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PRAYER BOOK SOCIETY’S ANNUAL SCHOOLS CONTEST  RETURNS TO WORCESTER image

PRAYER BOOK SOCIETY’S ANNUAL SCHOOLS CONTEST RETURNS TO WORCESTER

17th September 2020

Next year’s national final of the Prayer Book Society’s annual Cranmer Awards Competition
returns to Worcester in 2021 after an absence of two years.

In February this year the event was cancelled due to severe flooding in Worcester. The
previous year the contest was held at Lambeth Palace in London where the awards were
presented by the Prayer Book Society’s patron, HRH The Prince of Wales.

The 2021 finals and award ceremony on Saturday, February 27, will take place at Old
Palace in Deansway, Worcester (Coronavirus restrictions permitting). The 11th century
Grade I Listed palace, the official residence of the Bishop of Worcester until 1842 is, with the
city’s adjacent cathedral, the oldest building in Worcester.

The Cranmer Awards concept is a simple one: pupils aged between 11 and 18 select, learn
and speak from memory prayers and readings from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

Regional heats mean that they compete locally for a place in the national final where the
winners share £1,000 in prize money and receive a certificate with a copy of the Book of
Common Prayer.

Since the first contest 32 years ago the event has grown so much that hundreds of pupils
now enter the regional heats each year.

In Worcester in February the winners will be selected by panels of judges.

For seniors (aged 15 – 18) the chairman of the judges will be Mrs Lesley Cook, a former
chief executive of the English Speaking Board which promotes clear, effective
communication at all levels. She is also a governor of four Worcester schools.

Other judges will be the Rev Mark Daborn, rector of the church of St Mary in Stottesdon,
Shropshire, and the Rev Eric Knowles, chaplain at Little Malvern Priory in Worcestershire.

The chairman of the judges for juniors (aged 11 – 14) will be a former teacher, Mrs Kate
Forrester, who is a graduate of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and an
examiner for the English Speaking Board of which she is a Fellow.

Other judges will be Mrs Alex Daborn, a fellow at the English Speaking Board who is soon to
be licenced as a reader in the Church of England after three years of study, and Mrs Jenny
Cernicharo-Hazan, a Cranmer Awards winner in 2005 who has been a judge at the annual
event since 2012.

The prizes will be presented by the Rev Dr Tess Kuin Lawton, a former schoolteacher who
was ordained in 2007 and appointed as chaplain of Oxford University’s Worcester College
ten years later.

She is enthusiastic about the value of the annual contest organised by the society which
encourages young people to discover the majesty and spiritual depth of the 1662 Book of
Common Prayer. Compiled by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury during the
Reformation, it is still used for services in churches across the country.

Dr Kuin Lawton believes that pupils who take part in the regional heats across the country in
a bid to secure a place in the final will benefit from a deep engagement with the prayers and
scriptures which they are required to speak from memory during the event.

She said: ‘I think that the future of the Book of Common Prayer is, in large part, in the hearts
of these young people. There is a rhythm and beauty to the language which they respond to
and come to love.’

During the award ceremony in Worcester Dr Kuin Lawton is expected to praise the pupils’
hard work and reflect on the way it will affect their future lives.

A former pupil of South Wilts Grammar School for Girls in Salisbury, she believes she was
called to the priesthood and ordination at the age of ten.

‘The music, liturgy, architecture and preaching in Salisbury Cathedral were instrumental,’
she said.

The 2021 Cranmer Awards Final will be the first organised by Joanne Clark, the new
administrator of the contest. She succeeds Merriel Halsall Williams, the head of spoken
English at the Shropshire independent girls’ school Moreton Hall, who has stepped down
from her role as Cranmer Awards administrator after 16 years in the post.

Mrs Clark, who lives in Bristol, can draw on experience gained in administrative posts at St
Andrew’s Church in Churchdown, Gloucestershire and Ashton Park School in Bristol.

Familiar with the Prayer Book from an early age, Mrs Clark said: ‘I was introduced to it at
school and subsequently came to appreciate it in ever greater depth at Christ Church with St
Ewen in central Bristol.

‘I remain attracted by the candour of its prayers and confessions, alongside prayers which
help us through life’s seasons, from birth to death.’

She added that, for her, the special appeal of the Prayer Book is the depth and richness of
its theology and the way it enables her to share in the prayers of preceding generations.
In her new role Mrs Clark is keen to broaden interest in the Cranmer Awards contest which
already attracts hundreds of entrants annually.

‘Traditionally they have been pupils of private sector schools,’ explains the Prayer Book
Society’s chairman, Prudence Dailey, ‘so I hope that Joanne will be able to encourage more
competitors to enter from state schools and parish churches in dioceses across the country.’
Said Mrs Clark: ‘By reading the Prayer Book they will learn how young people have been
taught to worship in England since 1549. The Prayer Book gives them an opportunity to
search for hidden gems of language, poetry and prose among its pages.’

On a personal note she added: ‘It remains my hope that the Prayer Book liturgy may once
again prove to be the traveller’s map and pilot’s compass that unites the Church of England
and that we might read it through, live it out, and pass it on.’

Schools and churches keen to take part in the contest can obtain more details of the
Cranmer Awards – including the dates and locations of regional heats – from the Prayer
Book Society at The Studio, Copyhold Farm, Lady Grove, Goring Heath, Reading RG8
7RT, call 0118 984 2582, email cranmer.pbs@yahoo.com

For updates visit www.pbs.org.uk/cranmerawards.

Pictured is the Rev Dr Tess Kuin Lawton, chaplain of Oxford University’s Worcester College,
who will present the Prayer Book Society’s Cranmer Awards to pupils in the city of
Worcester on February 27

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