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From Our Bishops

Archbishop writes to clergy, parishes about Book of Common Prayer

To the Clergy and People of the Diocese of Toronto:

The Church of England has chosen today to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. For the Anglican Church of Canada, 2012 also marks the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Book of Common Prayer (Canada).

One of the most powerful symbols of Anglican unity is the heritage of the Book of Common Prayer. Across the globe, the common familiarity of the Anglican liturgy in its language and pattern binds our Church together throughout the Communion. If you want to know an Anglican understanding of a doctrine, you are more apt to find it in praying the liturgy of the Church than reading an approved theologian or a doctrinal statement. Lex orandi, lex credendi: we pray what we believe, we believe what we pray. The piety expressed through the theology of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer has provided the underpinnings of Anglican expressions of worship worldwide.

With newer rites taking prominence in our parish churches, we are now in our second generation of Anglicans who may not be well acquainted with the Book of Common Prayer. But for the generations that preceded them, the familiar words and phrases of the Book of Common Prayer continue to be a constant in their devotions. As the former Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt. Rev. John Saxbee, has said, “… perhaps of most importance is the fact that the BCP Offices and orders of service remain the only ones I can recite by heart. As and when my sight fails and my mind wanders, these words will still be on my lips and in my heart, and for that I remain ever thankful.”

You will recall a recent article in the Anglican Journal in which the Prayer Book Society of Canada suggested keeping either Monday, September 3 or Sunday, December 2 as a day to observe the anniversary of the Prayer Book. Monday September 3 marks the first recorded celebration of the Eucharist in Canada using the Book of Common Prayer, by the Rev. Robert Wolfall at Frobisher Bay in 1578. Advent Sunday, December 2 is the date in 1962 when the new Canadian Prayer Book was officially adopted for use.

I urge you to celebrate the gift and heritage of our Book of Common Prayer in a manner that is appropriate to your parish.

Yours faithfully,

The Most Rev. Colin R. Johnson
Archbishop of Toronto