Above: The Title Page of a 1942 Reprint of The Book of Common Worship (Revised)
This post follows these:
Reading them first will improve one’s comprehension of this one.
U.S. Presbyterian worship was changing in the late 1800s and early 1900s–not uniformally, to be sure. Yet more church architecture was formal, choirs were more common, music was more formal in many congregations, and opportunities for congregational participation in worship were more numerous via responsive readings and recitations of the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.
The Apostles’ Creed proved difficult (at least officially) for U.S. Presbyterianism for a long time. Did the Bible grant permission to recite it? Did that matter? Many people, advocates of Jure Divino, claimed that the answers were “no” and “yes” respectively. The 1906 Book of Common Worship followed an extant resolution of the 1892 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA) permitting
He continued in the state of the dead and under the power of death, until the third day.
in lieu of
He descended into Hell.
Our Lord and Savior’s descent into Hell remained an official PCUSA hot potato in 1932, when The Book of Common Worship (Revised) permitted a different substitution:
He continued in the state of the dead until the third day.
(Lord Jesus, save me from your followers!)
With The Book of Common Worship (1946), however, there is ceased to be any such substitution. Jesus descended in to Hell. That was it.
The saga of the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship is somewhat like that of Dune–far from over.
The Book of Common Worship (Revised) was the final labor of Dr. Henry Van Dyke, who had edited the preceding volume, that of 1906. That book had become dated by 1928, so the PCUSA General Assembly that year appointed a committee, consisting partially of 1906 BCW committee members, to undertake the revision effort. Committee membership changed from 1928 to 1931, for some people died. Dr. Louis Fitzgerald Benson, for example, departed this life in 1930. The 1931 PCUSA General Assembly approved the revised book unanimously then applauded it.
A careful reading of the Preface to the 1906 BCW and that of the 1932 BCW(R) reveals a less defensive tone the second time around. The 1906 Preface is four pages long and full of push-back against allegations of uniform ritual and of ritualism. In contrast, the 1932 Preface is two pages long and contains less strenuous reminders of early Reformed liturgies and of the voluntary nature of the new volume, just in case anyone missed
For Voluntary Use
in boldface on the title page.
The 1932 BCW(R) is an expansion of its 1906 predecessor. The Table of Contents of the revised book organizes the rites and prayers into categories:
- Public Worship;
- The Sacraments;
- Holy Rites;
- Church Ordinances;
- The Treasury of Prayers;
- The Psalter and Other Responsive Readings; and
- Ancient Hymns and Canticles.
In the Appendix one finds the following:
- A Lectionary of the Holy Scriptures, and
- A List of Sources.
Some of the rites from the 1906 BCW are relabeled. Others appear for the first time in the BCW(R).
In the Public Worship section one finds the following:
- Morning Service on the Lord’s Day;
- Evening Service on the Lord’s Day;
- General Prayers and Litanies;
- A Brief Order of Worship;
- The Commandments; and
- The Beatitudes.
The orders of worship continue to place the sermon at the center of Presbyterian worship, unfortunately.
The Sacraments section contains the following:
- The Baptism of Infants;
- The Baptism of Adults;
- The Communion of the Lord’s Supper;
- A Brief Order for the Communion;
- Reception to the Lord’s Supper; and
- The Reception of Communicants.
The Holy Rites are:
- The Marriage Service, and
- The Funeral Service.
The Church Ordinances are:
- The Licensing of Candidates;
- The Ordination of Ministers;
- The Installation of a Pastor;
- The Ordination of Elders;
- The Installation of Elders;
- The Ordination of Deacons;
- The Installation of Deacons;
- The Recognition of an Assistant Pastor;
- The Public Recognition of Church Trustees;
- The Setting Apart of a Deaconess;
- The Organization of a Church;
- The Laying of the Corner-Stone of a Church;
- The Dedication of a Church; and
- The Dedication of an Organ.
The Treasury of Prayers has seven parts:
- For Seasons of the Christian Year;
- For Certain Civil Holidays;
- For Special Objects and Times;
- Personal Intercessions;
- Brief Petitions for Grace;
- Ascription of Praise; and
- Family Prayers.
The expanded prayers for the Christian Year cover the following:
- Palm Sunday,
- Good Friday,
- Pentecost and Missions, and
- All Saints.
The Civil Year prayers are for the following:
- New Year’s Day,
- Independence Day, and
- Thanksgiving Day.
The Independence Day prayers are original to the BCW(R). Since I am entering this post on July 3, to include those prayers seems especially appropriate. So here is the first one:
O Thou blessed and only Potentate, who hast granted unto our country freedom, and established sovereignty by the people’s will: we thank Thee for the great men whom Thou hast raised up for our nation, to defend our liberty, preserve our union, and maintain law and order within our borders. Ever give unto the republic wise and fearless leaders and commanders in every time of need. Enlighten and direct the multitudes whom Thou hast ordained in power, that their counsels may be filled with knowledge and equity, and the whole commonwealth be preserved in peace, unity, strength, and honor. Take under Thy governance and protection Thy servants, the President, the Governors of the States, the lawgivers, the judges, and all who are entrusted with authority; so defending them from all evil and enriching them with all needed good, that the people may prosper in freedom beneath an equal law, and our nation magnify Thy name in all the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Here is the second prayer:
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; we humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our nation with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
There is a lectionary of sorts on pages 333-338. It does not assign readings to specific Sundays, however. No, instead it lists suitable passages of scripture for seasons of the Christian Year, the Civil Year, and Special Occasions, such as Times of Rejoicing, Times of Adversity, and International Peace.
The sources of the BCW(R) include the following:
- Henry Van Dyke;
- Louis FitzGerald Benson;
- The Book of Common Worship (1906);
- The Book of Common Prayer (1662);
- The Book of Common Prayer (1928);
- Editions of the Scottish Presbyterian Book of Common Order;
- Charles W. Shields, The Book of Common Prayer as Amended by the Westminster Divines, A.D. 1661 (1864), the first in a line of unofficial and unauthorized U.S. Presbyterian worship books;
- Pre-Reformation liturgies; and
- William E. Orchard (1877-1955), a U.S. Presbyterian minister who converted to Roman Catholicism.
Not only did the 1931 PCUSA General Assembly approve the BCW(R) without controversy, but the mostly Southern Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) approved the volume in time for an advertisement on the second page of the January 1932 issue of Presbyterian Survey magazine. The advertisement noted that the PCUS had approved the BCW(R)
for optional and selective use of our ministers.
The Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932) was a great advance in the line of authorized U.S. Presbyterian worship books. Its DNA, so to speak, reached back to before the Protestant Reformation, although its branch of the family sprung from the work of Charles W. Shields in 1864. A greater stride followed in 1946, with the third Book of Common Worship.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JULY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER
THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS
THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN
THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER