Weekly Update | October 02, 2022

Over a billion people around the world watched the funeral for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II last week, burial services firmly rooted in the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer. Many have commented on the profound dignity of the words and music that joined Elizabeth to her final rest. They are many of the same words we hear and say at burial services at St. John’s Cathedral, whether for a queen who has reigned for 70 years, or, a longtime member of our community.

As Anglicans, we are inheritors of a great tradition that provides a framework for many of the ceremonial events of our lives: baptism, marriage, death. Many people are drawn to the Episcopal Church for the poetic beauty such intentional and historic words provide. They are a comfort in an ever-changing world — a tangible sign that suggests our faith is rooted in an understanding that came long before any of us, and will last long after we are laid to rest.

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is unique to the Episcopal Church in America, but it is the result of hundreds of years of English prayer books, beginning with Thomas Cranmer’s first edition in 1549, as well as many subsequent editions. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer remains the official prayer book of the Church of England. Even for us in America, any of these previous editions of the prayer book are authorized by canon law for use in our daily services. They are part of our spiritual inheritance as Anglicans.

This Sunday marks the Feast of St. Michael & All Angels (transferred). The full choir, as well as children from the cathedral choral academy return to adorn our 10:00 am service with glorious music. This will be what is a called a “Solemn Choral Eucharist,” and the adjective solemn doesn’t mean dour or forlorn; quite the opposite, it means a service replete with the full adornment of all we have to offer: beautiful vestments, rich incense, expressive musical offerings, and intentionally poetic words grounded in holy scripture and our Book of Common Prayer.

The 1979 prayer book allows, and even encourages, the use of these older words, and this Sunday's 10:00 am Solemn Choral Eucharist will feature Rite I language. Many of the words will be the same, and some will be slightly different from those we’re used to. It will be an opportunity to say together the same words that have been said for hundreds of years by faithful Christians who came before us. We’ll all want to pay special attention to the service leaflet this Sunday to catch all the thees and thys. The choir will sing a grand organ mass setting by the 19th-century French composer Louis Vierne. This will be an opportunity to worship God and partake in Holy Communion using the traditions that have been handed down to us across centuries. I look forward to being with you Sunday, and saying hello at coffee hour after the service. Welcome home!

Christopher G. Gravis, D.M.A.

Canon for Music & Cathedral Arts