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'A far cry from Cranmer's quill': Book of Common Prayer to be brought into the 21st century

by Chantalle Edmunds

Plans have been unveiled by the Prayer Book Society (PBS) to use digital platforms to promote the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

Originally compiled by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, and still used by churches across the country, the new PBS approach aims to make greater use of the rapidly expanding world of digital communications.

PBS says the new formats will be 'a far cry from Cranmer's quill.' 

John Riding from the Prayer Book Society told Premier why the society has decided to focus on a digital future.

"One of the many things which happened as a consequence of lockdown was that an awful lot of the world went online. And something which went online very heavily, of course, was church, because for a time we were forbidden, our churches were still forbidden from singing in worship. So a lot of things that were there every week for Christians simply disappeared. And an awful lot of these things ended up online. And one of the things that we discovered, I confess a little to our surprise, was that the Book of Common Prayer became very, very popular in terms of online streaming. 

"And we found many, many services were being streamed online, we were listing at one time, something in the region of 300 each week on our website. And there will have been many more than that, because of course, we will not have heard of most of them, I suspect. So really, what we're doing is we're responding to the shift of community, from the local community and the church building into the online community. And this is clearly going to be an ongoing trend. So we are making sure that we are there into the future with it."

He added that the project is a large one and will focus on social media at the outset: "In the long term, I would expect there will be all sorts of things like apps and such like. In the short term, our focus is really upon social media, because it was social media, if you like that came to us, people posting about services and about the Book of Common Prayer. That's where our initial focus is going to be. But of course, whenever you start moving into a digital environment, it doesn't come in in bits and pieces. So there is a broader plan, which will involve rebuilding our website and our various other online presences as well. But the kind of initial focus of it is picking up on these many many contacts that we've made via social media over the last year or so."

The Prayer Book Society was founded in 1972 amidst liturgical reform in the Church of England. According to the society, it was feared that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer - despite its continued status as the Church of England's official standard of teaching - would fall into disuse, being replaced by contemporary forms of worship. 

Deeply rooted in the Bible, The Book of Common Prayer is the traditional service book of the Church of England and contains its official teaching.

It was created in 1549 and then revised in 1552 by Thomas Cranmer, it was the handbook of the new English church which had just split from Rome. 

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