The Book of Common Prayer is the Anglican guide to worship and devotion. First compiled in 1549 by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury during England’s Protestant Reformation, the Book has undergone several revisions over the centuries and has become the founding book of worship for many offshoots of Anglicanism, including Scottish and American Episcopalianism. Still, it retains today, in all its forms, the power and inspiration that have made it one of the unique treasures in Christian worship for almost five hundred years.
The Book of Common Prayer is a collection of ancient and modern prayers, psalms, rites and sacraments. Although not a Bible, two-thirds of the Book comes directly from Old and New Testament scripture. The primary service presented in the Book is the commemoration of Jesus’ Last Supper, also called the Holy Eucharist, but many newcomers to Episcopalianism first experience the Book’s simple power at weddings, baptisms or funerals in the Episcopal Church. And while the word “common” may lead many observers to think of “ordinary” or “base” in the British sense of the word, its connotations mean nothing of the sort. To Episcopalians, the term “common” denotes “available,” meaning that its teachings and inspirations are meant for everyone, with no regard to class (either religious or societal), race, sexual preferences, economic condition or past transgressions.
The Book of Common Prayer currently used in American Episcopal worship was compiled in 1789 from the Anglican and Scottish Episcopal Books, and was last revised in 1979 to incorporate modern understandings and influences. Regardless, it has not lost its power, continuing to maintain its role as a guide for daily Christian living. And while it is a thick book that can seem complicated to even the most life-long Episcopalian, the best way to feel comfortable with it is to open it up and read it. To that end, we offer you the following links to the Book of Common Prayer as used in our services.
So find comfort in the Book of Common Prayer. See joy in it. Seek inspiration. It’s your book, after all.
The Book of Common Prayer, 1979 Edition (PDF Version — 4.6MB)
The Book of Common Prayer, 1979 Edition (HTML Version)