Notes on Worship



  • a universal human response to “reality,” however conceived
  • can be regarded “as one of humanity’s greatest mistakes; a form taken by the phantasy-life, the desperate effort of bewildered creatures to come to terms with the surrounding mystery {of life itself].” (E. Underhill, Worship, p. 4)
  • a placating response — placating the mysterious spiritual powers
  • a propitiating response — removing guilt and sin through sacrifice
  • an emulating response — capturing or mirroring eternal, timeless values
  • a hallowing response — responding to the beauty and joy of holiness breaking in through the everydayness of life
  • how we conceive worship shapes what we do in it — and what we do in turn shapes our conception in an ongoing, dynamic process

Christian Worship

  • Doubtless all these responses have at one time or another been characteristic of Christian worship — with one or another of them attaining preeminence for periods
  • The earliest Christian worship was marked by its Jewish antecedents: a.  “remembrance” — anamnesis — of God’s mighty acts in history b. “thanksgiving” for the being and blessing of God •  In time, Christian worship became fixed in various forms — liturgies developed
  • The written texts of these liturgies became “rites” — families of liturgical texts akin to “linguistic” families  
  • “RITES” and “ritual” refer to written texts or liturgies; “CEREMONIAL” refers to the way rites are done – the actions.
  • Rites developed into “uses” - akin to local dialects of a language -  a “use” is the local variation and adaptation of a basic rite
  • In the ancient Church (4th – 5th centuries, libelli (booklets) developed for the use of various ministers and their parts in worship
  • In the Middle Ages, we observe a proliferation of books for the conduct of rites; examples:

     1. missals -  for the conduct of the eucharist

     2. breviaries -  for daily offices

     3. processionals -  for litanies and prayers

     4. manuale (also, agenda, rituale) -  containing pastoral offices (burial, confession, etc)

     5. pontifical (also, benedictional) -  episcopal rites; services done by bishops.

  • In the Reformation various schemes at revising forms for Christian worship were attempted — usually aiming to achieve these purposes:

      a. Put worship into the common tongue

      b. Use the Bible to edify and instruct Christian believers

     c. Simplify worship and purge “superstitious” elements Still, these efforts had the effect of providing “services” which were “stand alone”

Anglican Worship

  • Cranmer knew and drew upon Reform attempts at providing liturgies
  • But also envisioned something new: A Book of Common Prayer that would achieve something in addition to the aims of most reformers: The creation of a “commodious” book — a full system — of prayer that would benefit both the clergy and the people, build up faith, be simple and easy to use.
  • The Book of Common Prayer (1549) set in motion an approach to Worship which is integrated and fulsome —
a. it seeks, in intention, to bring the resources of faith to bear on every Christian — ordained and lay alike — in all aspects of life (“from the greatest saint to the newest confirmand”)
b. and it actually achieves a remarkable embrace — has grown over the generations to incorporate more and more aspects of life  


An Overview of the Prayer Book

•  If we look at the BCP 1549, Table of Contents, we observe that the Book begins (after the Preface) with a Calendar (or “Kalendar”)


ii.  A Table and Kalendar for Psalmes and Lessons, with necessary rules perteinyng to the same.

iii. The Ordre for M~tin~ and Eyej~song, throughout the yeare.

iv. The Introites, Collectes. Epistles and Gospelles, to be used at the celebracion of the lordes Supper and holy Communion through the yere, with proper Psalmes and Lessons, for diverse feastes and dayes.

v.  The Supper of the Lorde and Holy Communion, commonly called the Masse. [followed by the Litany]

vi. Of Baptism, bothe publique and private.

vii.    Of Confirmacion, where also is a Catechisme for children.

viii.   Of Matrimony.

ix. Of visitacion of the sicke, and Communion of the same.

x.  Of Buriall.

xi. The purificacion of women.

xii.    A declaracion of scripture, with certein prayers to bee use the firste daye of Lent, commonlye called Ashwednesdaie.

xiii.   Of Ceremonies omitted or reteyned.

xiiii.  Certein notes for the more plain explicacion, and decent ministracion of thinges conteined in this boke.

Added in 1550: The Forme and maner of makyng and consecratyng of Archebishoppes, Bishops, Priestes and Deacons  

  • If we look at the BCP 1979, Table of Contents, we find the same thing: after the Preface, we find “the Calendar of the Church Year.”
  • We also find that the Book ends with a different kind of calendar — a calendar of readings, called a lectionary. (The 1559, 1662 English Books and the American Prayer Books before 1979, all begin with the Calendar, and end with the Articles of Religion. They do not include lectionaries, because in each the lections for use in the Church Year are printed in full, together with the Collect for each week. The 1979 BCP, in order to include MORE readings from Scripture — in accordance with Anglican principles of liturgical use — requires the second calendar in order to provide guidance in this area. Interestingly, the New Zealand Prayer Book also begins and ends with Calendars!)
  • Notice, too, the arrangement of the BCP 1979:
a. ALL Prayer Books open with Daily Morning and Evening Prayer — so BCP 1979
b. Resources for worship follow: the Litany and Collects (and lessons prior to 1979).
c. Then follows Proper Liturgies for Special Days — i.e., the days of Ash Wednesday and Holy Week.
d. Next we have


