“I believe there is no Liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety than the Common Prayer of the Church of England.” John Wesley
The 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England (you can download it by clicking the picture to the left or the link below) is still technically the only “official” prayer book of the Church of England, the mother church (for the moment at least) of the Anglican Communion. It itself is the result of more than a century of liturgical development through a turbulent time in British history. Its literary and theological influence is immense; this alone makes it an important document. Getting it from its beginnings in the wake of the English Reformation to this book was job enough; getting it from print to web has been another monumental task. Positive Infinity is thus pleased to bring this document, but some explanation–and credit to the work of others–is in order.
My personal interest in this document was revived during my writing of the Island Chronicles, which forced me to do a great deal of research into Anglican polity and liturgy alike. Having been raised in the Episcopal Church, it came as quite an eye opener to discover that the prayer book, which traditional Anglicans generally portray as a fixed document, is in fact subject to some pretty significant variations, even before the modernising, Anglo-Catholic liturgies that many Anglican churches have adopted came into being.
“THANK YOU so much for your compilation of the 1662 BCP. My job is mentoring aspirants for ministry in the Anglican Church and your compilation is the “Meisterwerk” for working with those who are studying liturgics.” Anglican Mission in America minister.
About this edition
The original adaptation of the 1662 book for the Internet was carried out by Lynda Howell, who converted the entire text into RTF and HTML format. The immensity of the work is enough considering that it had to be hand typed, scanned or adapted from American prayer books already in data format. Her task was complicated by the fact that there have been in fact many variations since 1662; these are shown in more detail at her website. From an American standpoint, considering that the “Act of Uniformity” enforcing the use and reverence of the Prayer Book is a quintessential “three strikes and you’re out” law, the lack of uniformity in this book is maddening! Given all of this, her achievement is remarkable. If traditional Anglicans find the roles of women in the Anglican churches of the Island Chronicles to be disconcerting, the grit it took one woman to unravel nearly five centuries of the work of men should make them think again.
The weakness of Ms. Howell’s work, however, is in the format. RTF and HTML (especially the latter) limit the control over what the actual result looks like. Our belief has always been that Adobe Acrobat is the best format for this kind of work. Acquiring the software to make this happen, however, has traditionally been expensive, and unjustifiable except to those with other commercial usage of the software. Since we have this software, the conversion was possible; we flowed the text into Adobe InDesign (which did a better job of interpreting the RTF than Microsoft Word) and then exported it into Acrobat format, using Acrobat itself to “tidy things up.” We made an editorial decision to produce a web version of the 1662 Prayer Book without other variations. The variations can be viewed on Ms. Howell’s site. The one thing we needed to make this work, however, was a paper copy of the Prayer Book to check content, arrangement, etc. This was furnished by Mr. Leonard C. Albert, Executive Director of the Church of God Department of Lay Ministries, to whom I am very grateful.
As far as copyright is concerned, as Ms. Howell points out, the copyright to both the Book of Common Prayer and the Authorised (King James) Version of the Bible are both held by the British Crown in perpetuity, but this only applies to the U.K. Since Positive Infinity, as is the case with her site, is located in the U.S., this is not a problem. All other “non-prayer book” materials are mine, including the photos of York Minister.
We trust that this book will be both informative and a blessing to you.