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Hallo again to all.

Pregnant women or roods? Pregnant women AND roodsIn recent months, we've worked closely with a number of books produced by Anglicans in the last two centuries to supplement the liturgical provisions of the Book of Common Prayer. With names like The Book of Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church (Milwaukee, 1893), Special Forms of Service (New Zealand, 1914), and Service Book for the Diocese of New Jersey (1940), these books responded to local needs and new technologies. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer didn't include prayers for the blessing of motor cars, for example, because there were as yet no motor cars. When motor cars became part of the daily life of Christians, the church responded—sometimes quickly, sometimes less quickly—by crafting and publishing prayers to bring liturgical provisions into line with lived experience. As with technological innovations and new modes of travel, so with pastoral situations unmentioned by the BCP. The most comprehensive compilation of blessings we know comes from the middle of the twentieth century:

Airplane; Altar Book; Altar Cloths; Altar Ornaments; Animals (sick); Any Food; Anything Whatsoever; Ashes on Ash Wednesday; Automobile; Banner; Baptismal Water; Bell; Bible; Boat; Bread; Bridge; Bookstore; Boxes (offering); Candles; Carriage; Cattle (Herds); Cemetery Plot; Censer; Chalice and Paten; Children (sick); Christmas Crib; Ciborium; Civil Marriage; Confessional; Cornerstone; Corporals; Creche; Crib; Crops; Cross; Crosses for the Planting; Eggs (at Easter); First Fruits; Fishing Boats; Fishing Nets; Flocks and Herds; Font; Food or Medicine; Foundation Stone; Gifts; Grave; Growing Crops; Herds and Cattle; Holy Water; House (on Epiphany); Image or Picture; Incense; Lamb (at Easter); Lenten Mite Boxes; Lifeboat; Library; Machinery; Medal; Medicine; Memorials and Gifts; Missionary Offering Boxes; Monstrance; Motor Car; Nets; New Cross; New House; Oil of the Sick; Oil Stocks; Oratory; Organ; Ornaments; Palls and Corporals; Palms; Paten; Pictures and Statues; Pregnant Women; Private Oratory; Printing Press; Pyx; Ring (Wedding); Rood; Rosaries; Salt; School; Seeds; Ship; Site for House; Small Cross; Stations of the Cross; Statues; Tabernacle, Ciborium or Pyx; Table; Throats; Vehicle; Vestments; Way of the Cross; Wedding Ring; Window.*

The anonymous Cowley Father who made this list included everything he knew that could be used in the life of a parish, and many of the situations (civil marriage, pregnancy, increased devotional activity) he would have known from his pastoral experience to be absent from the BCP. Most such lists and provisions were made unofficially or on a diocesan level. Considered across the Anglican Communion, the work of the Church of England in New Zealand and the US Episcopal Church in offering official publications of alternative services was relatively unusual.

Let us bless the Lord, even if the AT&T service is this bad.This work of liturgical development, adaptation, and growth continues today across our several dioceses and provinces—mainly in ways that reflect the changing experiences of Christian families. But we have yet to see any diocese or province authorise an office for the blessing of what is arguably the most important part of the church's evangelical toolbox in the 21st century: the computer. (St Lawrence, Jewry did incorporate them into its Plow Monday service last year, but it is an innovative outlier as far as we know.)

In much the same spirit as 20th-century Christians who found it appropriate to bless printing presses and typewriters, we wonder if it would be a godly and proper liturgical advance for there to be regular offices for the blessing of an iPhone, others for the blessing of a server (the kind that provides network services, not an acolyte), and others for the dedication of an expensive photocopy machine or desktop computer given by a generous parishioner in memory of a departed relative.

If this sounds preposterous, your God may be too small.** The Church has changed its prayers carefully and thoughtfully, usually at a delay of a few decades, to bring God's blessing—and, indeed, God's love—to the world as the world itself has changed. We can see this most clearly in the earliest BCPs' provision of prayers for use by persons 'who go down to the sea in ships', and later prayers to set apart those who travel on trains, airplanes, and automobiles for God's special care.

We'll publish in a future issue of AO the best new short offices for the setting apart of internet-related machines, equipment, and other peripherals, if only you send them to us. Please bear in mind that our readers use both you-language and thou-language in worship, and that the highest (non-financial) awards will go to submissions with both idioms.***

If there is any great lesson from the Prayer Book's consideration of times and seasons, all sorts and conditions, and its telling forth of the means of grace and the hope of glory, it is that all of our lives can and should be brought to God. Yes, even iPhones (the jury is out on Blackberries and Android devices).

See you next week.

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Last updated: 31 July 2011

* A Manual for Priests of the American Church, Complementary to the Occasional Offices of the Book of Common Prayer (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Society of Saint John the Evangelist, 1961).

** We remember our own disturbed reaction about a decade ago when we learned that a prominent New York City priest made special liturgical blessings of the toilet plumbing in a parishioner's apartment. But perhaps our God was too small then, too.

*** In America and its church-empire, these idioms are called Rite 1.0 and Rite 2.0.

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