Thursday, November 22, 2007

the book of common prayer

So a while ago I started pretending I was Episcopalian.
It's sort of de rigeur these days, evangelical Christians going old-school-liturgical on everyone. I was inspired by a few memoirs that mentioned the BCP, so I first started using one online, and then bought one. It's little and kind of cute: it has a little ribbon attached so you can mark passages! I love that in books.
There are little prayer services built into it--ones specifically written for morning, evening, afternoon, and late evening. There are really short ones, and longer, full-service ones. In the morning, when I nurse Lucy, I open up the book. If I'm lazy/half asleep I do the two minute version. If I'm chipper, I do the longer version. Then, the last few nights, I've been kind of stressed out, so I pulled it out and did the Compline (late evening) prayers. They were really beautiful and reminded me of God's presence, and helped me find some peace in my head before bedtime.
Here's what I like about using the BCP:
  • It's a no-brainer. As someone that tends towards perfectionism, I just open it up, and I can pray without having to think about it. When I think about prayer too much, the prayer usually ends up not happening. Remembering all the things there are to pray for! Forgetting what I'm trying to pray for! Getting lost in my thoughts! With the book, I have a visual guide, that prompts me to pray for other things.
  • It's a lot of scripture. I've been reading the psalms too. And the prayers are often based on some beautiful passages from the Prophets, or Psalms, or Gospels. What's not scriptural is just written really well. It's lovely to read. And thoughtful.
  • I used to struggle to be all heady and intellectual and studious with God each day. And I hated it. It felt like a chore, and I don't think it did much for my faith. But reading beautiful prayers, and remembering God's promises in a structured way--helps me reconnect to my faith and recharge each day.
  • I feel like I'm in a church service, there, all by myself.
  • The book is just a cool, jam-packed resource. It's sort of like the Little Book of Things Believers Might Need or Might Just Want to Know. Episcopalian confession? Check. Prayer for the Sunday after Epiphany? Check. Burial service? Check. Catechism? Check. Psalms? Check. Creeds? Check. List of Holidays in the church? Check. Reading through the Bible schedule? Check. I mean, I could be a really Episcopalian Episcopalian, if I were so inclined.
  • Classic British mysteries often involve Anglican trivia. Anglican is almost Episcopalian. So that helps me, right there.
  • Black tea. Also that.
In all seriousness, though, it's one of the coolest Christian books I've bought in a long time. And just those moments of peace I have found through it really help. Sure, I can look up stuff in the Bible, but it, too, is a huge book, that is kind of like an ocean. The BCP is kind of like a little, cozy yacht that makes the ocean scenic and pleasant, rather than overpowering.

1 comment:

tODD said...

Sigh. I was old-school before it was cool. :)

I think you've done a nice job of summing up the things I enjoy about liturgical services (Lutheran in my case). It sounds like the BCP is pretty similar to the front half of our hymnal, the part before all the hymns. And yeah, the whole point of a liturgy is to remind you of (and help you remember) God's truth as found in the Bible. And while ex cordes prayer and worship can be all kinds of good, it can also, as you noted, be stressful, or even harmfully misleading (depends on the inclination of one's cordes).

Now we just need to get you to appreciate chanting the psalms! (Sort of kidding, although I do think chanting is much cooler than is usually appreciated).

One other thing I like about most historical Christian liturgies is how, at their core, they are part of a tradition going back almost two millenia. Such services are, as our pastor puts it, "a conversation that has been going on for a long time". Very grounding, that, a reminder that God's truth doesn't change.

Anyhow, encouraging to read your thoughts. Thanks.