An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Book of Common Prayer, The (BCP)

Official book of worship of the Episcopal Church. The BCP provides liturgical forms, prayers, and instructions so that all members and orders of the Episcopal Church may appropriately share in common worship. Anglican liturgical piety has been rooted in the Prayer Book tradition since the publication of the first English Prayer Book in 1549. The first American BCP was ratified by the first General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1789. It was based on the Proposed Book of 1786, and the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer, as well as the Scottish eucharistic rite of 1764. The BCP is ratified by General Convention, with alterations or additions requiring the approval of two successive General Conventions. The General Convention may also authorize services for trial use. The process of Prayer Book revision led to publication of editions of the BCP for the Episcopal Church in 1789, 1892, 1928, and 1979. The BCP notes that “The Holy Eucharist, the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day and other major Feasts, and Daily Morning and Evening Prayer, as set forth in this Book, are the regular services appointed for public worship in this Church” (p. 13).

The BCP includes the calendar of the church year, and it provides forms for the Daily Office, the Great Litany, the Collects, Proper Liturgies for Special Days, Holy Baptism, the Holy Eucharist, Pastoral Offices, and Episcopal Services. In addition to many forms for corporate worship, the BCP also provides forms for Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families (pp. 136-140). The BCP includes both contemporary language (Rite 2) and traditional language (Rite 1) versions of the forms for Morning and Evening Prayer, the Collects, the Eucharist, and the Burial of the Dead. The BCP also includes the Psalter, or Psalms of David; Prayers and Thanksgivings; An Outline of the Faith, or Catechism; Historical Documents of the Church (including the Articles of Religion); Tables for Finding the Date of Easter and other Holy Days; and lectionaries for the Holy Eucharist and the Daily Office.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.