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While many of us are familiar with such famous words as, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here. . ." or "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," we may not know that they originated with The Book of Common Prayer, which first appeared in 1549. Like the words of the King James Bible and Shakespeare, the language of this prayer book has saturated English culture and letters. While many of us are familiar with such famous words as, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here. . ." or "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," we may not know that they originated with The Book of Common Prayer, which first appeared in 1549. Like the words of the King James Bible and Shakespeare, the language of this prayer book has saturated English culture and letters. Here Alan Jacobs tells its story. Jacobs shows how The Book of Common Prayer--from its beginnings as a means of social and political control in the England of Henry VIII to its worldwide presence today--became a venerable work whose cadences express the heart of religious life for many. The book's chief maker, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, created it as the authoritative manual of Christian worship throughout England. But as Jacobs recounts, the book has had a variable and dramatic career in the complicated history of English church politics, and has been the focus of celebrations, protests, and even jail terms. As time passed, new forms of the book were made to suit the many English-speaking nations: first in Scotland, then in the new United States, and eventually wherever the British Empire extended its arm. Over time, Cranmer's book was adapted for different preferences and purposes. Jacobs vividly demonstrates how one book became many--and how it has shaped the devotional lives of men and women across the globe.


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While many of us are familiar with such famous words as, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here. . ." or "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," we may not know that they originated with The Book of Common Prayer, which first appeared in 1549. Like the words of the King James Bible and Shakespeare, the language of this prayer book has saturated English culture and letters. While many of us are familiar with such famous words as, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here. . ." or "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," we may not know that they originated with The Book of Common Prayer, which first appeared in 1549. Like the words of the King James Bible and Shakespeare, the language of this prayer book has saturated English culture and letters. Here Alan Jacobs tells its story. Jacobs shows how The Book of Common Prayer--from its beginnings as a means of social and political control in the England of Henry VIII to its worldwide presence today--became a venerable work whose cadences express the heart of religious life for many. The book's chief maker, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, created it as the authoritative manual of Christian worship throughout England. But as Jacobs recounts, the book has had a variable and dramatic career in the complicated history of English church politics, and has been the focus of celebrations, protests, and even jail terms. As time passed, new forms of the book were made to suit the many English-speaking nations: first in Scotland, then in the new United States, and eventually wherever the British Empire extended its arm. Over time, Cranmer's book was adapted for different preferences and purposes. Jacobs vividly demonstrates how one book became many--and how it has shaped the devotional lives of men and women across the globe.

30 review for The "Book of Common Prayer": A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    James Smith

    Marvelous read and a lovely little book. Jacobs weaves history, theology, and politics in this "life story" of the BCP. Confirmed one of my deepest worries: that I'm an Anglican at heart.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Really good book. I will be reviewing it some time in the future for Books & Culture. Really good book. I will be reviewing it some time in the future for Books & Culture.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mark Jr.

