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This year, I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

Percy Dearmer: how several prayer books became one liturgical book

Percy Dearmer on Reformation, royalty and the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer: first Anglican Prayer Book ‘too fair-minded’ for a violent era

Percy Dearmer on the effect of Edward VI’s reign on the Church of England

Percy Dearmer on the Second Prayer Book’s Calvinistic bent

Percy Dearmer on the Third Prayer Book and Elizabeth I

Percy Dearmer blamed Calvinists for sucking the life-blood out of Anglicanism

Percy Dearmer on the Fourth Prayer Book and the King James Version of the Bible

Percy Dearmer on historical background to the Fifth Prayer Book, 1662

Percy Dearmer on the Savoy Conference for the Fifth Prayer Book

The clergymen who participated in the 1661 Savoy Conference produced a revised — Fifth — Prayer Book that was first issued on May 19, 1662.

Today it is referred to as the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It is still in use.

Chapter 11 of Dearmer’s book describes a remarkable volume considering that the Savoy Conference was half-Anglican and half-Puritan.

The preface, which Robert Sanderson, the Bishop of Lincoln, wrote was comprehensive. It laid out the history of the previous Prayer Books and made it clear that all attempts were made to revise liturgies and a set of services to satisfy, in Sanderson’s words:

all sober, peaceable, and truly conscientious sons of the Church of England.

Dearmer tells us that 600 alterations were made to produce the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. He summarises them this way:

The changes described in this Preface are — 1. (DIRECTIONS) for the better direction of the officiant, 2. (VERBAL) the alteration of obsolete phrases, 3. (SCRIPTURE) the use of the Authorized Version, especially for the Epistles and Gospels, 4. (ADDITIONS) some new prayers and thanksgivings, especially for use at Sea and an order for the Baptism of Adults.

Directions needed to be given to avoid the disputes of the past, especially with the Puritans. A hymn was authorised for Mattins and Evensong, or Morning and Evening Prayer, respectively.

Dearmer tells us that the Consecration of the bread and wine for Holy Communion was made clearer and returned to Church tradition from antiquity rather than embrace a more Calvinist construct:

The rubric before the Consecration (“When the Priest, standing before the Table, hath so ordered,” etc.) was added, and also the direction for the Fraction and other Manual Acts, heretofore left to tradition. The very questionable rubric providing for a second consecration by the mere repetition of the Words of Institution was reinserted. The two rubrics were added ordering that what remains of the Sacrament after the Communion shall be covered with a linen veil, and afterwards reverently consumed.

The Black Rubric about divine Presence in Holy Communion was re-added and revised:

with the crucial alteration of “real and essential presence” to “corporal presence.”

Other ceremonies were clarified. Directions for the publishing of wedding banns were included. The Visitation of the Sick no longer mandated confession. Dearmer explains:

The words “Here shall the sick person be moved to make a special Confession of his sins, if,” etc., were substituted for “Here shall the sick person make a special confession, if,” etc.; and the words “if he humbly and heartily desire it ” were added.

Certain words, more Anglican in nature, returned or were added to the Prayer Book:

The more important were: In Divine Service and in the Liturgy, “priest” was substituted for “minister at the Absolution. In … the Intercessions, “Bishops, pastors, and ministers” was altered to “Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.” In several places the word “congregation” was changed to “church.” “Forsake” was well changed to “renounce” in the Baptismal Vow.

The Epistles and Gospels were taken from the 1611 King James Version but the Psalter remained in the words from the 1540 Bible, because the old wording of the Psalms was very popular with churchgoers.

Psalm numbers were altered for certain ceremonies.

More hymns were authorised for Easter Day, and the Gloria was re-added.

A ceremony for baptising adults was added in response to increasing requests in English parishes and for missionary efforts in the colonies.

Prayers to be used at sea were added.

Two state services were added. The Accession Service (for the incoming monarch) was already there, but services for King Charles the Martyr and the Restoration were inserted. These were not taken out until 1854, with the Accession Service the only state service remaining.

Dearmer thought that the two state services were too political and ended up alienating some churchgoers, thereby causing a decline in membership in the Church of England:

They are … full of political opinion, their loyalty is expressed in extravagant terms, and they confide to Almighty God their denunciations of “violent and bloodthirsty men,” bloody enemies,” “sons of Belial, as on this day, to imbrue their hands in the blood of thine Anointed,” “the unnatural Rebellion, Usurpation, and Tyranny of ungodly and cruel men” — using for preference four words where one would have been too much.

This is magnificent, but it is not peace. Now, when we remember that these State Services (with additions in subsequent reigns) were cheerfully used throughout the country for nearly two centuries, we can understand the accompanying decline in the English Church. The Church of a party could not be the Church of a people; nor could a Church, which did nothing to supply in her Services the growing needs of succeeding ages, fail as time went on to alienate large sections of religious men.

He also thought that, over the next two centuries, the public increasingly viewed the Church of England as an exclusive, establishment organisation. The Prayer Book, in his estimation, no longer served the needs of some people, who came to see the prayers as dry and outdated:

the poverty of our Visitation of the Sick has driven many thousands into faith-healing sects, and the inadequacy of The Burial Service has caused others to seek comfort in Spiritism.

Quite possibly. However, Dearmer does not address the fact that since the 17th century, mankind has gradually become given to emotion rather than logic. Consider the revival movements of the 18th century which used sensationalism rather than rationality to get theological points across. We now have no end of tiny Holiness churches which emphasise individual ‘experiences’ and ‘testimony’ over Jesus Christ and Holy Scripture. People don’t go for the Bible, they go for the show.

Dearmer concludes Chapter 11 by expressing his wish for a new Prayer Book. I wonder, had he been alive today, what he would think of The Alternative Service Book (1984) and its successor Common Worship (2000). The latter is an improvement over the former but is mind boggling with so many different collects and versions of various prayers. One wonders if all that is necessary.

Then again, my next door neighbour finds the most modern, pared-down liturgy irrelevant to her needs: ‘Why have liturgy at all?’ It looks as if we are approaching that point, complete with ‘healing services’ every few weeks. The more relevant the Church of England becomes in response to people like my next-door neighbour, the fewer the number of people attending Sunday services.

In fact, any Anglican clergyman that offers a 1662 service finds his church nearly full.

Yes, the 1662 service is still the only one that continues to draw crowds in the 21st century. It’s a pity more Anglican priests don’t understand that simple premise.

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