A Short History of Morning Prayer
When the English Reformation took place and a Prayer Book was penned to standardize worship, the daily offices (services) that had been said or sung in the monasteries were condensed from seven services to two (Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer). It was the intent that these offices be recited daily in local parishes. As the reformation played out in England (and since throughout the Anglican Communion) there have been alternating and sometimes competing sentiments between a strong anti-Catholicism and a more favorable incorporation of Catholic elements, with all manner of variation between.
In England, and subsequently America, the sentiment leaning more toward our Protestant heritage de-emphasized the importance of weekly communion. The Reformation clearly believed that communion was a remembrance of the Last Supper, but was in no way a re-enactment nor was it seen to have the power or meaning ascribed to it by Roman Catholics. As such, the office of Morning Prayer became the standard worship service on Sunday morning, with Communion being celebrated less frequently (in some places only 4 times per year). Many of those who were raised in the Episcopal Church remember that Communion was celebrated only once a month, with Morning Prayer being the usual service.
By the time the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) was adopted, the sentiment throughout most of the Episcopal Church had changed and the great majority of churches were now celebrating communion each and every week and Morning and Evening Prayer were said, if at all, on weekdays. The 1979 BCP made this practice the officially authorized practice for the Episcopal Church. The first words in the Prayer Book, following the table of contents and the ratification and preface of the 1789 BCP, is under the title "Concerning the Service of the Church" and reads, "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" (BCP, page 13). The phrase "the principal act of worship on the Lord's Day" was Intentional, clear and is echoed throughout the 1979 BCP. It was the intention of the Episcopal Church, through its governing structures, that the Eucharist, or Communion, be the primary service on Sunday.
In some churches with a stronger sentiment toward our Protestant heritage (often called "Low" churches) this practice was not implemented or was done so with great difficulty. St. Paul's falls into this "Low-church" tradition. This does not mean that we are informal, sloppy or commoners (far from it!) -- it simply means that we tend to emphasize the Protestant elements of the Anglican tradition, rather than the Catholic elements. So the practice of having Morning Prayer at our larger worship service on Sunday morning has persisted in this parish. Some of our members feel that we have lost the glory of Morning Prayer as they remember it. They wish we had Morning Prayer more often -- some wishing we could go back to the practice of having Communion only once per month. For others of us, particularly those who are younger, those who grew up outside of the Episcopal Church, or those who have come from other Episcopal Churches, the service of Morning Prayer, particularly as we use the traditional language version (Rite I), seems strange, jarring and very uncomfortable. Thus the struggles that occupied our Anglican ancestors continue to be played out at St. Paul's and we continue to discern which combination of Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist at our 10:00 a.m. service is beneficial to us as a community of faith.
During this program year (from September to June) we will use Morning Prayer on ten Sundays at our 10:00 a.m. service. In general, Morning Prayer is offered on the 4th Sunday of the month, but there are exceptions. As always, I welcome your comments.
Morning Prayer at 10:00 a.m. Service on the following Sundays:
September 27, 2012 February 17, 2013
October 28, 2012 March 17, 2011
November 25, 2012 April 28, 2013
December 23, 2012 May 12, 2013
January, 27 2013 June 23, 2013