Sunday, June 29, 2014

Traditonal Anglican Small Church Ministry Ideas: Prayer Book Study and Bible Study

Here's another thing that I have implemented at my parish that has gone over pretty well. I'm sure someone else has done it at some point, and that it is not original.

I have found in my ministry that there are two texts that most Anglicans need greater knowledge of: the Scriptures and the Prayer Book.

Most Anglicans that I have encountered are woefully ignorant of the Word of God. While they know more Scripture than they think they do, because they use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which puts the Scriptures into a devotional and liturgical format, they really do not know the Bible as whole, and in a comprehensive manner.

They also do not know the Prayer Book as well as one would think. In my experience they tend to know the Holy Communion service and little else. It is especially hard to get newcomers to learn how to use the Prayer Book and feel confident with it.

So how could I get people to learn the Bible and the Prayer Book better? The answer? Have a Morning Prayer service that is followed by a Bible study on the lections. This has worked very well for us. It gets people using many different parts of the Prayer Book and gives us the opportunity to study the Church Year. And it also gives us a chance to study God's Word in the context of the liturgy of the Church, and it teaches people to use the Prayer Book as a Rule of Life.

The short readings are perfect for a Bible study for people who are new to the Scriptures, though I often cover a few days worth of readings in a class. The lectionary bounces around enough to keep things interesting. And if there is a stretch of the Old Testament that you don't feel like covering one day you can switch and do the Bible study on the New Testament reading.

We also use the KJV for the Morning Prayer service, which familiarizes people with this seminal translation of the Scriptures that we use for the public services of the Church. In particular, we use pew Bibles... everyone is given the same one, so I can tell people, "The first reading is in the book of Numbers, chapter 2, beginning at verse 25... and that is on page 237 in your Bible." By doing this everyone can read along, and they learn how to become familiar with the Bible itself, and no one feels embarrassed if they can't locate the passage on their own.

For the study portion I usually switch to a modern translation. This too is educational, as it helps people see the differences and nuances in the various translations of Scripture.

I have definitely noticed a positive change in our parish by conducting Bible study in this way. The people who attend are altogether more engaged in the church and interested in growing spiritually. If you are looking for a way to teach people the Prayer Book and the Scriptures then why not teach them both at the same time?


  1. Father, I have a question completely unrelated to your post. I am moving to a new area and will begin attending an APA parish. One thing different from my previous continuing church experience is the congregation prays along the Prayer of Humble Access. Is that something that normally occurs in APA parishes?

  2. Thanks for this good question. When I was in seminary the parish I attended - an ACC parish at the time- said that prayer in unison. I noticed the rubric saying that the priest alone should say the prayer and asked why we said it together. The answer given to me was that it was a custom that came to the parish from the Diocese of Maryland. Late in the 70's or something like that the diocese began to allow parishes to say that prayer together. So that was why my parish did. I have no way of knowing if all of that is true, but that was what I was told.

    When I came into the APA they did the same thing, and that is generally the custom in our diocese as I see it. I do it in my parish because it was that way when I found it. And since I took the parish back to the 1928 BCP from the old missal service I figured that was enough of a shock to them. I didn't want to push it in these other areas right away.

    I have to say though, for the record, that I don't like this custom of saying the "Humble Crumble" together. I like the 'dialogue' model of of worship: the priest says X and the congregation says Y. If you follow the rubrics of the 1928 BCP it is really quite beautiful:

    Prayer of Consecration: Priest
    Pater Noster: All
    Prayer of Humble Access: Priest
    Agnus Dei: All
    Prayer of Thanksgiving: Priest
    Gloria in Excelsis: All
    Blessing: Priest

    I like that 'dialogue' model. It is very profound in my opinion. Thanks again for your question, and may God bless and keep you!

  3. When using a modern translation, which one do you use?