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Design Matters (21): Book of Common Prayer, built to last


EASTER-DAY, on which the rest depend, is always the First Sunday after the Full Moon, which happens upon, or next after the Twenty first Day of March; and if the Full Moon happens on a Sunday, Easter-day is the Sunday after.

Book of Common Prayer, Oxford University Press Edition, approximately 1898

Leafing through an old (c. 1898) edition of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, I came across this table for calculating the date of Easter… until 2199. The book also contains dates for all the moveable feasts for 46 years after publication.

This edition is about inch thick, fits in the palm of your hand, and in two-hundred pages contains morning and evening prayers, readings for all the major holidays throughout the year, and orders of service for communion, weddings, and other events like

  • Publick Baptism of Infants
  • Baptism of Such as are of Riper Years
  • The Order for the Visitation of the Sick and Communion for the Sick
  • The Order for the Burial of the Dead
  • Thanksgiving Of Women After Childbirth, Commonly Called The Churching of Women
  • Prayers at Sea

And all of the Psalms.

And more than 600 hymns.

I can’t really comment on what it would be like to run a church by this book alone, but I think you could. Whether it’s an act of overbearing centralisation (“this is how worship must be done”) or empowerment (“take this book and come back in 2199”) is up for debate, but it’s an impressive package – doubly so if you consider that the main text of the book was written in 1662.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...