Commentator Charles Moore, has written an article for the Daily Telegraph today (4th Oct) praising the work of the Prayer Book Society over the past 50 years.
“It came into being to protect the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) from the neglect and even hostility of the Church authorities,” writes Lord Moore. “For roughly four centuries, Thomas Cranmer’s words, along with the Authorised Version of the Bible, provided the normative language of worship and religious education in England. The BCP therefore occupied the collective imagination of the English people.”
Lord Moore recalls how in 1989 on behalf of the Society he approached the then Prince of Wales (now King) to ask if he would present the inaugural Thomas Cranmer Prize for school children, awarded for the pupil who could best declaim a Prayer Book passage. He kindly and enthusiastically accepted.
“In a speech of almost barnstorming eloquence, in St James Garlickhythe, the Prince declared that: “If English is spoken in Heaven (as the spread of English as a world language makes more likely each year), God undoubtedly employs Cranmer as his speech-writer. The angels of the lesser ministries probably use the language of the New English Bible and the Alternative Service Book for internal memos.”” The Prince became the Society’s active Patron, and presented the awards again in 2019.
Now that he has become King, all his existing patronages are being reviewed. “It would surely be entirely fitting for the new Supreme Governor of the Church of England to retain his commitment,” argues Lord Moore.
Interviewed for the article Bradley Smith, the Society’s current chairman, says that young people are the most numerous new recruits. This began in lockdown, which gave many of them their first chance to engage with the Prayer Book liturgy online. Among young clergy, support is particularly strong. At York Minster, BCP choral Matins is the cathedral’s fastest-growing service.
The Society’s 50th anniversary was to have been celebrated by a service at Westminster Abbey this coming Saturday, but had been postponed until a later date. Lord Moore concludes, “As the Prayer Book puts it, there will be “a happy issue out of all our afflictions”.
Lord Moore's Article can be accessed here to subscribers to the Daily Telegraph's website.