If for the last month or so you’ve felt like we’ve had one big Sunday after the next, then you’re not alone. It seems like every week there’s something new to look forward to, and this Sunday is no exception. This week, we are celebrating the return of our regular Sunday Adult Formation classes between the services. Last weekend, we had a wonderful presentation from Brad Neary on our Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible. The youth joined the adults in a packed Roper Hall to learn about this wonderful gift to our parish. But this Sunday, we return to our normal routine, with a variety of classes for adults to choose from.
If you’re a parent or grandparent and you’re raising children in your home, you might want to join the Figs with Kids group and read through Brené Brown’s acclaimed book, The Gifts of Imperfection. If you are looking to learn more about Holy Scripture, you might take Pastor Nancy’s class, Reading the Bible through a Non-Violence Lens, and learn about methods of reading the more difficult passages of scripture in a way that still reveals a God of love and mercy.
The other option for the fall is my class on The Book of Common Prayer. When the clergy were brainstorming possible classes for this year, we remembered that several people have asked about a class on the prayerbook, and I was quick to jump on it.
The Book of Common Prayer has been a mainstay for my entire life. To some of you, it’s still the “new” prayerbook. But having been born in 1985, the current edition is the only one that I have really known. (Does that make the BCP a millennial? Maybe…)
When I was very little, it wasn’t much more than a hard surface to bear down on while I doodled on service leaflets. But my relationship with the prayerbook changed in 1999 when I was confirmed. To be honest, it wasn’t confirmation class that endeared me to the book. 20-something years later, I don’t remember much about my confirmation or the class, except for getting slapped by Bishop Henry Louttit. (It wasn’t a hard slap, but letting that practice go by the wayside has been a good idea.)
The thing I carry with me from my confirmation is something that I *actually carry with me* much of the time: it’s my BCP/Hymnal combo. It was a confirmation present from my parents and is my most prized possession. I know where it is at all times and I take special care of it. It has no rips, tears, or dog-eared pages.
I have several prayerbooks and each one has a story. There’s the one that Fr. Fred Barber signed for me when I rolled off the vestry at Transfiguration. I used it to officiate my first wedding. There’s another one that I keep in my drawer in the sacristy that I was awarded while I was in seminary. I use it almost every time I preside at a weekday Eucharist. I have a very old pew copy that is stamped with “All Saints’ Episcopal Cathedral, Fort Worth, Texas” from back when All Saints’ was the cathedral of the diocese; it has seen a lot of use.
But my confirmation BCP is my favorite: I know it like the back of my hand. I know that the black ribbon is a little longer than the other five. I know that the purple one is always stuck somewhere in the Psalter. I know that there are spots where the gold has disappeared from the edges of the pages from where I carried it through a rain shower.
It has notes from previous services penciled in throughout it. For instance, when I chanted the Litany for Ordinations at Mthr. Jordan Haynie Ware’s ordination to the diaconate, I have written “Virgin Mary, St. Brigid, St. Thomas, St. Martin, St. Macrina, and all the saints” in the margin because she wanted them remembered in the final petition.
My confirmation Book of Common Prayer is irreplaceable to me, and not just because the paper in the newer BCP/Hymnal combos is thicker than it used to be. Yes, I know that the lectionary in the back is out of date, but that doesn’t matter.
I’m aware of the fact that saying that my Book of Common Prayer/Hymnal 1982 Combo is my most prized possession might be the most obnoxiously Episcopal thing ever uttered. (Guilty as charged.) But it’s true. I’m not saying that your most prized possession needs to be a BCP. But I am saying that if you do not own a copy of the 1979 edition of The Book of Common Prayer, then you need to purchase one. (I don’t think I’ve ever given parishioners an imperative to purchase anything before, so you know I mean it.)
If you don’t have one: buy one. Use it. Pray with it. Keep it on your nightstand or your kitchen table. (Hint: If you sign-up for The Way, we’ll just give you one for free.) The Book of Common Prayer is key to our Anglican identity and it’s meant to be used at home as much as at church. Go buy yourself a BCP; Carolyn in the bookstore would be happy to sell you one.
Buy yourself a prayerbook and start making your own story with it. Get to know it, use it, and it will make a difference in your life. I promise.