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©1999 The Society of Archbishop Justus, Ltd

Hallo again to all. Once again, the Book of Common Prayer (1549 version) comes to the fore, as the official celebrations continue. I happened to read this splendid bit about the 1549 book, written from the point of view of a mythical priest, James Whyte, at the time and if you will indulge me, I should like to share it:

'[In 1549] the whole form of worship to which James was accustomed for nearly fifty years had been swept away. The Latin Mass, which he had been saying daily for twenty-two years, was now made illegal. So were the offices for baptism, marriage, and burial which he had used. There was now no form of service for hearing confessions (except in the Visitation of the Sick), no invocation of saints, no mention of purgatory, no system of indulgences.

James Whyte obtained a copy of "The booke of common prayer and administracion of the Sacramentes, and other rites and Ceremonies of the Churche: after the use of the Church of England" and read it with some dismay. It was published in the month of May, and ordered to be used on Whitsunday, 1 June. There was, therefore, no time for James to prepare his people for the changes which were being forced upon them, for "any manner of person, vicar or other whatsoever minister" who refused to use the new forms on that Whitsunday was punishable by a heavy fine and six months in gaol "without bail or mainprize".

As he read it through, however, he realized that things were not as bad as they might have been. The Mass was, of course like everything else, in English; but the shape of the liturgy had been preserved and James was allowed to wear his customary vestments. He noticed also that there was now much more for the laity to do. In the old Mass they could do very little; but in the new service worship was intended to be much more corporate. And there was far more dialogue between the priest and his people. It was also more edifying, as a sermon had to be preached or a Homily read, at every mass.

So on Whitsunday 1549 James Whyte led his people through the first celebration of the Mass in English. On the whole things went well, even at the administration of the Sacrament when, for the first time in 300 years or so, people were expected to drink from the chalice, though the wafer was still not put into their hands but straight into their mouths. Discussing the matter afterwards with his parishioners, James found most of them confused and apprehensive. They had no proper preparation for so radical a change in the customary worship, and they wondered what would happen next. At the same time, there were some among them who saw the advantages of the new rite and were prepared to see this as a step forward'.

(The Anglican Spiritual Tradition, John R H Moorman, IX Bishop of Ripon, 1983.)

And that same year Anglican priests were allowed to marry! Goodness. We think we late 20th-century folk have had to experience change in our time ...

Now to our time and this web site. This week brings a host of parish sites from round the world, which you can find in our New This Week section. And the News Centre is full of all manner of Anglican news. Brian has been busy reorganizing the server directories that hold Anglicans Online source files but has found time to report all the news that gives fits to printers this week. Well, actually, from time to time our News Centre does give people fits, but we keep reporting the news anyhow. In the light of the quotation above, don't miss the inquiry, reported in the News Centre, about whether or not Thomas Cranmer would have been interested in joining a Prayer Book Society.

See you next week, when Cynthia promises she won't mention the 1549 Prayer Book. Brian makes no such promises.


Cynthia McFarland

Brian Reid

Last updated: 6 June 1999
URL: http://anglican.org/online/