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1st November 2019

An American university lecturer currently studying at the University of St Andrews in
Scotland, is the first to be awarded the brand new scholarship announced by the Prayer
Book Society in August.

The John Cosin Scholarship for postgraduate research has been awarded to Drew Keane
(32), a lecturer in English at Georgia Southern University which has campuses in
Statesboro, Savannah and Hinesville in the south-eastern US state of Georgia.
Currently he is studying for three years at St Andrews to achieve a Doctor of Philosophy
degree (Ph D) before returning to the USA.

Drew, who is active in the Episcopal Church, says that the working title for his thesis is An
Examination of the Book of Common Prayer as Technical Writing for an Oral-Aural Culture.
(‘Oral’ in this context means spoken and ‘aural’ means related to listening.)

Drew says that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries few people could read: he is
investigating the way in which the Prayer Book was designed to be spoken aloud, and how
its memorable character enabled people to participate in the liturgy.

The bulk of Drew’s research for evidence of user experience of the Prayer Book will involve
close examination of the text of the editions produced in 1549, 1552, 1559 and 1604. He will
explore the writings of those who used the book and will visit some of Britain’s historic
churches to consider possible interactions between ‘performance space’ and text.

‘The printed text of the Book of Common Prayer was designed not for silent reading but to
facilitate rituals that prioritise words which are spoken and heard,’ he said.
‘This oral priority reflects the extent to which early modern England remained an oral culture,
a priority magnified by the Protestant emphasis on the spoken word and St Paul’s idea that
“faith comes by hearing.”’

Drew believes that, if he is correct that the oral features of the Prayer Book’s language are a
positive aid to its usability – particularly in the way in which the text is easily remembered –
that is not just of historical interest but also of contemporary relevance.

He said: ‘The aim of liturgy today is still the formation and reformation of belief and
behaviour. It aims to shape the life of the worshipper outside of the ritual. The patterns of
oral communication developed precisely to facilitate that sort of thing – namely
communication which could be recalled and acted upon after the activities of speaking and
hearing have ended and without recourse to a written record.

‘This means that many of the qualities of the language of the Prayer Book which are most
beautiful – triadic constructions like “full, perfect and sufficient” for example – are also
incredibly useful. It suggests that more recent liturgies which tend to avoid those features
may not, in this sense, be an improvement.’

Drew was selected for the scholarship by a panel of PBS trustees led by the society’s deputy
chairman David Richardson.

He said: ‘Our new scholar will be expected to participate in the work of the PBS on at least
one occasion, typically by speaking at a society event or writing a paper for its periodic
review, Faith & Worship.’

Valued at £2,000 per annum, the scholarship may be renewed for a second and third year to
total £6,000 subject to annual reports from the scholar’s academic supervisor.

The PBS established the scholarship scheme in a bid to increase academic research
relating to the Prayer Book compiled by Thomas Cranmer, a leader of the Reformation and
Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I.

The John Cosin Scholarship is named after a seventeenth century English churchman who
played a leading role in the revision of the Prayer Book in 1662. Born 38 years after
Cranmer’s death, Cosin held the post of Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University before
becoming Bishop of Durham from 1660 to 1672.

The PBS says that the scholarship might be offered again in subsequent years as the
society’s funds permit.

Pictured is Drew Keane (32) to whom the John Cosin Scholarship for postgraduate research
has been awarded by the Prayer Book Society

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