The Prayer Book Society of Canada celebrates the Book of Common Prayer as the standard of doctrine and worship for Canadian Anglicans, and seeks to foster a rediscovery of this way of worship, devotion and reading of Scripture within the Anglican Churches and beyond. (Learn more about the Book of Common Prayer, here.) Founded in 1986, the Society has members all across Canada, from all age groups and walks of life, both clergy and laity.
Mission, aims and objectives of the Society
The mission statement of the PBSC is: “To promote the understanding and use of the BCP as a spiritual system of nurture for life in Christ”.
The Society’s main aims and objectives are:
- to participate in the evangelisation of Canada;
- to foster rediscovery and deepen awareness of the BCP and the doctrine that it teaches;
- to serve as a resource for those who may be unfamiliar with traditional Anglican theology but who desire to grow as faithful, believing and informed communicants of Canadian Anglican congregations.
What the Society does
The PBSC has pursued a variety of projects and initiatives in support of its aims and objectives.
- Using technology to bring the Prayer Book to a wider audience. The Society’s newest resource is the BCP app, which provides a user-friendly means of praying the Prayer Book daily offices on mobile, tablet or desktop.
- Production of educational resources for individuals and parishes. These include a three- volume book series on the BCP, and three video teaching series dealing with the Prayer Book services, Baptism preparation, and the Holy Trinity.
- Production of liturgical resources for clergy and worship leaders. Available are booklets on how to lead Prayer Book services, audio recordings of BCP service music, and auxiliary service material for Holy Week.
- Fostering and supporting projects in support of ministry to young people. The PBSC has produced a four-year teen education curriculum, and has supported a summer camp for teens and weekend theological conferences for young adults.
- Providing bursaries to theological students. Bursaries are offered annually to students engaged in theological studies who value the Book of Common Prayer and use it in their devotional life.
- Assisting churches and colleges in purchasing of copies of the BCP. The Society has assisted in this way many times over the years.
- Defending the ongoing use of the Prayer Book and upholding the doctrine contained in it. Most recently, the PBSC produced a new prayer, “For Reconciliation with the Jews”, which received high praise from the Jewish groups consulted. It also submitted a response to the Commission on the Marriage Canon upholding the Prayer Book doctrine of marriage. These and other initiatives are documented here.
- Mailings to the membership. The Society sends out quarterly mailings to its members and to interested subscribers. Past issues of the PBSC newsletter are archived.
Origin of the PBSC
The PBSC was founded in 1986 following the introduction of the Book of Alternative Services (BAS) in the previous year. The book rapidly came to be viewed by many as a substantial shift away from the theology embodied in the Book of Common Prayer, and also as having serious pastoral and devotional shortcomings. Moreover, across Canada, it was being brought in, not as an alternative to the Prayer Book, but as its replacement. Distinguished members of the Society wrote articles and lobbied on the importance of upholding the BCP; local branches were formed across the country and visiting speakers were mobilized to provide support and fellowship to members. Nowadays, the threat to the Prayer Book is much diminished, and networking, fellowship and support are largely carried out online, but a selection of articles from the earlier days of the Society is archived here.
Sister Prayer Book Societies
A Society aimed at the preservation of the Book of Common Prayer in England had already been formed in 1972, long before the Canadian Society, and another Society was initiated in the United States at about the same time as the PBSC. The circumstances and the position of the Prayer Book differ among the three countries, and each country also has a slightly different, local version of the book, so collaboration has usually not been practicable. However, the three Societies have banded together on three notable occasions: the first to issue a joint statement about the principles of common prayer in 1998, the second to mount an information booth on the Book of Common Prayer at the most recent Lambeth Conference of worldwide Anglican bishops in 2008, and the third to co-produce a book of essays about the continuing importance of the BCP on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the authoritative 1662 version (in 2012).
Collaboration with other organizations
In 1994, the PBSC, in conjunction with Barnabas Anglican Ministries (an evangelical organization) and Anglican Renewal Ministries (a charismatic organization) banded together to form the “Essentials Coalition”, aimed at upholding Biblical orthodoxy among Canadian Anglicans. The originating “Essentials ‘94” conference, held in 1994 in Montreal, was attended by 700 participants from across Canada, as well as the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. Many follow-up events were held in successive years. By 2005 differing opinions as to how to bear faithful witness to the Gospel finally led to a decision to split the coalition. Those who felt duty-bound to stay within the Anglican Church of Canada formed a group that eventually became the Anglican Communion Alliance. Those who felt bound in conscience to leave the Anglican Church of Canada and align with more biblically orthodox provinces within the Anglican Communion formed the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), now under the umbrella of the Anglican Church in North America. The PBSC has continued throughout the years as an independent entity, but maintains friendly relations with both organizations.
Governance of the Society
The official constitution of the PBSC, originally adopted in 1993 and most recently revised in 2018, can be read here. A listing of the current members of the National Council of the Society is provided here.
Documents expanding on some of the past work and thought of the Society can be found here.
An archive of scholarly articles on the BCP, mainly written in the early days of the Society, can be found here.