    Once official religious words get firmly established, people get nervous about any changes to them. Understandably. What John Henry Newman called "the temper of innovation," change for change's sake, is disruptive to social harmony. And when Christianity is the official religion of a nation civil peace is therefore tied to it—and people are even more nervous about change. Understandably.   This is precisely what has happened in England over the centuries. A complex of factors—especially the advent Once official religious words get firmly established, people get nervous about any changes to them. Understandably. What John Henry Newman called "the temper of innovation," change for change's sake, is disruptive to social harmony. And when Christianity is the official religion of a nation civil peace is therefore tied to it—and people are even more nervous about change. Understandably.   This is precisely what has happened in England over the centuries. A complex of factors—especially the advent of a firmly Protestant king, Edward VI, followed soon after by the long reign of Queen Elizabeth in the 16th century—managed to establish Thomas Cranmer's 1552 edition of the Book of Common Prayer as the national standard for liturgical language. A later political upheaval, the English Civil War, brought revisions to the prayer book in 1662. But there the text of the prayer book remained. It had managed to find a "via media" among the various sects within Anglicanism (the Anglo-Catholics, the latitudinarians, the evangelicals). Nobody was happy with the prayer book, but at least everybody was equally unhappy. The idea of altering it was just too touchy to be successful. The chance that someone else's party would gain an advantage was too great.   Until 1914, when suddenly there was a pressing need for regular British young men not just to hear the words of the prayer book but to understand them. Why? They were dying by the millions in the trenches of France. Somehow, high-fallutin' language sounded out of place in the muddy trenches of World War I. Church of England chaplains began to complain, because "changes in the English language…had gradually rendered much prayer-book language unfamiliar, along with the language of the King James Bible." (151)   Long-time English professor and evangelical Christian Alan Jacobs explains, however, that there was a problem people in every party in the CofE had with updating the Book of Common Prayer and the KJV: "As daily speech moved further and further from the norms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, these two great texts became simultaneously harder to understand and more venerable: stateliness, formality, and peculiarity of diction and vocabulary combined to make the books seem holy and tampering with them a profanation." (151–152) (emphasis mine) It takes a great commitment to truth to weed one's traditions, and it takes great prudence and wisdom to know how and when and what to change without crusading—and crushing Christ's sheep along the way. Or it takes national upheaval. That's the lesson I learned again, thanks to one of my favorite writers, Alan Jacobs.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    A surprisingly fascinating history of an enduring book. It was hard to put down.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laura Clawson

    A pretty good overview of book of common prayer with church history bits thrown in. The audio book version is terrible, but then again, Jacobs is hard to read out loud. 🤷🏼‍♀️

  6. 4 out of 5

    Robert D. Cornwall

    I was born, baptized, and confirmed in the Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer (1928) was our guide to worship for my family until I jumped ship in high school. The current BCP appeared after I had left, but even prior to that the priest at our church was using a variety of experimental and more modern Eucharistic services. Alan Jacobs a professor of the humanities at Wheaton College takes us on a gentle (and at times not so gentle) journey through the story of this masterpiece of religio I was born, baptized, and confirmed in the Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer (1928) was our guide to worship for my family until I jumped ship in high school. The current BCP appeared after I had left, but even prior to that the priest at our church was using a variety of experimental and more modern Eucharistic services. Alan Jacobs a professor of the humanities at Wheaton College takes us on a gentle (and at times not so gentle) journey through the story of this masterpiece of religious literature. Born out of the English Reformation and designed by its original author Thomas Cranmer to provide for the common worship of all English Christians, it has been revised and scattered across the world through time. We learn the history and the story and as a result gain a better appreciation for this book that has given voice to the worship of millions. It may no longer be the one common worship, but it continues to resonate in ways that enhance our worship (even if we're not Anglican).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    This is a fascinating history of the BCP. Initially, Jacobs presents the political, theological and communal reasons for the birth of the Book of Common Prayer. Once this foundation is laid, he carries you through the inevitably fraught history that followed all the way to modern times. Presenting the the four-fold tensions of king, church, parliament and lay-person, you are given the whole conflict that has both kept the book alive as well as caused much contention in the Church of England - ev This is a fascinating history of the BCP. Initially, Jacobs presents the political, theological and communal reasons for the birth of the Book of Common Prayer. Once this foundation is laid, he carries you through the inevitably fraught history that followed all the way to modern times. Presenting the the four-fold tensions of king, church, parliament and lay-person, you are given the whole conflict that has both kept the book alive as well as caused much contention in the Church of England - even bleeding over into other countries. Is the prayer book just another tool of colonial England? The secret, subversive arm of the Pope in the C of E? The layman’s devotional and guide through weekly worship? The retainer of the clergy meant to keep them from straying too far in either the Roman or the congregational directions? Clearly this book has lived many lives and continues to be reincarnated as its influence in Asia and Africa comes to maturity. What was once meant to be a book that defined common worship for England has become a cornerstone of liturgical worship the world over. Or has it? If you change it, is it still the BCP? Can it still be “common” if everyone revises it? Alan Jacobs doesn’t attempt to answer these questions, but he spreads them across the table in plain sight for you to look at and ponder in all their complexity. His writing is on the cerebral side, for which I docked him a star. But on the whole, he pairs a lot of names and dates with interesting details and avoids the rabbit-trails that these histories are prone to. I learned a lot and it didn’t bore me into forgetfulness.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Misael G

