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SUSSEX CHURCH EXPERIENCES ‘FRESH GROWTH’ BY REDISCOVERING THE BCP image

SUSSEX CHURCH EXPERIENCES ‘FRESH GROWTH’ BY REDISCOVERING THE BCP

15th July 2020

A West Sussex Anglo-Catholic church with Saxon origins and mentioned in the Domesday
Book is the latest to join the Prayer Book Society as a corporate member after ‘rediscovering
the Book of Common Prayer.’

Surrounded by fields and farmland, the church of St Mary the Virgin, in the parish of
Aldingbourne, Barnham and Eastergate, is located in the village of Barnham, midway
between Chichester and Littlehampton.

Today the PBS has 112 corporate members embracing churches, schools and businesses.
They include St Olav Trust Christian Bookshop in Chichester whose manager, Bradley
Smith, is secretary of the Chichester West Branch of the PBS and a churchwarden at St
Mary the Virgin Church.

‘St Mary’s has rediscovered the BCP in recent years,’ explains Bradley. ‘Our increased use
of the Prayer Book has been an unexpected, yet very fruitful, development which has led to
fresh growth, both numerical and spiritual.’

Catering for all tastes, the church is committed to providing Prayer Book worship alongside
contemporary forms of Eucharistic liturgy. Both have been streamed online during the
coronavirus pandemic.

‘That has encouraged some older worshippers to reconnect with the BCP while younger
ones have experienced it for the first time,’ reports Bradley ‘The feedback from our
congregation and others in the local community has been overwhelming.’

Commenting on St Mary’s decision to become a corporate member of the PBS he added:
‘This signals our absolute commitment to the society’s 2030 Vision.’

The Vision – summarised as ‘people of all ages finding life in Christ through a growing
Prayer Book service in every benefice’ – embraces growth in the size of church
congregations as well as the spiritual growth of those who attend services from the Book of
Common Prayer.

Popular regular Prayer Book services at St Mary’s include 9.30am Holy Communion, Sung
Evensong and Evening Prayer.

‘Typically, monthly attendance at daily Evening Prayer is more than 200 worshippers and the
Sunday congregation includes all ages, ranging from babies and children to retired folk and
everything in between,’ reports Bradley.

St Mary’s wide appeal locally is underlined by the mix of worshippers it attracts, including
those from Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Methodist traditions. Following the closure of Barnham Roman Catholic chapel in 2009, a weekly Catholic Mass is held at St
Mary’s and the two congregations join together for services of Evensong during the year.

The congregation at St Mary’s has embraced PBS membership with enthusiasm, drawing up
a four-point plan of support for the society. Bradley summarises it as:

- Continuing to offer daily BCP worship and promote the Prayer Book as a living text for
both public and private devotion;
- Engaging with diocesan and national events;
- Encouraging children and families to discover the BCP;
- Considering ways in which online streaming and social media can be used to promote
the BCP among a wider future audience.

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