Seriously, if you haven’t read Christopher’s post called “The Prayer Book as Our Regula, you really should. It is a fantastic piece.
In fact, the Prayer Book is a distinctive enfleshment of a moderate, generous, gentle, common, and above all else, awed way of being together in the world that insists that we are homo adorans and asks that because we praise God, we reverence one another and creation by making our own contribution in daily life (“contribution” is a term I shamelessly borrow from Dr John Booty who describes Anglican response to awe of God in this way).
In other words, our Prayer Book is the heart of St Benedict’s instruction: Prayer above all else.
Being a liturgist, Christopher dives into suggesting a new format for the Prayer Book, which I heartily approve of. As a self-taught Prayer Book pray-er, it took me forever to understand that you don’t have to say every line printed, in order. I hated doing the Sufferages, because I’d pray A and B back to back, and that’s just ridiculous.
Christopher insists that the goal should be pattern formation, which as an educator I nod sagely at, and as a person with I bounce around shouting, “YES! So true, it’s the only thing that keeps my hectic life on– OO A BIRDIE!” It’s not just ADD people who need a schedule with postmarks for the day, though it is a little tougher for us to stick to a schedule.
But I am a self-taught Prayer Book pray-er, and that is because despite joining the Episcopal Church officially in 2003, I can count on the fingers of both hands times when I have been at community worship and the Prayer Book was used instead of a printed bulletin. The little red books in the pews are only touched by the people dusting and the people who are really bored and are looking for anything to distract them.
I’ve argued before that one of the great tragedies of our education and formation programs at the parish level is the lack of serious, concrete Bible study that emphasizes both familiarity and functionality. I would also argue, as frequently and loudly as I can, that the number one greatest tragedy of our education and formation programs at the parish level is the lack of serious, concrete Prayer Book study that emphasizes both familiarity and functionality.
Now, in my dream parish, the best way to foster the familiarity and functionality of the Prayer Book is through offering Morning and Evening Prayer seven days a week. Whenever I mention that (or even offering it one evening a week– ONE EVENING and I’m volunteering to organize and to be Reader!) the old familiar refrain rears its ugly head: “It will never work, no one will come, we’ve tried it before.”
I believe the greatest tragedy of our parishes is the unwillingness to foster old ideas. If it’s not new-now-withit-shiny-on the cover of the Rolling Stone, it tends to be shot down. But people are starting to slowly come out of the consumerism coma and seek that which has been proven stable through time. I believe the resurgance in interest in the Rule of St. Benedict is an example of this.
Pagodas in Japan have stood for hundreds of years, through severe earthquakes and hurricanes because they are built to flex around a central spine. One of the greatest strengths of Christianity is its ability to flex with the times, and yet it is built around the solid core of the living Christ, from which every individual Christian branches off. Episcopalians are rooted in that spine through the Prayer Book, and if we are to survive as a Christian community, we cannot cut ourselves off from the Prayer Book.