AT A TIME of “acute disorientation” and “doctrinal fragmentation” in the Church of England, the Book of Common Prayer has never been more needed than now, members and supporters of the Prayer Book Society (PBS) heard at the weekend.
More than 600 people gathered in St Margaret’s, Westminster, on Saturday to celebrate 51 years since the society’s foundation. Plans to mark the golden anniversary a year ago were cancelled, owing to national rail strikes.
A special service of holy communion was celebrated by the Ecclesiastical Patron of PBS, Lord Chartres. In his sermon, he said that the society was living through “an epoque-making cultural transformation”.
“We are swimming against a dominant cultural tide,” he said, “one which I believe will bring further social disintegration. We have always been guerrillas, engaged in resistance to passing fashions. Over the past 50 years, our Society has played a large part in ensuring that the Book of Common Prayer has not been consigned to the lumber room of history.
“Our task over the next 50 years is even harder. It is so to pray and use the Common Prayer that the Holy Spirit may dwell in us richly, to bring the waters of life out of the flinty rock and irrigate the thirsty land.”
Members and supporters were invited to a lunch in Church House, Westminster, after the service, followed by a presentation by the chair, Bradley Smith, of five Kilmister medals to members who had given “outstanding and long-term service” to the PBS.
In his post-lunch address, the Bishop of Oswestry, the Rt Revd Paul Thomas, said: “The PBS is living its life at the highest pitch in its history.” He praised the society’s “visionary founders”, who, he said, had worked tirelessly to “ensure the Church of England’s historic and normative liturgy was not a display piece in a cabinet of a liturgical museum . . . but that it continued to have a place and play a part in the living, praying life of the Church”.
He continued: “We are aflame . . . for tradition. Tradition makes us a prospective people. We look up, we look on, precisely because we are so deeply rooted in the taproot of tradition.”
Concluding, the Bishop Thomas said that the Prayer Book still had fruits to offer the Church of England. “At a time of acute disorientation in the Church and doctrinal fragmentation . . . never more than now is the Prayer Book needed. It is never more necessary than now to hold up before the sons and daughters of the Church of England the standard of our doctrine. How we need a sure reference point! How we need a return to the repository of orthodox truth which the Prayer Book provides! What we need in this present crisis is a measuring line, not a yo-yo.”