    Well-written, enjoyable history of the Book of Common Prayer. Never would have imagined how much turmoil and strife such a book, one meant to help people pray and read the Bible, could have caused. I also learned a ton about the history of the Anglican + Episcopalian churches (which to be quite frank, I didn’t know much about). I do wish that at points he could have gotten even more specific about some of Cranmer’s sources in writing the liturgies. That said, thoroughly enjoyed and loved the endi Well-written, enjoyable history of the Book of Common Prayer. Never would have imagined how much turmoil and strife such a book, one meant to help people pray and read the Bible, could have caused. I also learned a ton about the history of the Anglican + Episcopalian churches (which to be quite frank, I didn’t know much about). I do wish that at points he could have gotten even more specific about some of Cranmer’s sources in writing the liturgies. That said, thoroughly enjoyed and loved the ending: “...a prayer book wants its teaching to be enacted, not just absorbed. It cannot live unless we say its words in our voices.” O Lord, open thou our lips, and our mouth shall show forth thy praise.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Fascinating history of a book that's seen more controversy and conflict than I'd ever have suspected from what has always seemed to be something of a comfortable feature of church life in the English-speaking world. My only frustration was not with the book itself but with the audiobook. The reader used several weird pronunciations, especially of some fairly common biblical names/terms, which I found distracting—and detracting from the book's ethos. Alan Jacobs knows of what he speaks. The reade Fascinating history of a book that's seen more controversy and conflict than I'd ever have suspected from what has always seemed to be something of a comfortable feature of church life in the English-speaking world. My only frustration was not with the book itself but with the audiobook. The reader used several weird pronunciations, especially of some fairly common biblical names/terms, which I found distracting—and detracting from the book's ethos. Alan Jacobs knows of what he speaks. The reader? Apparently not so much. Also, I think it may not be the best book for audio format anyway, simply because it contained so. many. names. Not being terribly familiar with the key players in the development of Anglican theology and liturgy, I had a terrible time keeping track of who was who in this fast-paced history, and I wished many times that I could flip back to where I'd seen the name before and refresh my memory. I might just have to track down a print copy and have another go at the book—and at a slower, more careful pace.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Katrin V

    I am not sure why it took me 3 years to get Into this little volume! It is a wonderful short history of how BCP came to be and has been changed. The political and spiritual compromises and retaliation are amazing, and perhaps a lesson for current politicians. Jacobs has some flashes of humor which lighten the dense chapters. Who would guess that Boots, the chemists, had printed their own BCP, or that there is a ‘Star Wars ‘ prayer or LEGO liturgy?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jon Beadle

    3.5 stars. Great book! Nice and short and committed to an objective view of the history. The section featuring Henry VII was my favorite.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Satima

