A Quick Guide to The Book of Common Prayer
By Rev. Caroline Osborne
Our services are all drawn from The Book of Common Prayer (or BCP for short), but, for many of us, that is the only interaction we have with it. When you pick up a copy of the BCP, you may notice that there is a lot more there than Sunday Eucharistic services. What all is in it? And is there more that you could use? The answer is yes!
The BCP is divide up into several large sections. First is the introductory material, which includes – among other things – a church calendar of all the most important holy days and commemorations of various saints. After that, there is The Daily Office, a set of prayer services made to be used throughout the day by individuals, families, and churches. The Daily Office is followed by several sections of prayers: The Great Litany (a long, responsive prayer) and The Collects, both traditional and contemporary (prayers to be prayed in services on specific days).
The next part of the BCP is devoted to different services of the Church. For example, “Proper Liturgies for Special Days” is a series of special services for certain holy days, such as Ash Wednesday. Familiar services – like our regular Eucharistic Services, Baptism service, and Funeral services – are found in this part, as well as somewhat less public services, such as Reconciliation of the Penitent (often called “confession”) and Ministrations at the Time of Death (“last rites”). The part of this portion of the BCP is services only a bishop can perform: ordinations, confirmation, etc.
After the various services, the rest of the BCP is made up of an assortment of other resources including the Psalms, various prayers, historical documents, the lectionary, and a guide to finding specific holy days whose dates change, like Easter.
Given that there is so in there, what parts of the BCP might be most helpful for you? To be honest, all of it is filled with beautiful prayers, the accumulated wisdom of years, and insightful spiritual resources. Nevertheless, for those interested in using the BCP more, I highly recommend exploring the various prayers, both in the Collects and in the section of Prayers and Thanksgivings toward the back. And, of course, you are always welcome to join us for Morning and Evening Prayer every weekday on our Facebook page!