Anglicans Online banner More about the gryphon
Independent On the web since 1994 More than 250,000 readers More than 32,000 links Updated every Sunday
Will you help support
Anglicans Online?

The Paypal logotype

Noted This Week
Sites new to AO

News Centre
News archive

News flash: a summary of the top headlines
Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us by email
Be notified each week

Start here
Anglicans believe...
The Prayer Book
The Bible

Read letters to AO
Write to us

Resources A to Z

World Anglicanism
Anglican Communion
In full communion
Not in the Communion

Dioceses and Parishes
Hong Kong
New Zealand

South Africa
Sri Lanka

Vacancies Centre
List a vacancy
Check openings worldwide

Add a site or link to AO
Add a site to AO
Link to AO

About Anglicans Online
Back issues
About our logo
Our search engine


Hallo again to all.

We heard it said yesterday that 'Anglicans have a prayer for everything.' We (and the speaker) find this statement to be quite positive, though that may not have been its original intent. We grew up in a Christian tradition that prided itself on the spontaneity of its prayers. This was accompanied by a certain confidence that this 'from the heart-ness' was better than a composed prayer. A collect somehow made worship rote and therefore less authentic. Less faithful.An order for matins from the 1549 BCP (1896 facsimile)

Lest it sound otherwise, this is not to sneer at this more evangelical tradition of worship. Though not necessarily what we have always needed, it has clearly nourished the souls of many faithful Christians. When we first attended a liturgy in the Anglican tradition, however, we were struck by how much faith could be wrapped up in words that were apparently repeated every Sunday. A collect, like a piece of artwork, has as much of its meaning in surrounding circumstances as it does the liturgical season, the scripture readings of the day, or even its own wording. 'Things which had grown old are being made new,' as the oft used collect says.

Faith does not come easily to us in many cases. We currently find ourselves in a place of spiritual aridness—perhaps not a dark night of the soul, nor even a long dark tea-time of the soul—but a time of looking for God and not finding. At least, not finding yet. In the tradition in which we grew up, this was especially hard. This was wrong. If prayer is supposed to be spontaneous and conversational, to well up from emotional experience, to be inspired by God himself, what do we do when there is none of that to be found?

The experience of the Book of Common Prayer, in its many forms, runs counter to this notion. Cranmer’s 1549 preface, indeed, excoriates the diversity of use that existed in England before his reforms:

And where heretofore, there hath been great diversitie in saying and synging in churches within this realme: some folowyng Salsbury use, some Herford use, some the use of Bangor, some of Yorke, and some of Lincolne: Now from hencefurth, all the whole realme shall have but one use. And if any would judge this waye more painfull, because that all thynges must be read upon the boke, whereas before, by the reason of so often repeticion, they could saye many thinges by heart: if those men will waye their labor, with the profite in knowlege, whiche dayely they shal obtein by readyng upon the boke, they will not refuse the payn, in consideracion of the greate profite that shall ensue therof.*

Though this wording came from Cranmer's desire to impose order on English liturgy, it still speaks to us today when we find ourselves reading—or even 'saying by heart'—prayers from the BCP. Especially in those times when our own words run dry, the cadences of worship take over. Rote repetition carries us forward when mere desire does not. It provides 'greate profite' indeed.

Beyond the personal, when our messy Communion argues over theological, social, and political issues, the words shared in the Book of Common Prayer provide an anchor. Sometimes the creedal, not confessional, nature of Anglican thought leaves people both in and outside of our fold unaware that we do indeed have a theology and that it does make firm assertions about God and humankind—assertions to which we assent in our worship. Lex orandi, lex credendi lays forgotten beside the intensity of a pressing question. Yet underneath that lapse of memory about shared prayer, the words we hold in common put a stamp on us each and every time we say them. We turn the ship slowly, sometimes too much so, but turn it we do.

All of these many words to say this: we greatly appreciate the impress of the weekly liturgy in its 'same-yet-different-ness,' and we hope this is also true for our readers, however you feel disposed towards God, or faith, or your own feelings.

And in that spirit of faithful adherence to a goodly use,

See you next week.

Our Signatures

All of us at Anglicans Online

12 November 2017

* Preface to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.

A thin blue line
This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©2017 Society of Archbishop Justus
. Please address all spam to