How We Worship–United by Our Book of Common Prayer

All Episcopal services whatever their style—and they vary from simple spoken ceremonies to elaborate sung ones—follow those laid out in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It ultimately traces its history back to the first Prayer Book of the English church, produced in 1549, following its split with Rome.

Services involve participation from the congregation and follow almost exactly the same essential forms. This means that on any given Sunday an Episcopalian can walk into any Episcopal church (and with small local variations, any Anglican church in the world) and take part in a familiar worship service.

The Book of Common Prayer is the collection of prayers, readings, psalms, devotions, and services that together make up the official liturgy of the Episcopal Church. Nearly all services in any Episcopal Church are printed in this book. In a church in which there is a wide range of interpretation of doctrine and of liturgical style, the Book of Common Prayer provides a unifying glue that places it at the heart of who we are both as Episcopalians and as part of the wider Anglican Communion. The first English Book of Common Prayer was published in 1549; the classic version, which remained in use in England with minimal changes until well into the 20th century, was completed in 1662.. The Episcopal Church revised its version of the Book of Common Prayer in 1928, and then essentially rewrote it, amid considerable controversy, in 1979. Some services from the 1928 prayer book have been retained in the current prayer book as “Rite I” services. Although each province of the Anglican Communion now has its own Book of Common Prayer, the similarities between them are far greater than their differences.