A recent article from Episcopal Cafe mentioned the fact that the ’79 BCP will be the last print version for the US church. Obviously, this has generated a lot of discussion, both positive and negative. I have some thoughts to share and hope others will weigh in. Personally, my thoughts on this are mixed.
The increased use of smartphones and tablets, as well as the cost of buying prayer books, have both been cited as partial reasons for this change. I know that buying extra prayer books can get expensive at times and that visitors often have difficulty using more than one book if they’re from a different type of Christian tradition. (In fact, my parish currently prints the order of service, music included, in the bulletin).
While access to the extra technology is helpful, I think we need to find a careful balance where mobile devices are concerned. On the one hand, it can be a good way to follow the service, but OTOH, it can also be needlessly distracting. Also, parishes need to remember that not everyone has or will use a mobile device during services, so this needs to be considered.
The number of different liturgies in use has also been cited. It’s good that we do have rites for certain celebrations in the liturgical year that were not previously available (I’m thinking along the lines of the Candlemas, Tenebrae, etc. services in the Book of Occasional Services). I don’t think liturgy must be kept frozen in time. That being said, though, I think we need to make sure that our worship does, in fact, stay liturgical, with congregational participation. I don’t think there’s a danger of us going the “spectator” route that’s common in some groups, but we do need to keep that in mind just the same.
My final thought: I hope the current BCP isn’t going to go out of print any time soon. Even though I use online resources (hi Josh!) , I’m glad that I do have my ’79 BCP, as well as the 1928 Armed Forces edition my dad gave me when I was confirmed. There are times when it’s preferable to actually have a book, after all 🙂