prayer Book Society Journal)
The future of the Book of Common Prayer

  • The Prayer Book Society has the responsibility to re-ignite cultural interest in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as happened to the 1549 version at the Savoy Conference post Cromwell. The time is right to do this and ensure that the Prayer Book has a place in 21st Century liturgy is now  as the language and meaning have withstood the transient onslaughts of changes to liturgy in the late twentieth century. People are interested in having access to the style of language in the Prayer Book that can address their spiritual requirements.

  • Training for Clergy in the use of the Prayer Book went through a bad patch about 10-15 years ago, however, this has now been improved and the Prayer Book Society now ensures that all Clergy have a paper copy of the BCP on engaging with training and all receive a bound copy on completion of their theological training.
Additional information

From the sermon given by Rt.Revd. and Rt. Hon. Richar Chartres Bishop of London and Ecclesiastical  Patron of the Prayer Book Society.

Archbishop Cranmer commandeered Old St. Paul's on Whitsunday 1549 to demonstrate the new English liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer. There had never been a liturgy in English.  And what English!  Tyndale's translation of large part of the Bible and Thomas Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer made of English a language fit for sacred themes and devotion.

The Book of Common Prayer which immerses us in the whole symphony of Scripture, which takes us through the Psalms every month, which makes available in a digestible but noble way the treasury of ancient Christian devotion has a beauty which is ancient but also fresh. If our civilisation is to have a future the texts we choose to pass on to our children have a power to create a community which does not merely dwell in the flatlands of getting and spending but which sees visions with prophets, pursues wisdom with Soloman and lives with the generosity of God.

Prudence Dailey, Chairman of the Prayer Book Society.

At the start of the nineteen-seventies in the wake of a Commission on Curch and State, there was a real possibility that the Prayer Book, beloved by so many, might be on the verge of extinction. In 1972 a small news item appeared in the Peterborough column of the Daily Telegraph calling supporters to a meeting to discuss what could be done to turn the tide.  Thus the 'Society for the Defence of the 1662 Prayer Book and Authorised Version' was formed, the forerunner of today's Prayer Book Society and its sister organisations around the world. When used in worship today the Book of Commom Prayer is as modern as those using it.  It is a living liturgy for the 21st Century.


Cranmer Awards
These are open to school children (Primary and Secondary) and are reading competitions where children quote passages from the Book of Common Prayer with regional and national heats.

Anyone interested in joining the Prayer Book Society please contact Jenny or Joan


The Book of Common Prayer 1662 by John Scrivener (Prayer Book Society)



This year marks the 350th Anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Compiled in the sixteenth century by Thomas Cranmer, and modified in 1662, the BCP remains the official doctrinal standard of the Church of England and of most other Churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion. It does in effect contain the Title Deeds of the Church of England and as such it should continue to be used. The Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure 1974 included provision to ensure that the forms of service contained in the BCP continue to be available for use in the Church of England. It is therefore supported by legislation. Anglicans should know that the BCP is part of the foundation and heritage of the Church of England. It provides for unity of worship as opposed to diversity, simplicity rather than complexity, set prayers as against extemporised prayers. The preface of the BCP is followed by the section “Concerning the Service of the Church”. The intention is that the congregations should hear the whole of the Bible over the  year – i.e. the Word of God – in language understood by all – English. The service should be simple – plain and easy to understand – and there should be one set of Services rather than diverse forms q.v. Morning and Evening Prayer. Various changes occurred in and amendments made to the Holy Communion Service in the 1549 version and in  1552 the order was radically re-modelled.   Cranmer said that “the whole that is done shall be the act of the people and pertains to the people as well as the priest”.Prior to the publication of the BCP, people only took Holy Communion, say, once per year. Cranmer Believed it should be a Service of congregational participation and communication.


Following the premature death of Mary I (who was Catholic) in 1558, Elizabeth acceded to the throne. In 1645 Parliament introduced the Directory for Public Worship. This was intended to reflect only what was mandated by explicit Scripture. It advocated no participation by laity and did away with certain other practice e.g. there was to be no kneeling in communion, no cross in baptism and no ring in marriage, no ceremony at a funeral. The Savoy Conference in 1661 was attended by commissioners: 12 Anglican Bishops and 12 representative ministers of the Puritan and Presbyterian factions   The Anglican Bishops stood out for the Prayer Book with minimal changes. The Presbyterian side presented a new liturgy, but this was not accepted. Shortly afterwards in 1662 the Anglican church split, with the dissenting Non-Conformists largely leaving.


In the early 1830s, the Oxford Movement argued for the reinstatement of lost Christian traditions of faith and their inclusion into Anglican liturgy and theology. They defended the BCP and wanted sacramental religion and sought to revive its heritage of apostolic order, Some priests were sent to prison for performing certain ceremonies.


In 1927/28 a revised Prayer Book was approved by the Church of England Convocations and Church Assembly but was not approved by Parliament.

The Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure 1974 authorised the Church to approve new forms of Service, and to amend, continue or discontinue existing forms of Service by Canon without reference to Parliament. The latest “Common Worship” incorporates the The BCP forms of Service.

The Prayer Book Society promotes the continued use of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Unfortunately “Common Worship” also provides for many alternative forms of Service which goes against Cranmer’s desire to achieve simplicity.


As to the future of the BCP, liturgical uniformity was partly achieved by the use of language. The BCP language was Cranmerian, not modern, yet still understood. Without it, much traditional imagery will be lost. The BCP Services can relate to the young if clergy are excited about using it.   


Sadly, the Book of Common Prayer has now become the “alternative”. It would be shameful if this Book which has served generations were to fall out of use now.