The end of the school year for two different schools has happened for me. That’s been rough, but we’re through it now…
Here’s a quick update on where the Prayer Book Studies digitization project goes. I have now finished Prayer Book Studies volumes I through XV. (Well, almost—there’s still a bit to do on XII, but I’m ignoring that for now.)
This is an important point to stop and make on observation on this collection.
Looking back, it’s clear that PBS I-XIV form a fairly coherent theological and liturgical unit. This body of material goes through all of the main rites and sections of the prayer book and reflects work done since the 1940’s but published in the span between 1950 (with PBS I) and 1959 (with PBS XIV) following the authorization of the series at General Convention in 1949. One of the clear signals of the coherence is that every single one of these volumes begins with an identical preface laying out the premise of the work. Furthermore, that preface makes clear that the work incorporated here did not begin in the 1940’s but, rather, consists on unresolved work and discussions that began in the 19-teens and that did not fully make it into the 1928 BCP:
The last revision of our Prayer Book was brought to a rather abrupt conclusion in 1928. Consideration of it had preoccupied the time of General Convention ever since 1913. Everyone was weary of the long and ponderous legislative process, and desired to make the new Prayer Book available as soon as possible for the use of the Church.
But the work of revision, which sometimes has seemed difficult to start, in this case proved hard to stop. The years of debate had aroused widespread interest in the whole subject: and the mind of the Church was more receptive of suggestions for revision when the work was brought to an end than when it began. Moreover, the revision was actually closed to new action in 1925, in order that it might receive final adoption in 1928: so that it was not possible to give due consideration to a number of very desirable features in the English and Scottish revisions, which appeared simultaneously with our own. It was further realized that there were some rough edges in what had been done, as well as an unsatisfied demand for still further alterations.
The materials we find in PBS I-XIV center around the work of three men, the liturgy professors of the central Episcopal seminaries of the day: Bayard Jones, Morton Stone, and Massey Shepherd, Jr. While Jones died in 1957, the work he had done in the decades prior was still fully incorporated up through PBS XIV.
The overwhelming impression that I get while I go through these documents is of a committee, anchored by these three, that does its work in a careful and thorough fashion. A great deal of thought, discussion, and argument has gone into this work. There are references to earlier liturgical tomes—often those written by one or more of the three—as well as great attention to the sources of antiquity, with a tremendous amount of weight placed on the Apostolic Constitutions (as one might expect in this period of liturgical history).
Nowhere does this stand out more than in the two heftiest and most involved volumes of the collection, PBS IV (On the Eucharist) and PBS IX (On the Calendar). Both of these studies involve searching looks at the past, and an extremely careful survey of the current situation in the Anglican family. I see frequent off-handed and usually silent references to the great minds of the English revision efforts just after the turn of the 20th century. Indeed, it is impossible to read the volume on the Calendar without feeling the tremendous influence of Walter H. Frere’s writing.
The work is careful, thorough, fairly conservative, and completely in touch with sources. I believe I’ve remarked on this before on this blog, but it is worth repeating again: virtually all of the sanctoral collects in PBS XII (Propers for Minor Holy Days) are based on pre-existing collects that have been adapted, tweaked, and modified to be appropriate. Nobody is making stuff up off the top of their heads. Furthermore, this judicious source-based approach was taken up after a test and failure of a “biographical collect” trial run. [As should be well-known to students of our Calendar, this approach and body of work was complete scrapped in 1980 with the triumphal (?) return of the “biographical collect”…]
Furthermore, after PBS XIV we see a shift in the contents of the series. PBS XV is not, actually—despite the name—a volume of study on the prayer book. Instead, coming in 1961 in anticipation of that year’s General Convention, it is a plea. Having established that prayer book revision has been at work in many of the other churches of the Anglican Communion, it has proceeded in those places on the principle of “trial use”: testing stuff out rather than legislative line-editing. Shepherd writes:
For the past three General Conventions (1952, 1955, and 1958) the Standing Liturgical Commission has offered with its report to the Convention a resolution seeking an amendment to Article X of the Constitution that would set up the possibility of trial use in any forthcoming revision of the Prayer Book. This resolution has been defeated in all three Conventions.
The volume is, essentially, a direct appeal to the broad body of General Convention, especially the House of Deputies, for passing a measure that would make trial use possible.
After the publication of PBS XV (which came out 3 years after PBS XIV), PBS XVI would not be published until two years later (1963) and PBS XVII does not appear until 1967. Beginning with these two publications and continuing through the rest, two things happen with the Prayer Book Studies series as a whole. First, the PBS publications begin reworking earlier material (PBS XVI is a re-working of the Calendar material; PBS XVII is a reworking of the Eucharistic material from PBS IV). Second, the studies begin engaging with changes coming from the Roman Catholic world. While the earlier volumes showed influence from the Ecumenical Movement , the great sea-change had not yet occurred. As you’ll note from the date span (1950-1959), this early body of work occurs before the single biggest bombshell of twentieth century liturgics: the reforms of Vatican II.
There is a definite shift in character between the First Series—those denoted with Roman numerals, comprising PBS I-XVII—and the Second Series—those denoted with Arabic numerals, comprising 18-29. I’ll say more about that as I get into them. However, I did want to note this moment, this turn, with a simple observation.
One way to think about the movement we see in the Prayer Book Studies volumes is that this First Series represents a view of prayer book revision that seeks to complete work left undone in the 1928 revision. Although it draws in ecumenical sources and is influenced by the Ecumenical Movement and work by Roman Catholic scholars, it comes from a profoundly and intentionally Anglican perspective.
And I think that’s where I’ll leave it for now: Prayer Book Studies volumes I through XIV represent an Anglican extension of revisions not yet completed for the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.