‘Benchmark’ Prayer book launched

Judy Adamson

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Common Prayer website

Read ‘Benchmark’ Prayer book launched

After a three-year incubation period with numerous consultations, revisions and feedback from inside and outside the Diocese, the book Common Prayer: Resources for gospel-shaped gatherings was launched this week in the St Andrew’s Cathedral Chapter House.

Bishop Robert Forsyth, who headed the Archbishop of Sydney’s Liturgical Panel that brought the book to fruition, said their hope was that it would help those in the Diocese create services which “authentically reflect the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

“We hope it will be a kind of benchmark,” he said. “A book that will be used in full in many places… but also a guide to those who are going to be creating our [services] – a book that will be on every shelf, even if not in every pew.” 

Archbishop Peter Jensen said he was “delighted” to launch Common Prayer, but also spoke of the privilege and importance of having such a book at a time when new congregations and fellowships needed services that could be contemporary and flexible as well as founded on solid biblical theology.

“One of the dangers we have is that with the frequent laying aside of the liturgical structures, and our previous books… we may find ourselves missioning and fulfilling the Diocesan Mission while at the same time cutting the thread of the theology which undergirds the whole thing,” he said.

“The theology of the Book of Common Prayer, I think, owes a great deal to 1 Corinthians 11:14 where we see principles such as to glorify God in all things, to edify God’s people, to test all things by the word of God and to do all things decently and in order… and I’m glad to say that as I study Common Prayer: Resources for gospel-shaped gatherings those four principles are found there well and truly. For if they were not, we would not be dealing with a direct descendant of the Book of Common Prayer and we would be asking theological questions about it.”

A key member of the Liturgical Panel, the Rev Dr David Peterson, said that while much of the information in the new book would eventually be online, the physical book provided “an easy overview and comparison of the different forms of service [and] is still the easiest and most convenient way to give people a simple, holistic view of what we believe and practice together as Anglican Christians... It’s all there for any Anglican to see, take note of and learn from.”

Dr Peterson said the hope was that the book would not only help ministers in their own public leading of services, but be a “great help in training those who share in the leadership of services. My experience is that mostly people are just asked to do that without being given any training. Once upon a time you had to do the PTC [Preliminary Theological Certificate] to be a lay reader. Now it seems anybody who is enthusiastic can lead a service, and I think that is part of where our problem lies. Ministers have a responsibility to train others in the preparation and conduct of services and we hope that this book will be a resource to help you do that.”

Common Prayer is published by Anglican Press Australia.

(Photo: Bishop Forsyth and Dr Peterson inspect the first print run)