I was a member of the Anglican Church of Canada during my youth and a faithful participant in her worship services. The services and prayers of the Book of Common Prayer presented the gospel message in simple, yet eloquent, words and I found comfort in the familiar liturgy.
As I entered my twenties, I realized that the familiar words and cadences of the liturgy were not enough to bring me into a relationship with God. My theological perspective has shifted since then from Anglicanism to Anabaptism. I appreciate the simplicity of our worship services and the way that ministers and lay brethren speak from the heart.There are a few things in the Book of Common Prayer that I no longer consider sound doctrine.
Despite all this, the gospel is there in the services of the Book of Common Prayer. They may become so familiar that one can repeat them without hearing what one is saying, yet many people have found a genuine saving relationship with God through those words. Many evangelical writers and missionaries have been Anglicans.
The Anglican Church of Canada stopped using the Book of Common Prayer some years ago. That seems to have gone hand in hand with a shifts in their position on abortion and homosexuality. Anglican bishops in Africa and Asia severed their ties with the Anglican Church of Canada and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA over those issues and helped begin a new Anglican movement in North America. This new movement is fervently evangelical and has returned to the use of the Book of Common Prayer.
You may note a certain ambivalence in my sentiments as I write this. I am no longer Anglican, I cannot unequivocally support their doctrines or their worship style, yet I still rejoice in seeing the stirrings of renewed gospel fervour in what appeared a few years ago to be a decayed and moribund body.
The worship services are saturated with passages from the Bible, from a translation that predates the Authorized, or King James, Version. The prayers and other parts of the services are written in much the same style. There may be a slightly archaic ring to the words, yet they are simple and easy to understand – and to remember. There is the other side of learning the words so well that you can say them without engaging the mind – they nevertheless remain embedded in the mind and may surface at times bearing precious truth.
I believe the old English Bibles and the Book of Common Prayer are proof that one does not have to use big words and complicated sentence structures to be eloquent. In fact, the opposite is true, the only way to be truly eloquent is to avoid complicated words and writing styles. Here is one example from the Book of Common Prayer, probably added at a later date, but written in the same style as the rest:
“We thank thee, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to build thy Church in many lands. We praise thee for the light of the Gospel, the labours of thy servants, and the ministrations of thy Church. We also bless they holy Name for those who have lived, and suffered, and died for thy sake; beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may at last attain thy heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”