    American academic Alan Jacobs is a Distinguished Professor in the honours program of Baylor University, a Baptist institution in Waco. Texas. He was previously the Clyde Kilby Professor of English at Wheaton College, where he almost became an institution in his own right, spending thirty years in the post. He has been compared to CS Lewis: a fair comparison, given his interests in classical literature and religion. He has, in fact, written on Lewis, with particular reference to his children’s bo American academic Alan Jacobs is a Distinguished Professor in the honours program of Baylor University, a Baptist institution in Waco. Texas. He was previously the Clyde Kilby Professor of English at Wheaton College, where he almost became an institution in his own right, spending thirty years in the post. He has been compared to CS Lewis: a fair comparison, given his interests in classical literature and religion. He has, in fact, written on Lewis, with particular reference to his children’s books, in his 2006 opus, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis. Nonetheless, Jacobs brings a contemporary perspective to his work, as is apparent from the book under consideration here, The Book of Common Prayer - a Biography. It is his thirteenth published book and it forms part of Princeton’s series Lives of Great Religious Books. There are already nine books in the series, with the promise of another dozen or so to come, covering the principal religions of the world and including works as disparate as The Book of Mormon and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The subject matter has been discussed by several other works, notably Sussex University’s Professor Brian Cummings’s comparative study The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662 (OUP, 2010). One might suspect that the present work is in some measure Princeton’s response to the Oxford opus: the two works, however, similar though they superficially appear, serve different purposes, Cummings’s book being largely a study of the earliest versions of the texts while Jacobs takes a more straightforwardly historical approach, covering more ground in less detail. He traces the BCP’s origins from its beginnings in Tudor England to its transportation to the colonies and its recent history, with particular reference to its adaptation and development in the USA. Although this is a scholarly work that will be of interest to church historians and students of Theology and Religious Studies, it will also be appreciated by laymen of similar interests. As a lapsed Anglican with a deep interest in Shakespeare and his life and times, I found it a joy to revisit Archbishop Cranmer’s beautiful prose. What was it about this era, that it could come up with the wondrous works of the Bard of Avon, the metaphysical poetry of John Donne and his contemporaries, the King James Bible – and the BCP? Or to give it its full title in 1662, The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church according to the use of the Church of England together with the Psalter or Psalms of David pointed as they are to be sung or said in churches and the form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of bishops, priests, and deacons. Consciously or unconsciously, Cranmer utilised techniques that creative writing students of today struggle to do half as well – repetition, balanced antithesis, metaphor – all these and more Cranmer called into service, setting a high bar for later writers of devotional texts. It matters not what Christian denomination one follows: the solemnisation of marriage invariably begins with ‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together…’ or something similar that closely echoes Cranmer’s words. Modernised versions of Cranmer’s text, or modern efforts to rewrite the Latin of the Mass into English, such as those that followed the Second Vatican Council, fail miserably when compared to the beauty of Cranmer’s work. Alan Jacobs makes us very aware of our debt to Cranmer. The Book of Common Prayer – a Biography is well set out, easy to follow, well-referenced and indexed and pleasing to look at. The only thing I did not like about this book was its ’handle’. It’s a good size and looks attractive, but the dust jacket feels like some nasty synthetic fabric, even though it is definitely paper! However, dust jackets are easily removed or covered by some other material, and it certainly wasn’t enough to make me set the book aside. The author runs a Tumblr blog for the book at http://bookofcommonprayer.tumblr.com/ This is a five-star book. Thank you, Professor Jacobs, and thank you, Princeton University Press. Alan Jacobs The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dan Glover

    Anything I've ever read by Alan Jacobs has been enjoyable and reading his biography of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) was no exception. Having been in the Anglican Church of Canada in the past, our family is familiar with both the Prayer Book services and those of the Alternative Book of Services. It was therefore of personal interest to learn more about how the "high" and "low" services came to be. But even for those with no previous personal connection, this entry in Princeton University Pres Anything I've ever read by Alan Jacobs has been enjoyable and reading his biography of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) was no exception. Having been in the Anglican Church of Canada in the past, our family is familiar with both the Prayer Book services and those of the Alternative Book of Services. It was therefore of personal interest to learn more about how the "high" and "low" services came to be. But even for those with no previous personal connection, this entry in Princeton University Press's Lives of Great Religious Books series richly repays the read. In his usual clear, informed, wise and witty prose, Jacobs walks the reader through the development and evolution of the BCP as well as the history of the Church of England which first birthed it and then in turn was formed by it. The reader will meet all of the major actors and many of the colourful bit-players in this centuries-long drama. There is much solid scholarship that stands behind this work: Jacobs knows the original sources as well as being well versed with the standard and up to date secondary sources. An aspect of the book that I found particularly enjoyable was Jacobs' inclusion of bits of personal conversations he had while researching the book, conversations with people such as the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. I confess I found my mind wandering...wondering if Jacobs and Williams perhaps talked a bit about C.S. Lewis on the side, seeing as they have both written fine books about Lewis and Narnia. If you ever find yourself in the market for a home, it is an eye opening experience to be taken through the same home first by a realtor and then by the people that have lived in the home for the last 40 years. The realtor can point to a small gouge in the hardwood or a hole in the wall (or perhaps hang a picture in front of it so you don't see it) but the longtime owner might half apologetically, half affectionately point to that same blemish and tell you a story about how it first happened and why its never been repaired. Jacobs certainly knows the BCP, but he is no mere professional guide. He also knows the ins-and-outs of the BCP from his own experience in the Anglican Church, both through corporate worship and personal devotion. He spends only a little time telling us of his personal experience with it in scattered places, but the tone of the whole book is made richer by his relationship with this book. For sympathetic and open readers, this tone projects (only lightly) a sense that Jacobs is introducing us to one of his closest friends, one who is somewhat quirky but whom Jacobs knows will enrich our lives if we will only make the effort to spend time with them. This doesn't mean Jacobs closes a blind eye to the oddities of his friend. He introduces us to these as well. However, this personal factor, as well as Jacobs' steadily enjoyable and eminently readable style, ensures that this is not a dry or difficult read - quite the contrary - so don't be sacred away by the fact that it is published by a university press. Also, this beautifully crafted book is a relatively quick read and has wide margins for those who like to annotate their books. For those who normally skip reading the end notes, let me encourage you not to in this case. Here they are more than mere reference citations, frequently giving little trips down side alleys of history or narrative, maintaining the same care for readability as the main text. I highly recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in the history of the CoE, or in English politics from Henry VIII on, in liturgics or the reformation and subsequent broader church history, or even those who may be interested in the development of the English language in the modern era. Unlike the limited appeal of most historical works, I would also recommend this book to people who have no previous interest in any of the aforementioned areas. Jacobs is just that good at telling a story. You may have no current interest in the BCP or the CoE but you will find this an interesting story anyway largely because you will find Jacobs a great story-teller.

