Note: This post is a living document, subject to continual revision.
Whereas previous posts have addressed questions of rhetorical relevance (i.e. antiquated vs. updated language) I would now like to turn to more theological issues.
Granted, I do so with an abundance of caution. Because, although the BCP does indeed allow for creativity and customization, it also cautions that the “substance of the Faith should be kept entire” and that the changes should not be those which “belong to Doctrine”.
Even though I may not agree wholeheartedly with the every point of the founders’ aforementioned Doctrine, I take this very seriously. Because the prayers of the Church should not be a reflection of any one person’s – or any one ideological faction’s – perspective. After all, “Common” is the BCP’s middle name. Our prayers should be unifying, not dividing. Although they will hopefully challenge us in our lives of faith, they should not be designed to challenge one group in order to satisfy another.
As such, any modification I propose which implicates our Doctrine will not be a matter of changing Doctrines, but rather changing the emphasis of Doctrines. Some ideas which have been presented in the past as primary, may no longer strike us as primary, but secondary. And vice-versa. And in some cases, I believe a case can be made that the framers of our Common Prayers have missed the mark in this regard.
The best example of this, in my humble opinion, is any time Fear has taken precedence over Love. Yes, there is a holy Fear of Almighty God. And this belongs in our prayers. But I believe that Christianity and the teachings of the Church have, for too long, emphasized Fear for hierarchical purposes. Whether explicit or implict, an agenda of Fear has formed the foundation for much of our institutional history.
But doesn’t Jesus teach us that our Love for God and for neighbor should form the foundation for “all the Law and the Prophets”? And doesn’t 1 John 4:18 teach us that “There is no fear in love”?
If this is so, shouldn’t Love be the basis for all our worship, all our prayer, and all our liturgy? Granted, the command and privilege to spread the Love of Christ is present all throughout the Book of Common Prayer, but I believe there are moments when Fear (or shame, or guilt, or unworthiness, etc) sets the tone.
In following posts, I will provide examples of this upside-down approach to Faith, and propose (what I believe to be) responsible modifications which would turn it rightside-up again. My hope is that such updated prayers would remind us, every time we gather, that we are the beloved children of God, made in God’s image, here to know God’s love and live it out in the world.
Yes, Fear is real, and it is part of being human. But we are called to base all our humanity and all our divinity, not on Fear of consequences, but on an ever-growing Love for God, for neighbor, and for ourselves.