          Holy Eucharist


          Commitment to Christian Service

          Blessing of Civil Marriage

          Holy Matrimony

          Thanksgiving for the birth or adoption of a child


          Ministration to the Sick

          Ministration at time of Death

          Burial of the Dead


  • I suggest that this arrangement is more than incidental
  • What this arrangement signifies is that the Anglican approach to worship is centered in the Sanctification of Time:
a. Time is the matrix which defines human existence
b. God breaks into time in the person of Jesus giving meaning and redeeming time

          1) Dominical teaching: We must be born “from above” — i.e., our time is transformed by the Spirit

          2) “Give us this day” — God sustains His people moment by moment

c. This approach to worship honors the Apostolic Teaching:

          1) In Christ, all creation (time) is made new

          2) Christians must learn to pray at all times

          3) Perseverance to the end marks the true disciples

          4) The whole creation “yearns” for the revealing of the children of God

d. PAST: The Church year recapitulates the Mighty Acts (Work) of God for Salvation
e. PRESENT: The pattern of the Christian life is ordered for prayer (daily offices)
f. FUTURE: The Sacraments are God’s means of equipping us for His future — for the transformation of the world (mission — ministry)
  • Cranmer wanted the Prayer Book to do more than provide services: “And further, that the people (by daily hearyng of holy scripture read in the Churche) should continuallye profite more and more in the knowledge of God, and bee the more inflamed with the love of his true religion.” (Preface to the BCP 1549)
1. We could call this the “formative” influence of worship — shaping Christian life 2. In due course, the Prayer Books would come to include other materials than those strictly associated with services:

          a. A Catechism for the instruction of the young

          b. Prayers for women after child-birth (1549 ff.)

          c. The    Psalter (1662: Psalms for use in MP & EP appeared in 1559) as a kind of hymnal for both liturgical and private use

          d. Prayers for use at sea (1662 ff.)

          e. Articles of Religion (1662 ff.)

          f. Prayers for visitation of prisoners, and for Thanksgiving (harvest) (1789 ff.)

          g. Prayers for use in families (1789 ff1)

3. The present BCP contains new additions:

          a. Noonday Prayers

          b. An Order for Evening

          c. Compline

          d. Daily Devotions (modified from previous editions and augmented)

          e. Expanded Collects for Various Occasions and more Saints Day, plus Common of Saints

          f.  A whole section dedicated to forms of Prayer and Thanksgiving covering a very wide range of human activities and concerns

          g. Extended sections on Prayer for the sick children, parents, the sick, and commemorations of the dead h. Expanded Historical Documents section (for edification)

          i.  Expanded lectionaries for prayer and study beyond Church services The Prayer Book spirituality of Anglicanism embraces ever more realms of life in order to instruct us in the precious gift of time and form in us a spiritual consciousness over time

  • “The time pattern of the liturgy continually confronts us with ever new moments of decision” (Shepherd, The Worship of the Church, p. 102)  


Principles of the Book of Common Prayer 1979

  • Centrality of Baptism
a) The revision of the BCP leading to the edition of 1979 was prompted in large part by the need to revise the Baptismal rite and to do more justice to this sacrament and its place in the life of the Church
b) The Baptismal Covenant forms the heart of the revised rite, and has become a common touchstone in thinking through our ecclesiology
c) Baptism in the context of the Sunday Liturgy is made the norm — rather than “private” baptism — which was understood as the norm in all prior books
d) The importance of the Baptismal Covenant is signaled in the frequency with which the People renew their baptismal vows with every new baptism and every confirmation
e) The importance is also signaled in many other ways: the rubrical direction that the Bishop should baptize on his/her Visitation in allusions to baptism in the Ordinals in the gifts given at the celebration of New Ministry
f) The relation of Baptism to the Paschal Mystery is made clear by the prayer over the water, but also and importantly by its central place in the Vigil of Easter
g) Candidates are to be sponsored by baptized persons  
  • Centrality of the Eucharist
a) The Prayer Book begins with the assertion that the Holy Eucharist is “the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day and other major Feasts”.
b) The importance of the Eucharist is signaled by the way in which it is designed to fit in with most of the rites of the Church — The Daily Offices Especially also Marriage, Ordination  
  • Centrality of Mission
a) Renewal of diaconate and the diaconal role in the liturgy
b) Mission is given a new prominence in the Book of Common Prayer New collects and prayers Prayer for mission required in Daily Office Consciousness raised in Prayers of the People
c) Epiphany Season is really made the season of mission
d) Missional emphases in Baptismal Rite, Confirmation, Ordinals  
  • Centrality of Community
a) There is a general consciousness that the worshipping community is the “People of God”
b) The  Baptismal rite and Confirmation are community celebrations — intended to shape a sense of common life
c) The pronounced role and understanding of Lay Ministry (Rubrics and Catechism)
d) Rites in the Book are amenable to adaptation in various contexts in order to emphasize the comprehensive and common aspects of the life of the People of God
e) Baptismal candidates (and Confirmands) should be sponsored as a sign of community responsibility  
  • Other emphases:
a) Stewardship as the pattern of Christian life
b) Stewardship of creation — Prayer C, Prayers of People, Prayers for Natural Order (827 ff)