  14. 4 out of 5

    BHodges

    A few centuries of british history in 200 fascinating pages through the life of the Book of Common Prayer. If the phrase "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today" sounds familiar, you have the Book of Common Prayer to thank. It's the Church of England's liturgical map of life--from birth to death and beyond, and for every year in between. Jacobs highlights the writers and printers, the rulers and priests, while exploring some of the most contested aspects of a book which has been at the cente A few centuries of british history in 200 fascinating pages through the life of the Book of Common Prayer. If the phrase "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today" sounds familiar, you have the Book of Common Prayer to thank. It's the Church of England's liturgical map of life--from birth to death and beyond, and for every year in between. Jacobs highlights the writers and printers, the rulers and priests, while exploring some of the most contested aspects of a book which has been at the center of debate between Protestant-minded evangelical Anglicans on one hand, and Rome-inspired Anglo-Catholics on the other. How did the book fare during England's multiple revolutions, or during the Great War, or during the radical 1970s, or today? That's the story this biography tells. Another successful volume in Princeton's "Lives of Great Religious Books" series.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Melora

    This was Marvelous! Absolutely fascinating. As a long-time Episcopalian I didn't expect to learn nearly as much as I did. Turns out that many things which I thought were "always" part of the service and liturgy are actually 19th and 20th century changes to a much more pared-down, Reformation service. Jacobs is a wonderful writer, and the book never (for me, at least) bogs down into dry detail. As well as the people you would expect to find here (King Henry VIII, Thomas Cranmer, Oliver Cromwell, This was Marvelous! Absolutely fascinating. As a long-time Episcopalian I didn't expect to learn nearly as much as I did. Turns out that many things which I thought were "always" part of the service and liturgy are actually 19th and 20th century changes to a much more pared-down, Reformation service. Jacobs is a wonderful writer, and the book never (for me, at least) bogs down into dry detail. As well as the people you would expect to find here (King Henry VIII, Thomas Cranmer, Oliver Cromwell, etc.) people such as the Duke of Buckingham, Patrick O'Brian (of the Aubrey-Maturin sea novels), and T.S. Eliot make brief appearances. I'd never ever Heard of the Church of South India before, but reading about their contributions (major) to the updating of the prayer book was fascinating. I look forward to reading other books in this series.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    Probably way too dry for anyone but liturgical, theological, or rubrical nerds. If you belong to an English speaking liturgically minded church, however, this little book is of interest, since the Book of Common Prayer has informed the conduct of the Divine Service throughout the world, and far beyond the limits of the Anglican Communion. (My own non-Anglican church's best-beloved Communion service draws heavily on the BCP) It was also sadly refreshing to discover that acrimony over small changes Probably way too dry for anyone but liturgical, theological, or rubrical nerds. If you belong to an English speaking liturgically minded church, however, this little book is of interest, since the Book of Common Prayer has informed the conduct of the Divine Service throughout the world, and far beyond the limits of the Anglican Communion. (My own non-Anglican church's best-beloved Communion service draws heavily on the BCP) It was also sadly refreshing to discover that acrimony over small changes in the orders of service is not unique to Lutherans. Although I don't believe any Lutherans have ripped out Communion rails and made bonfires of them...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Rodriguez

