Our guest blogger this week is Jerry Campbell who is currently the Director of “Dollars and Sense,” a fundraising consultancy firm providing professional guidance to churches. Jerry recently retired as Vice President for Advancement at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. He now lives in Carlsbad, California, where his wife, the Rev. Laura Sheridan-Campbell is the Vicar of Holy Cross Episcopal Church. He is also a musician (Bachelor of Arts in Music from Arizona State University), and an amateur juggler!
Despite 17 years as an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church, I was in my mid-40’s before I started using the Book of Common Prayer with any regularity. I was not impressed. It seemed stiff, formal and old-fashioned to me. But then it was old – 1979! Surely the church would be producing a more modern version soon. I found it mildly comical that the two versions of the liturgy were characterized as Contemporary (Rite II) and Traditional (Rite I), while my sense was that they were actually Traditional (Rite II) and Antiquated (Rite I).
Seventeen years of using the Prayer Book has helped me develop a greater appreciation for its wisdom regarding liturgical structure, and there are portions that I can say I actually admire. One of those is the Daily Morning Prayer: Rite Two. It contains several elements that I often find lacking in Episcopal worship: elegance, simplicity and brevity. I do not wish to lead anyone into thinking that I’m a regular partaker of Daily Morning Prayer, but I have encountered it frequently enough to have a keen sense of how wonderful it would be to share in a community that started each day in this way.
Daily Morning Prayer does not require any clergy (that alone is enough to commend it!), and a regular practice of Morning Prayer will steep the participants in communal prayer and scripture (with a wonderful emphasis on the Psalter and Canticles) without dragging them to the communion rail every single time. And much to my delight it is devoid of the pomp and ceremony (robes, incense, candles, linen, etc.) that clutter typical Sunday morning worship in the Episcopal Church.
I sometimes feel that I came to the Episcopal Church too late! I’ve learned over the last seventeen years that there was a time when Morning Prayer was the dominant liturgical form in the church. I guess, in my own way, I long for “the good old days.”
It seems to me that the real genius of the Prayer Book is in the way that it gives structure and form to worship without limiting the ways in which creativity and inspiration can imbue the static liturgy with meaning and relevance. While worshipping at Trinity Cathedral in Port au Prince, Haiti, last September, it was a great pleasure to find “meaning” in the shape of the liturgy even though the service itself was conducted entirely in languages I do not understand (French and Creole).
About five years ago I actually bought a Prayer Book of my own, and having it makes me feel more like a “real” Episcopalian, though I doubt that its pages will ever be as worn as the pages of the Bible it lies next to.