I left the following comment on this blog post predicting that the 1979 BCP will be the last printed Book of Common Prayer the Episcopal Church will ever produce. If the author proves correct, I don’t think it will be for the reasons he puts forward. What do you all think?
I seriously doubt this will be the case. I do think it will be many years before the BCP is revised, and personally I think it’s probably a good idea to let current controversies die down a bit to avoid a completely dated revision (it’s amazing how well the ’79 has held up given when it was being revised actually). I also believe there will be an abundance of downloadable liturgical materials, and the odd person here and there who uses their iPad or smart phone during worship, however, I don’t see evidence of this becoming predominant in the Episcopal Church. Indeed, I don’t think ebooks will really threaten all book sales, even in non-religious sectors. They’ll replace mass market paperbacks to a large degree, sure, and to the degree that technology allows annotation, ebooks may replace some study texts, but more important books will continue to be purchased in a physical copy.
To the extent that we do may use of electronic media for our liturgy, we’d do well to consider some of the drawbacks of the medium (see this insightful blog post for some thoughts on that: http://churchandmarket.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/why-i-dont-believe-in-the-bible-app/ )
I agree with the comment above about people spending too much time staring at texts rather than looking around. I have an ambivalent feeling about scripture inserts for just this reason. People really ought to spend more of their energy listening to the lessons, except for those folks who retain better by reading along. But inserts have meant the bibles haven’t left the pew racks except during teaching times for years.
That said, if we want to determine why people spend so much time looking down, we’d probably do well to look at the frequency of variation rather than the existence of the Prayer Book. Most long-time Episcopalians are *attached* to their BCP’s but they do not *need* them during Sunday worship, having memorized the central elements of the liturgy. A multiplicity of downloadable DIY liturgies isn’t going to make people look around more, it’s just going to deprive them of one of the central gifts of our tradition: stability. So what if their eyes are glued to words on a page or to a bouncing ball on a projection screen, neither will be seeping into their souls.
In terms of a full text bulletin vs. a more simple bulletin and the BCP, I have had experience with both, and I know how comfortable some visitors will be with a full text bulletin. At the same time, I know how labor intensive and wasteful they are. It’s interesting to me that Trinity Wall Street stopped using their full text bulletins a few years ago (assuming they haven’t started back) for precisely this reason. Being hospitable to those who are not familiar with our worship without the accessibility of a full text bulletin, or the benefit of a (well designed and tastefully implemented) screen can require patience on the part of the officiant and the congregation, as well as the allowance for longer pauses, but that can be a great benefit.
I will observe my 33rd birthday and my 7th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood in December of this year. I’d offer the suggestion that we be careful making blanket statements about what this or that generation will or won’t gravitate toward, or what the church will need to do universally. Certainly there will be congregations that use downloadable liturgies in the future, just as some use \u003Cem>Enriching Our Worship\u003C/em> regularly now. There will also be those that prefer the Book from the pew rack. As our parish has grown, it has been growing with young parents and just recently with more 20-somethings (quite a change for the congregation which had been primarily grey). I won’t say that these folks are representative of everyone in their demographic. Indeed, they obviously aren’t, given the size of the megachurches around us and the number of people in those age groups who attend them. But, they are the people in that demographic who *have come to our parish.* I’d caution against making decisions about the future based upon what people who don’t come \u003Cem>might\u003C/em> want, and instead look at what those folks in under-represented groups who \u003Cem>do come\u003C/em> were attracted by. That will help us build on our strengths rather than dilute them into who knows what.
The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is the last printed version of the prayer book that The Episcopal Church (TEC) will ever publish. Three rationales support that prognostication. First, a growing majority of TEC congregations struggle financially. They often lack the funds to meet their current expense…
Read it all: Daily Episcopalian