    A quick, interesting read on one of the most influential books in the English language and one I love. Jacobs is a great writer and his ability to summarize complex issues was very much on display. I read this book for fun (NERD ALERT!) and indeed had a lot of it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chris Schutte

    As an Anglican priest I enjoyed reading this - a lot of great historical, theological, and liturgical insights

  19. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    An excellent little history of this important, enduring liturgy. Particularly recommended for new Episcopalians (or Anglicans) like myself. Well written and interesting.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Olanma Ogbuehi

    I very much enjoyed this potted history of the Book of Common Prayer. It offers a glimpse of the events, and key players surrounding the English Reformation. The story moves at a fair pace, leaving the reader wanting to delve deeper into some of the more comprehensive histories of the English church, the monarchy, the English Reformers and those who opposed them. There was some new information about the conduct of the liturgy in the English churches prior to the Act of Supremacy. It was a fascina I very much enjoyed this potted history of the Book of Common Prayer. It offers a glimpse of the events, and key players surrounding the English Reformation. The story moves at a fair pace, leaving the reader wanting to delve deeper into some of the more comprehensive histories of the English church, the monarchy, the English Reformers and those who opposed them. There was some new information about the conduct of the liturgy in the English churches prior to the Act of Supremacy. It was a fascinating picture to imagine the priests mumbling in Latin whilst the congregants were encouraged to simultaneously offer up their own prayers to God, in their native English. It reminded me of Charismatic prayer meetings of my earlier Christian life. I was left with less cynicism about the Act of Uniformity, requiring the Prayer Book to be used in every Church. I can see that Cranmer intended good, but equally understand the frustration of congregants and pastors who were constrained by this format. However, the factions within this Evangelical, Reformed movement do not come across well, as each insisted on their own superiority of practice. Cranmer's argument that the Bible did not prescribe a certain posture for taking communion seems more persuasive than that of John Knox who insisted that kneeling was a remnant of Papist practice. I had sympathy with Cranmer who suggested that if Knox was to follow his logic through, then the congregation must lie on couches, as is described in the gospel accounts. A really good read. I think it was just the fact that it felt a bit superficial at times, which is unavoidable in a work of this length, that made me mark it down. Well worth a read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I read this for a class. specifically, a professional writing class. What does this, a biography on the book of common prayer, have to do with professional writing? that's a very good question. none of us in the class have any clue. It's fine. The book itself is actually not that bad. not my first choice of book--I really don't care much about the Book of Common Prayer--I'm not Episcopalian. but Alan Jacobs is a talented writer. He has a way with words, and, though I found myself struggling a lo I read this for a class. specifically, a professional writing class. What does this, a biography on the book of common prayer, have to do with professional writing? that's a very good question. none of us in the class have any clue. It's fine. The book itself is actually not that bad. not my first choice of book--I really don't care much about the Book of Common Prayer--I'm not Episcopalian. but Alan Jacobs is a talented writer. He has a way with words, and, though I found myself struggling a lot through the very dense text, I also found myself strangely intrigued and captivated by the writing style. Overall, the text was very dense, and hard to read if you're trying to cram-read this and several other things for different classes. But it was not unenjoyable.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    I've read Jacobs' "How to Think" and his "In the Year of Our Lord 1943", both excellent works from different angles. I anticipated this bio of the BCP highly and wasn't disappointed. The BCP has a living impact upon people, not merely in the realm of worship where BCP author Thomas Cranmer desired its primary focus. The language (and that of Tyndale's New Testament) shaped the English people and has a forceful effect upon the word choice and usage of Shakespeare, and yet the BCP has shown itself I've read Jacobs' "How to Think" and his "In the Year of Our Lord 1943", both excellent works from different angles. I anticipated this bio of the BCP highly and wasn't disappointed. The BCP has a living impact upon people, not merely in the realm of worship where BCP author Thomas Cranmer desired its primary focus. The language (and that of Tyndale's New Testament) shaped the English people and has a forceful effect upon the word choice and usage of Shakespeare, and yet the BCP has shown itself to be an eminently adaptable work in cultures as diverse as England, Rwanda, America, Uganda, Australia, and others. The BCP is truly a living item, and as a (relatively) new Anglican, I always rejoice in discovering more of my liturgical heritage.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This short book provides a history of the writing of the English Book of Common Prayer during the Reformation, as well as tracing its history in England and its former colonies up to the present. Although well-researched, the book is written in an accessible manner to the average reader. The author does a good job of showing the changes in the prayer book over the centuries, and explaining their theological foundations. He explains the authors' desire that the book would become part of a culture This short book provides a history of the writing of the English Book of Common Prayer during the Reformation, as well as tracing its history in England and its former colonies up to the present. Although well-researched, the book is written in an accessible manner to the average reader. The author does a good job of showing the changes in the prayer book over the centuries, and explaining their theological foundations. He explains the authors' desire that the book would become part of a culture of Christian worship across England and its colonies, and the practical impediments that made this difficult to achieve.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Jacobs gives us a fairly short but readable account of the Book of Common Prayer, including its history, the debates it fueled, its evolution over the centuries, and even its printers since Thomas Cramer was its chief creator. I found the chapters the BCP's emergence into our modern world, its decentralized proliferation across the globe, and its main controversies to be the most engaging. If you are an Anglican, this will help illumine not just the key non-biblical text we reference but also ou Jacobs gives us a fairly short but readable account of the Book of Common Prayer, including its history, the debates it fueled, its evolution over the centuries, and even its printers since Thomas Cramer was its chief creator. I found the chapters the BCP's emergence into our modern world, its decentralized proliferation across the globe, and its main controversies to be the most engaging. If you are an Anglican, this will help illumine not just the key non-biblical text we reference but also our communion's trajectory with reference to the BCP across the centuries.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Clint Lum

