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Writing my own Prayer Book

Australian City Crowd

The Christian Faith is so broad there are areas of tradition within the Faith which have trouble understanding each other. So there is a balancing act to be undertaken when we adopt the traditions of another area of the faith... or of another Faith altogether.

Going off and "inventing" our own tradition is fraught with danger. What appears idiosyncratic can actually be blind to important parts of the tradition which need to be heard and followed to maintain balance and spiritual health. If I go and write my own prayer book, which will play an important part in shaping me, then it is likely that my blind spots about the faith will be reflected in that writing. It is likely that I will unconsciously, but unerringly, avoid areas of the tradition I need to have confront me.

However, a tradition can also be foreign enough to be unhelpful. It may have an emphasis which is not healthy for me, given my personal history. It may ignore areas which are important to the tradition from which I come. Added to this, we may be at a time when important changes in Christian understanding are happening. The place of women within the church and society is a classic example of a huge change in the church of our lifetimes, which is not yet reflected in many of its liturgies (not to mention governance.)

Such was the case for me with the Anglican prayer book with which I began. I needed to leave it and move to something else.

I wrote my own. It has changed a little over time, but due to some lucky decisions has served me well.

I kept to the pattern of the prayer book I first inherited; i.e. An Australian Prayer Book, especially in the liturgical movement. What has worked best has been closest to this traditional pattern. I wrote a midday Office, but rarely use it. Likewise, the set of prayers I wrote as an End of Day Office, have never really been helpful. The Compline Service of the prayer book is better.

What has worked best has been closest the pattern in the traditional book. I took out from the Australian Prayer Book the worst of what offended me and got in my way. I tried to do this in a minimalist way. This means that some items that am not fully comfortable about remain. There is a need for a certain conservatism here. D'Arcy Wood who lectured me in theology used to say of the Orthodox tradition, that rather than hurriedly call someone a heretic, they would wait a century or two and see how their ideas panned out... then decide. So I have only excluded stuff that I have abandoned for a long time.

In the same sort of conservatism, where I have constructed my rota of hymns and readings for the second canticle, I have used "classic" hymns. That is, they have been hymns and readings that have impinged upon me for some time. I do not add hymns lightly or quickly.

I have tried to use economy of language. Part of the beauty of the traditional prayer books has been their economy of language, concise and to the point.

I spent money on a good Filofax binder and parchment grade paper for printing. A good looking book helps. Loose leaf allows for replacing typos, and adding songs.

Andrew Prior

 

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