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New Alexa skill to help say the Office from the Prayer Book

17 September 2020

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer has arrived on Amazon smart speakers

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Alexa, an Amazon smart speaker

Alexa, an Amazon smart speaker

THE 1662 Book of Common Prayer has arrived on Amazon smart speakers, helping users to say morning and evening prayer and to learn more about its history.

On Thursday, Cambridge University Press, which publishes the Prayer Book, announced that Alexa smart speakers would now be programmed with a new “skill” — one of the voice-driven apps — called the Cambridge Prayer Book. The idea is to help people to pray and worship at home during the pandemic.

Users can now ask Alexa to: “Say morning prayer”; “Say evening prayer”; “Pray the Lord’s Prayer”; “Give me the Apostles’ Creed”; and “Recite the Grace”.

The services are read by clergy from St John the Evangelist, Cambridge, close to the publisher’s headquarters. In place of a congregation, responses are said by members of the Cambridge University Press choir. There is also a small selection of Bible readings.

Users can also instruct Alexa to “Tell me more about the history of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer,” or say: “I’d like to learn about Thomas Cranmer”; “I want to know more about Cambridge Bibles”; and “Tell me about Cambridge University Press.”

Cambridge University Press plans to add more content in the future. As the Queen’s Printer, it administers the Crown Copyright of the Prayer Book. Its Bibles team has worked with the Prayer Book Society to develop this smart skill.

The Church of England has its own faith-based resource on Alexa, launched in 2018, which includes questions and prayers (News, 25 May 2018).

The director for Cambridge Bibles, Bob Groser, said: “There are prayer readings available on smart speakers, but we wanted to make available this traditional liturgy. . . It’s a privilege to be in a position to bring the elegant and accessible spirituality of the Prayer Book into people’s homes.

“What began as an effort to make it more widely accessible has taken on a real sense of urgency as the pandemic has closed churches and cut many people off from the support and community they find there. We also hope it will be welcomed by those unable to get to church due to illness or other challenges.”

To access the skill, users can ask their speaker to open or enable the Cambridge Prayer Book.

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