Thursday, May 4, 2023

A manual of spiritual disipline

Alan Jacobs referred today to this interesting post by a Church of England vicar:
The Book of Common Prayer is enjoying a revival in the Church of England, despite the best efforts of some modernists to mothball it. Over the past two years, more and more churchgoers have asked me about a return to Thomas Cranmer’s exquisite language, essentially unaltered since 1662, for church services and private devotions. Other vicars tell me they have had a similar increase in interest. ....

What’s interesting is that the C of E’s Book of Common Prayer revival is overwhelmingly led by millennials. What the 1960s ecclesiastical revolutionaries wrote off, a younger generation is embracing. Brandon LeTourneau, 27, a convert from Judaism and soon to be ordained ministry intern, is hardly a young fogey. He wears Dr Martens and is covered in tattoos. He jokes that from what he can see no one under 40 is joining a church that doesn’t focus on tradition and rigour. ‘Why should I bother with a church that doesn’t challenge me spiritually or a liturgy that doesn’t demand more of me?’ Though he started his Christian life being baptised in a Californian megachurch swimming pool, he found himself longing for something more exacting. ....

It would be a mistake to misinterpret renewed interest in the Prayer Book as a purely aesthetic enterprise, a sort of religious Classic FM. What is clear is that the appeal is not just about Shakespearean language, beautiful though it evidently is. The Prayer Book is theology at its best. It is a manual of spiritual discipline that is as far removed from modern, cringe-inducing ‘wellness’ gobbledygook as can be. Its uncompromising opening, ‘We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts’, is a brick through the window to many facets of modern living including narcissism, egotism and the crocodile tears of identity politics. ....
I have a few editions of The Book of Common Prayer. One of the most interesting, the one I've gone to most often recently, is The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition published by InterVarsity Press ($24.49 at Amazon).

Daniel French, "Why millennial men are turning to the Book of Common Prayer," The Spectator, May 2, 2023.

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