by Peter Berg
At Church of the Cross, we use the Book of Common Prayer for our liturgies, prayer services, and more. It is a very helpful resource, but it can be a bit intimidating to find one to use on your own. Which edition should I get–the 1662, the 1928, the 1979? Does it matter what size I get? Are all versions the same? What does the ACNA use? I know that, when I first decided to buy a BCP, I was surprised and confused by the amount of choices.
So, we put together a quick starter’s guide to finding the right Book of Common Prayer for you. Below, you’ll find descriptions and links that should help you as you consider owning your own BCP, or looking into other helpful liturgical resources.
Book of Common Prayer
At Cross, we use the 1979, American version of the Book of Common Prayer that was originally made by the Episcopal Church. When looking for your own copy of the BCP, just keep the date in mind (1979) and you’ll find the right one. There are a lot of choices involving size, color, and binding, but they are all exactly the same inside–every 1979 Book of Common Prayer has exactly the same content and page numbering. Here is the Book of Common Prayer that we buy for graduating seniors–it’s a very nice, portable version– Book of Common Prayer (1979 Gift Edition).
The Book of Common Prayer contains the liturgy we use on Sundays and for most special services; but it also contains very helpful prayer services for individual and family use, as well as a Scripture reading plan, the entire book of Psalms, and important historical documents like creeds and definitions, the 39 Articles of Religion, and a helpful catechism. It is an excellent resource to have and use.
New ACNA Liturgies
Church of the Cross is part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The ACNA has begun work on its own edition of the Book of Common Prayer, using the 1662 edition (this is the definitive edition of the BCP) as a starting point, and considering other editions from America and around the world. Recently, the ACNA has begun releasing these newly re-worked liturgies as Texts for Common Prayer–this does not yet encompass the entirety of the BCP, but it does include Morning and Evening Prayer services, two services for Holy Eucharist, and the Ordinal (the liturgy used for Ordinations). You can find downloadable copies of Texts for Common Prayer on the ACNA’s website– http://anglicanchurch.net/?/main/texts_for_common_prayer.
Common Worship is the Church of England’s modern language liturgy derived from the 1662 BCP. We do use one Holy Eucharist liturgy from this book occasionally. Common Worship comes in multiple books. The first, Common Worship: Main Volume or Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, contains the usual Sunday morning liturgies and other common liturgies. Here is a nice version of that: Common Worship: Main Volume (this one is black, though there are several other colors to choose from).
Another book of Common Worship is Common Worship: Daily Prayer. This version only contains the daily office, or prayer services, which does it make very practical for individual and family use. Here is a nice version of that– Common Worship: Daily Prayer.
Our Modern Services
One final option comes from the Anglican Church in Kenya. Our Modern Services is one of the first African prayer book revisions–it stems from the 1662 Prayer Book but is also uniquely African. At Cross, we use a liturgy for Holy Eucharist on special occasions that comes from this book. It can be found and bought online–Our Modern Services.
(One note: the links provided to find a BCP for purchase are through smile.amazon.com. This is the regular amazon.com website, but you can set it up to give a small donation from every purchase to a charity of your choice. Also, you can definitely find these books on other websites and perhaps at some bookstores–please buy it wherever you like.)