We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Opening the Prayer Book

Opening the Prayer Book, Nov 7, 2010
Begin with a prayer, A General Thanksgiving, pg 836.

What do we mean when we say that we are bound by common prayer? Our first prayer book appeared in 1549!

The Book of Common Prayer defines our identity as a church, probably more than any other tradition.


The words are important. It is the book we use the most.

The book has a tremendous influence on our sense of who we are as a church.

Our 1979 prayer book provides a range of options and choices to provide flexibility and freedom to adapt the liturgy to the concerns and situations of local congregations

Examples-Traditional or contemporary language. Texts of prayers to be used. The way the elements of services are structured.

The way the services are celebrated will vary enormously from church to church.

The prayer book’s history is the history of our self-understanding as Anglicans.

The Book of Common Prayer is more than the words inside.

The texts and directions for ordering worship point to a living tradition, a distinct way of being Christian.

As Anglicans, we are defined by the fact that we offer a practice of common worship according to the Book of Common Prayer.

This book provides the forms that outline our practice of the Christian faith.

It is out of our common worship that our understanding of God proceeds and our ethical and moral decision-making take shape.

“Lex orandi, lex credendi” The law of prayer establishes the law of belief. The way we pray shapes what we believe.

Our current prayer book is based on research into the worship of the early church and the implications of that worship on contemporary life.

Most importantly, our prayer book brings us together in a shared life, a common stance toward the mystery of God, a way of believing, a methodology for practicing the Christian faith.

The ancient faith of Christians can continually find new expressionin the lives of living members of Christ’s body.

Reformation -use the language the people can understand.

But the language of worship is not just words—it also includes objects that communicate without words, but with great power. Bread wine, water, oil, touch of a hand.

The Book of Common Prayer is a tool for worship-How do you use the prayer book? The future—

Our spirituality is rooted firmly in the Christian past, and it is at the same time open to God’s future. We are anchored in the classic shape of the church’s liturgical tradition through the Book of Common Prayer.

The Pattern of Prayer

BCP is a contemporary expression of an ancient tradition.

Our traditional pattern of worship is rooted deeply in the Bible itself.

“The members of the church gather to do what scripture itself does; to speak a new word of God’s presence and grace in the word of those who have experienced that present in the past.”

“When we hear thw words of scripture and pray the words of the liturgy, we are placing them alongside the memories, events and hopes of our lives. In this way our worship both recreates us and is recreated by us.” (22)

Worship in the time of Jesus-There were three centers of Jewish worship—the temple, the synagogue, and the home.

Temple was the place of sacrifice, also the place of teaching. The language of the temple and its ritual would provide strong images for Christian worship long after Christians had ceased to observe its rites. (Hebrews and Revelation)

The synagogue was the place of teaching—reading and interpreting the scriptures. Sabbath and holy days. Instruction and initiation of converts took place in the synagogue.

Our patterns of personal, daily prayer also have Jewish roots. The home was the center of personal prayer and the domestic ritual of daitly prayer also had its influence on the development of Christian worship. Prayer took place five times a day, probably privately.

Early Christian liturgies—

 Much material has come to light since 1870.

For instance, the diary of a Spanish nun who visited the holy land around the year 400…”The Pilgrimage of Egeria.” She describes the worship of Christian community in the Holy Land, esp. Easter and Holy Week.

Apology of Justin Martyr, written about 155 to both Jewish and Roman authorities to defend and explain Christian worship (pg 28)

Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome, around the year 215.

The Eucharist—

At the beginning the earliest Eucharistic meals were actual meals. Breaking of bread—symbolized Jesus’ death and resurrection. By the time of Justin Martyr, the eucharist had become separated from a real meal. See page 35

By the 2nd and 3rd centuries, the meal first comes to be called the Eucharist and is identified by the action at its heart– The presentation of gifts, and the giving of thanks.

Daily prayer descended from Jewish practice and was at first the business of the whole church. See page 37. Our daily offices are based on monastic tradition.

So by the end of the 4th century, the pattern of worship had been established, and this is the pattern we find in our prayer book, (page 38)

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