Thursday, May 17, 2012

Keeping faith with 350-year-old Book of Common Prayer

It is perhaps, the defining artistic work of the Church of England – more than any number of Victorian hymns, more than all the nation's stained glass windows and bell-ringers, even more than the King James Bible itself – but, despite the best efforts of generations of ecclesiastical modernisers, as it reaches its 350th anniversary, the Book of Common Prayer remains at the heart of Anglican worship.

Indeed with its familiar baptism, marriage and funeral prayers, the immortal words of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, are still as much a defining part of English life as Shakespeare and Dickens, even in an increasingly secular society.

Every time we use phrases like "'til death us do part"; "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest", "peace in our time" and "ashes to ashes", we are quoting directly from the book.

Bristol's Christ Church in Broad Street – one of the city's oldest religious sites, which before being rebuilt by the Georgians would have been familiar to Cranmer himself (he once visited Bristol in order to worship here) – is one of the few churches in the country that prides itself on still relying entirely on the 16th century book for its daily liturgy. Read more

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