Bristol celebrates 350th anniversary of Book of Common Prayer

A Bristol church is leading celebrations of the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer with a series of events, launched with an inaugural event to mark the Queen’s Accession on Monday 6 February 2012.

The eighteenth-century Christ Church City in Broad Street is one of the few churches which still conducts services using the evocative time-honoured language of both the traditional Book of Common Prayer and The King James Bible.

“The direct and unambiguous words of the 1662 Prayer Book have been familiar to generations of English-speaking people who have used it for worship, baptisms, marriages and funerals,” said the Reverend Richard Hoyal, priest-in-charge at Christ Church City. “It is loved for its theology as much as for its wonderful language.”

“The popularity of our non-stop round-the-clock reading of the King James Bible to mark its 400th anniversary earlier last year has inspired us to celebrate this year’s special date in the history of the Book of Common Prayer.”

The Prayer Book written by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer – who visited the church which stood on the site of Christ Church City in 1534 – contains many phrases which have become familiar parts of everyday speech. Among those in common use are: “til death us do part”; “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest”; “peace in our time” and “ashes to ashes”.

After the Holy Bible, the Book of Common Prayer is the most frequently cited book in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

“The 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer is a wonderful opportunity for Christ Church in the City to remind Bristol of the enduring significance and power of this text and to share their passion and insights more widely,” said Bishop Lee.

“Their programme of events for the year is really creative and should attract a good deal of interest and engagement.”

Events planned in Bristol by Christ Church City this year include:
FEBRUARY: In the year of Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Christ Church’s inaugural event marked the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer with a fully choral celebration of the prayer book’s official Accession Service. The event took place at 6 pm on Monday 6 February, 60 years to the day when Her Majesty became Queen in 1952.

APRIL: St George’s Day (23 April) will provide another opportunity to mark both a significant national occasion and the Prayer Book anniversary year. A fully choral St George’s-tide celebration of the traditional 1662 Book of Common Prayer order for Holy Communion will take place at 11 am the previous day, Sunday 22 April. Among those attending will be representatives of the Royal Society of St George and the Prayer Book Society, among other bodies, and civic figures.

MAY: The Concordia Choir from Birmingham, under its director Richard Cook, will be at Christ Church on Wednesday 9 May to lead an evening Celebration in Words and Music of renowned passages from the Book of Common Prayer. There is much to choose from; over the centuries a huge amount of splendid music has been written for Prayer Book services and individual passages from them.

JUNE: During the afternoon of Saturday 30 June, a re-enactment is planned of the historic procession from Christ Church to St Mary Redcliffe on 2 July 1543, when Cranmer’s original Litany in English was sung for the first time. It is this Litany which forms the basis of the one now found in the Book of Common Prayer. It will involve the choirs of both Christ Church City and St Mary Redcliffe. It will culminate in a celebratory act of worship at St Mary Redcliffe which will be celebrating its patronal festival weekend.

In conjunction with the Prayer Book Society, Christ Church also is keen to promote a major festival anniversary service for the benefit of churches and individuals through the city and the Diocese of Bristol.

Discussions are underway to plan lunchtime or evening lectures with prominent speakers on Prayer Book themes later in the year.

For more details of the events programme contact the Reverend Richard Hoyal on telephone 0117 9706776 or at