1662 Book of Common Prayer

“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.

Download the 1662 Book of Common Prayer

Purchase a hard copy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer

“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.

16 thoughts on “1662 Book of Common Prayer”

  1. I regularly use the 1662 BCP site by Linda Howell. However, the idea that this somehow means I should endorse women as theologians or ordained ministers is ridiculous. Women have always worked as typists and editors to assist. This does not mean she can be the husband of one wife.

  2. It’s interesting to note, Charlie, that the 1662 BCP has been a) posted on this site for five years and b) a perennially popular feature (it kicked up the traffic considerably when I first posted it.) But this observation of yours has not been made until now.

    That having been said, I’d like to make some kind of response.

    To the matter at hand: is this my serious argument re women in ministry? Yes and no. My rationale for this is described elsewhere on this site, and is in fact based on the full Gospel theology you jettisoned when you left the AOG. Having said that, her setting forth the BCP without proper male headship is, in reality, a violation of that headship principle, which is at the core of the objections of the “Protestant” side of Anglicanism and indeed of Protestant Christianity in general. To use her site is to turn a blind eye to this.

    It’s interesting to note that, in the “sea fight in a fog” that has been the Anglican-Episcopal world this decade, women have found prominent voices on all sides of the debate. That’s in part due to the internet (I wish TEC conservatives had had it as a weapon in the 1960’s and 1970’s when this went down to start with, our current situation would be a lot different.) Those voices are, in reality, teaching positions, some of which carry more practical weight than many bishops (not difficult since TEC dioceses are, on average, rather small.)

  3. Hi. You’ve got a nice looking website here. As for the women in the church issue, I understood the Pauline statement regarding women speaking “in the assembly” to be about ex cathedra speech. We (the church, the bride, women) do not utter the Word. That’s a prerogative reserved by God (the pope, the bridegroom, men). The prayer book is our play script; the assembly meeting is our chance to enact the play. When women stand in THAT meeting to preach, the messes with our heads. We (the church, the bride) can produce doctrine?

  4. Hello. I hope I am not beening slliy but, why is York Minister on the cover. As for the book it self 1662 is great, but it is hard to understand. Which is why it has been scrip.(Like here in Wales, and the U.S) or had a alternative book to it. As for women, grow up, God made humankind in his image, Male and Female. GROW UP.

    1. Christopher, that’s because I took the photo myself (and have the rights to it) while on holiday in the UK in 1976. It was the best thing I had. Besides, in theory at least the See of York is equal to that of Canterbury, so I think a little “equal time” isn’t a bad thing. (I know that Canterbury is primus inter pares, but these days I’m sure your fellow Welshman Rowan Williams may have second thoughts about being in that hot seat…)

      I could have used some of my Black Mountains shots for the cover, but people would have really been scratching their heads over that.

    2. Christopher,

      I’m not really sure what man and woman being made in His image has to do with roles and abilities. Does a man’s inability to bear children make him not in God’s image? Does a woman’s lack of comparative upper body strength make her less in God’s image?

      My point isn’t that women should or should not preach, it is that your argument is a non-sequitur.

      Saying that women should not be leaders or preachers is not a matter of immaturity (ie your exortation to “grow up”), but is rather a matter of sincere conviction for many people. It would seem rather petty to cast about insults on a matter such as this.

      Justin

  5. Right, O.K very good point. We are all equal in God’s eyes. As for Rowan, He is a great Archbishop, but he is just in the wrone job at the wrone time.

    1. If there is, I don’t know it. Usually, when they modernise the language, they “modernise” the theology. Blessed Good Friday!

  6. My immense gratitude goes to Lynda Howell for this wonderful work. Like so many others, I regard the Book of Common Prayer as the foundation of our democracy in an English speaking world of constitutional governance. Common Law, Common Prayer and Common Sense seem apt siblings.

    I tried to download it to my I-Phone. I would willingly pay money to do so.

    This is the reference body of knowledge for sound foundations. In its earlier form, it moulded Shakespeare. Isaac Newton’s scholium to the Principia drips with BCP concepts. Churchill held together whole nations by appealing from its strength and soundness of reason.

    When the Book of Common Prayer is rediscovered by mass congregations, we will achieve the aim of making poverty history. Pope John Paul II was prescient when he granted papal endorsement of its liturgy. In that simple action, he validated the agony of Cranmer and bridged forever whatever gap existed between Anglo and Roman Catholicism.

    Truly, the Book of Common Prayer is now universally recognised as Catholic liturgy. In his endorsement, he endorsed the English language. It falls as a heavy burden on each of us to restore this language to the pursuit of good works, not as some faux marxism or weberianism or any ism, but to the directions of the prophets and Christ put into the English language by Cranmer and the translators of the King James Bible and never, never, bettered.

    Yours sincerely,

    Douglass Potts

  7. I am writing memoirs of my life dashing round the railways of the world. I am 73 and still working on a new Urban Railway in Hanoi, Vietnam. John Fall, curate in St John’s Anglican church in Mutare (then Umtali), Zimbabwe told me of a telegram read after his marriage ceremony along the lines of “Blessed are them such as fall”, which he told me was from the Prayer Book (whether 1662 or 1928 is not known, but I would guess the former). I would like his quotation to be accurate, if at all possible. Are you in a position to help me, please?

  8. Thank you dear Sir for your kindness in Christian charity, providing for us this most wondrous of treasures of the Christian faith.

    I believe that women and men have different roles as God sees it.
    However those of us who, as President Barak Obama stated, “cling to their Bibles and their guns,” have an outlook on life that is considered in ill-favor with those of power, well we look at the world as it is and as it is becoming and we ask, is this what you wanted?

    Truly we have come so very far from this:

    First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

    Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.

    Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.

    I realize that I speak in antiquated terms of extinct values, please indulge me.

    With the deepest appreciation for your effort in conveying Ms Howell’s work in a more convenient format, may Our Lord richly bless you and keep you.

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