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The Book of Common Prayer: A Guide

Charles Hefling

Publication Date - December 2020

ISBN: 9780190689698

336 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches

In Stock

Readers are introduced to the political as well as the spiritual influence of the Book of Common Prayer, and to its enduring place in English-speaking religion.


The Book of Common Prayer is a remarkable book, a sacred book in more than one sense. It is primarily a liturgical text, meant to be used in corporate worship, and at the same time a literary landmark, a cultural icon, and a focus of identity for Anglican Christianity. This brief, accessible account of the Prayer Book, as it is often called, describes the contents of the classical version of the text, with special emphasis on the services for which it has been used most frequently since it was issued in 1662. Charles Hefling also examines the historical and theological context of the Prayer Book's origins, the changes it has undergone, the controversies it has touched off, and its reception in England, Scotland, and America. Readers are introduced to the political as well as the spiritual influence of the Book of Common Prayer, and to its enduring place in English-speaking religion.


  • Introduces readers to a sacred text that is also a literary landmark and a focus of religious identity for Anglicans worldwide
  • Features tables, excerpts, and illustrations, as well as special chapters on the Book as printed and sung
  • Can be studied together with the text of the Book of Common Prayer, or stands on its own

About the Author(s)

Charles Hefling was a professor of systematic theology at Boston College for thirty years and served as editor-in-chief of The Anglican Theological Review. He has also taught at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA, and in the Diaconal Formation Program of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. He holds three degrees from Harvard University and was ordained to the ministry of The Episcopal Church in 1974.


"What must be wholeheartedly affirmed is that this book is a tour de force. For anyone who has either a connection with the BCP, or an interest in understanding more of the immense significance of this most sacred text, Hefling's work is a 'must read'." -- Maurice Elliott, Anaphora

"Charles Hefling's The Book of Common Prayer combines his characteristically meticulous scholarship with a profound analytic clarity and a deep personal understanding of the rhythms and spiritual impact of this unique Anglican liturgical classic. But it is also written with an eye to those who may, in this generation, be coming new to the BCP and its extraordinary history. This book is not just a sure historical guide, but a fresh invitation to a landscape of liturgical transcendence." -- Sarah Coakley, FBA, Norris-Hulse Professor Emerita, University of Cambridge

Table of Contents



    1: Divine Service
    2: Preambles: Time and the Prayer Book
    3: Occasional Services
    4: Preambles: "But One Use"


    5: Beginnings
    6: Settling In
    7: Disruption
    8: Establishment
    9: The Golden Age
    10: Recessional


    11: The Prayer Book Printed
    12: The Prayer Sung

    Appendix 1: Vesture
    Appendix 2: The Anglican Communion