    Typical Jacobs: learned, clear, and witty. This book helpfully traces the typographical and cultural history of one of the most influential books in Christendom the last half millennium. I highly recommend for any Christian to read and for anyone at all who enjoys history. Jacobs shows the Book of Common Prayer's link to both the past and the present. The Church has seemingly mastered the latter and could take lessons in the former from the Anglican Church.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Another fascinating, illuminating and thought provoking book from Alan Jacobs. As always, I feel more literate, cultural and historical, having read his writing. Elegant and witty, sharp and broadly knowledgeable, he manages to give readers a true sense of history and its impact on today in a few hundred pages. If you have any interest in church history, religious history or just the Christian faith, this is a worthwhile read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Summers

    I didn't know that, because of the failed revision efforts in 1928, "the only official Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England is a very slightly altered version of the one introduced in 1662" (p. 164).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

    Jacobs does a very good job of providing a neutral overview of the history of the prayer book for the most part. I really appreciated his brief commentary on the psychological aspects behind the text as well

  29. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    This is a surprisingly readable history of the Anglican church through the history of the Book of Common Prayer. I'm not sure how it would be for others, but as a cradle Episcopalian I thought it was fascinating. It is also well documented. 3.5 stars

  30. 5 out of 5

    Josh Head

    My faith has been deeply shaped by the biblically-rich rhythms of the BCP. Jacob’ writing is the perfect blend of scholarship and readability, making this book both rich and accessible. It was very helpful in my research. This book is an easy 5-star review for me.

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