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The Prayer Book Society celebrates 50 years

More than 600 people gathered in Westminster last weekend (7 October) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Prayer Book Society.

A service of Holy Communion was led in St Margaret’s church by the Society’s Ecclesiastical Patron, the Rt Revd and Rt Hon. The Lord Chartres.

Original plans to mark the anniversary in October 2022 had to be cancelled because of a nationwide rail strike.

Gathering a year on in his sermon Bishop Richard told the congregation that they were living in the midst of “an epoque-making cultural transformation”.

“We are swimming against a dominant cultural tide, one which I believe will bring further social disintegration. We have always been guerrillas, engaged in resistance to passing fashions. Over the past fifty years our Society has played a large part in ensuring that the Book of Common Prayer has not been consigned to the lumber room of history. Our task over the next fifty years is even harder. It is so to pray and use the Common Prayer that the Holy Spirit may dwell in us richly, to bring the waters of life out of the flinty rock and irrigate the thirsty land.”

Following the service, members and supporters enjoyed lunch in Church House.

This was followed by the presentation of five Kilmister medals to members of the Society for outstanding and long term service. The presentations were made by the Society’s Chairman Bradley Smith.

In his after-lunch address, the Bishop of Oswestry, the Rt Revd Paul Thomas told his audience that, “the PBS is living its life at the highest pitch in its history.”

He praised ‘the visionary founders” of the Society, who worked tirelessly to “ensure the Church of England’s historic and normative liturgy was not display piece in a cabinet of a liturgical museum … but that it continued to have a place and play a part in the living, praying life of the Church.”

“We are aflame … for tradition,” says Bishop Paul. “Tradition makes us a prospective people. We look up. We look on, precisely because we are so deeply rooted in the taproot of tradition.”

He said he was thrilled to see the imaginative and outward reaching instincts and strategies adopted by the Prayer Book Society in this her 51st year of confidence.

“Branches are being renewed. Invaluable work is being undertaken with Ordinands. New scholars and scholarship are being fostered. The Cranmer Awards have been ‘turbocharged’. And that is to say nothing about how the PBS has so effectively baptised digital media to advance its aims.”

Concluding his address Bishop Paul said that the Book of Common Prayer still has much to offer the Church of England.

“At a time of acute disorientation in the Church and doctrinal fragmentation … never more than now is the Prayer Book needed. It is never more necessary than now to hold up before the sons and daughters of the Church of England, the standard of our doctrine. How we need a sure reference point. How we need a return to the repository of orthodox truth which the Prayer Book provides. What we need in this present crisis is a measuring line, not a yo-yo.”

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