The Texts for Common Prayer of the Anglican Church in North America underwent another round of revision this month, following the latest meeting of the College of Bishops. Everything is listed at their official website. The following pieces have been updated:
- Morning Prayer
- Evening Prayer
- Supplemental Canticles
- The Decalogue
- The Holy Eucharist: Anglican Standard Text
- The Holy Eucharist: Renewed Ancient Text
- Supplemental Eucharistic Texts
- Collects for the Christian Year
- Daily Office Lectionary
I’ve gone through them thoroughly, if not exhaustively, and will summarize the changes for those who are interested or curious.
Morning & Evening Prayer and the Supplemental Canticles
One of the two biggest changes is that asterisks are added to the Canticles, which are traditional marks of where to pause while reading or end a line of chant. The Canticles which are Psalms have also undergone revision of their translation, hinting at the work on the new Psalter which has not been completed or released.
The other big change is the wording of the Gloria Patri. It is now (once again) “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and the Holy Spirit…” It’s only one word difference from before, but this is 1) on top of the “world without end” restoration early on from the shortened Roman and Episcopalian version, and 2) this is a refrain that is said many times in the Offices.
There are a couple other formatting changes, a couple edits to the translation of the Suffrage (primarily reflecting the meaning of the original Prayer Books rather than copying the Episcopalian revisions), and an extra Suffrage for Evening Prayer has been added. The Opening Sentences saw some minor edits – one was swithed from Evening to Morning, a couple were cut, and a couple had their leading conjunction (finally) removed. Also, the Supplemental Canticles now have numbers for ease of reference.
The Holy Communion
The Decalogue has undergone some significant rewording. Instead of asking God to “give us grace to keep this law” we ask for him to “incline our hearts to keep this law”, which is (again) more faithful to the old Prayer Books, and is more theologically specific. We don’t just need “grace” to do better, but our hearts need reorientation.
The previous setup of having three near-identical Eucharistic Rites has been reduced to two; the “Common Form” has been dropped. Now we have the “Standard Anglican Text” and the “Renewed Ancient Text.”
The former is still of classic American Prayer Book content, with a couple options to omit two paragraphs of the Prayer of Consecration for those who want to shorten it (but why would you want to, really?). A few edits to break down the old-fashioned run-on sentences have been implemented, and for folks like me who got used to the long “Standard Form” Prayer of Consecration it’ll take some getting used to.
The latter still has the “bidding prayer” style Prayers of the People and the abbreviated Confession like the current Episcopalian revisions, and its Prayer of Consecration has been significantly reworked to combine elements of the previous “Common Form” and “Ancient Text” rites. The “mystery of faith” spoken by the congregation is put in there, and the post-communion prayer is still the short one.
In both versions, there is a curious reversion in the “Great Thanksgiving” or “Sursum Corda” dialogue back to the Episcopalian (and previous Roman) loose translation “it is right to give him thanks and praise” instead of the more elegant “it just and right so to do” that we’d enjoyed for the past couple years in the draft liturgies. Changes like that are going to throw congregations off as they bounce around from one version to another. I’m almost afraid to implement this in my congregation until I see it in hard copy in 2019, just in case.
The Supplemental Eucharistic Texts include one word change in one of the Opening Acclamations and The Exhortation, and a refreshed list of Proper Prefaces with a couple changes is now available. The Offertory Sentences are labeled to have been edited, but as far as I could count, the list of verses is unchanged.
Collects for the Christian Year
I did not read every collect to compare them with the previous list. It’s possible some grammar has been edited here, as in other places. The main changes I noticed are the addition of more rubrics before and among the Collects, and the change of label for the Sundays after Trinity: instead of “The Sunday closest to ___” they are now “The Sunday between __ and __.” This will make it easier for liturgical planners to figure out which Proper to use for which Sunday! But it still doesn’t solve the problem of assigning a stable identity or name to each of these Propers. As obnoxious as the Episcopalians’ system is, one can at least reference “Proper 20” in their book and know what it means from year to year.
Daily Office Lectionary
This is a completely new document from the previous one. Instead of following the liturgical calendar it follows the secular calendar, which makes it much more accessible to the average church-goer. It follows a much simpler pattern, generally reading 1 chapter of the Old Testament at a time, and a New Testament reading of no more than 30 verses at a time. It does a weird switch half way through the year where the Gospels and Epistles switch places between Morning and Evening – this is likely a concession to the reality that many people only pray one Office a day, and thus an attempt to allow them to stick to either Morning or Evening and still get basically the whole New Testament covered.
Where this document falls short, though, is that it does not account for the holy days (“red letter days”) in the Liturgical Calendar. Even the major holidays like Christmas are overlooked, resulting in some most inappropriate and embarrassing readings appointed for that day. Were it not for this critical shortcoming, this would be an excellent daily lectionary. Hopefully this will continue to be a work in progress.
The Task Force is still accepting feedback for much of the material in Texts for Common Prayer, but virtually the entire book is drafted and available online at the link provided at the top of this article. The only major portion of the book yet unfinished is the Psalter. They’re working hard to make sure we have a translation that is both beautiful and accurate, and an emphasis on reclaiming our heritage in the Coverdale translation is being pursued with vigor. What has been made available of the Psalms in the Office and Supplemental Canticles suggests that they’re doing a good job in the pursuit of quality.