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2nd September 2019

‘The quick and the dead’ is the way the Book of Common Prayer’s Creed describes
the living and the departed and many of the latter have played valuable roles in
ensuring that the former gain maximum value from the Prayer Book.

That is how David Richardson, deputy chairman of the Prayer Book Society (PBS)
explained the launch of an appeal for legacies to be left to the charity which
encourages rediscovery and use of the majesty and spiritual depth of the Book of
Common Prayer (BCP) at the heart of the Church of England’s worship.

He said: ‘Our aim is to ensure that, thanks to legacy pledges made now, we will have
a source of income in future years to enable us to sustain and increase the activities
which lovers of the BCP value’.

‘In recent years legacies in the wills of Prayer Book enthusiasts have been of
particular benefit to young people, many of whom are discovering it for the first time
and embracing it enthusiastically.

‘They include some of the ordinands – clergy of tomorrow – who have attended the
society’s Old Wine seminars in Oxford and Cambridge. Now a third one in London is

The seminars, which help to develop ordinands’ interest in the practicalities of using
the BCP for church services, take their name from the line in St Luke’s Gospel: No
man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is

Legacy income was used by the PBS to fund the first Old Wine event in 2016. It was
one of the first major initiatives launched by John Service, the society’s then newly
appointed churches and clergy coordinator.

Since then the investment of legacy money in the coordinator’s salary and expenses
has paid off many times over as he continues to strengthen links, activities and
awareness of the Prayer Book among churches, theological colleges and schools

‘The value the PBS attaches to work with ordinands is underlined by the way we give
every new one in the Church of England a free copy of the BCP at the start of his or
her training,’ explains David.

Writing in the latest edition of the PBS members’ magazine, The Prayer Book Today,
he reports: ‘In the past 12 months we have distributed more than 900 copies of the
Prayer Book to men and women being ordained to minister in churches across the

‘That figure is the highest for many years but the generosity of those who have died
leaving money to the PBS has helped to fund this year’s £14,000 bill for distributing
the Prayer Books as well as copies of Paul Thomas’s instructive publication Using
the Book of Common Prayer.’

This beginner's guide is designed for ordinands and readers for whom the BCP
tradition may be alien. It explains the history, theology and liturgical character of the
BCP; shows the place and meaning of ‘common prayer’ within the Anglican tradition,
and offers practical advice on using its principal services.

Generous bequests in wills also have played a key role in enabling the PBS to supply
Prayer Books to churches unable to afford the copies they need.

Recently two donations to the society – a bequest and a lifetime gift – were used to
pay for 250 brand new copies of the Book of Common Prayer in support of a plan by
the Dean of Exeter, the Very Rev Jonathan Greener, to reintroduce use of the Prayer
Book during services in the city’s cathedral.

The society’s work with schools is increasing, too. A £1,200 legacy has helped it to
establish valuable new links in the education field by taking part in the biannual
national conference of the School Chaplains and Leaders Association.

‘So much has been achieved through prudent use of money left to us in wills,’ says
David. ‘If people continue to do so we will be able to build significantly on this initial
success. As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way.’

To find out more about leaving a legacy to the Prayer Book Society or joining as a
member call 0118 984 2582 or email

  • Background to the Prayer Book Society & The Book of Common Prayer
    The Prayer Book Society encourages rediscovery and use of the majesty and
    spiritual depth of the Book of Common Prayer at the heart of the Church of England’s
    The society was founded in 1972 amidst liturgical reform in the Church of England. 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. Created in 1549 and
    then revised in 1552 by Thomas Cranmer (1489 – 1556), it was the handbook of the
    new English church which had just split from Rome.
    Cranmer – a leader of the Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the
    reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I – compiled the Book of Common Prayer
    by drawing extensively on his personal library of 600 printed books and more than 60
    manuscripts. Although further revisions were made in subsequent editions published
    in 1559, 1604 and 1662, the content of the 1662 Prayer Book in use today remains
    significantly as Cranmer wrote it.
    Listed below are some of the words and phrases we use today in everyday conversation and whose origins can be found in the Book of Common Prayer:
  • - land of the living
    - all sorts and conditions of men
    - a tower of strength
    - till death us do part
    - weigh the merits
    - lead a new life
    - all my worldly goods
    - give up for lost
    - at death’s door
    - make haste
    - peace in our time
    - at their wits’ end
    - make much ado
    - due season
    - the upper hand
    - works of darkness
    - babes and sucklings
    - fire and brimstone
    - the beauty of holiness
    - softer than butter
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