Worship Wednesday – The Book of Common Prayer

November 16th, 2011 § 0

I spent many of my formative years as a part of an evangelical church in south Seattle. For my experience in worship services, this meant a number of things that you might expect – monthly communion, focus on personal sin and the work of the cross to redeem that sin, the centrality of the gift of teaching as a part of liturgy, the worship leader designated specifically as a musician…corporate worship practices are generally limited to prayers led by the pastor, sermons, baptism, and music, etc…

Bet you can't read this!

Photo used under CC license from chickeninthewoods on Flickr

Upon entering college and leaving that community, I found myself entranced by the liturgies of the Mass and other, more prescribed steps and rituals…more “high church” sensibilities. I was fascinated with the idea of a tradition of words being passed on from generation to generation. Now I could tap into a richness that I hadn’t seen before! It was like my experience of the Lord’s Prayer in my church, which we practiced only occasionally, only now multiplied! Creeds, confession, anything like this was so unfamiliar and exciting to me.

When I was still an undergraduate, my senior year I was coordinator for “group,” one of the worship services on SPU’s campus, and my advisor introduced me to something called “Prayers of the People.” I loved it. I discovered it came straight out of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), and that was when I first got my hands on the BCP. I began to look there for more inspiration in creating worship services.

Our first course at Seattle Pacific Seminary was an intensive course in early September, called “Acts of Piety.” The whole class traveled up to Camp Casey, a beautiful place on Whidbey Island owned by the school, and our dean, Dr. Strong, was our instructor for the course. We all brought our copies of the BCP and every evening when class was finished, we would worship together with the compline service outlined in the book. This was my first real consistent experience in which we didn’t use music or a sermon, or make up our own, “original” things to say. And it was incredibly freeing. We were all brought together in a way I hadn’t really experienced, and the same words that we all happened to read came to life in ways I didn’t expect.

Check out the BCP. Even if you never use it to perform a service outlined in it, it’s a treasure trove of prayers and collects and the like that can be very helpful to bring into your worship service, and it also teaches one what kind of character is important while presiding over worship. It’s a very rich text that can add much depth of tradition to any worship service, if done well.

If you don’t have a copy yourself, you can find lots of different resources online. Here’s one of the many: http://www.bcponline.org/. If you’re looking for a good devotional, click on “The Daily Office” on the left sidebar, then “Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families.” Enjoy!

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