“Covidtide”, as many are now calling it, has greatly restricted public worship, not simply in Canada, but throughout the world. Back in March when bishops and civil authorities were ordering the shuttering of parishes, there was a rush to respond by making use of digital technology to allow parishes to worship together “virtually”. During that initial challenging period, many parishes chose to forego the celebration of the Eucharist if all the people were not permitted to be present. Some dioceses chose to prohibit priests from celebrating the Eucharist as well. These circumstances led to a resurgence in prominence and a renewed interest in the Daily Offices, particularly that of Morning Prayer.
Many Anglicans were being exposed to this service for the first time. Even more interestingly, some parishes where the principal Sunday service was from the Book of Alternative Services chose to use Morning Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer instead.
While the Offices from the Book of Common Prayer are decidedly more “user-friendly” for the uninitiated compared to those in the Book of Alternative Services, the Table of Lessons, the Lectionary, and even the Psalter might prove daunting for someone who has never read a rubric before, and is “on their own” as they seek to learn this traditional aspect of Anglican spirituality.
Some of our readers will be familiar with software applications, or “apps”, which have been released over the past few years to facilitate praying the Offices via one’s computer or phone. The Church of England’s “Daily Prayer” app is one of the most widely used, though many options for the American 1979 Prayer Book exist, as well as for other prayer books from other jurisdictions. In Canada, “Daily Prayer” tends to be the app of choice as being at least somewhat familiar. The National Council of the Prayer Book Society quickly realised that with renewed interest in the Offices and a lack of Canadian resources, this was a prime opportunity for the Society to fulfil its mandate as set out in our constitution “to serve as a resource to those who may be unfamiliar with traditional theology, but who desire to grow as faithful, believing and informed communicants”, and to “foster rediscovery and deepen awareness of the Book of Common Prayer and the doctrine that it teaches”. Designing such an app for the Canadian BCP was seen as a cutting-edge tool for evangelism, allowing families and individuals access to the riches of Scriptural prayer in the Canadian BCP via a new digital format.
The Prayer Book Society shortly thereafter began discussions on the development of a mobile app, identifying two main requirements. First and foremost, it had to provide a user-friendly interface enabling anyone, with one or two clicks on their screen, to be praying the Office with all necessary readings, collects, etc, displayed automatically for any day of the year. Further, it was deemed important to design the app in such a way as to teach users how eventually to pray the Office themselves, using their own Prayer Book and Bible.
A subcommittee of the National Council was formed to flesh out the project and make a presentation to Council and to the Society’s Annual General Meeting. Its members engaged with developers from around the world to work out the details of the project, taking into account our needs, and a timeline for completion. The right developer was quickly found, and the project was initiated in July of 2020, only a month after being approved at the June online meeting of the National Council.
As the development process continues, a number of features are being incorporated. The core part of the app provides the means to pray the offices of Morning, Mid-Day, and Evening Prayer, as well as Compline. The Great Litany may be prayed with Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, or on its own. Upon opening the app, users select the service they wish to pray and the date, which is especially helpful for clergy who have missed an office on a previous day and want to catch up! The full text of the service, including any applicable variable portions such as psalms, readings, collects, antiphons, sentences, etc, are displayed on the user’s screen. In time, it is planned that the Forms of Prayer to be Used in Families, at the end of the BCP, will also be included.
While the default settings of the app will allow a user to begin praying the moment the app is installed, advanced features will allow users to customize their experience based on the rubrics of the office, such as the use of alternate canticles, or which order of the Psalter to use. While the design principle of the app is generally to make it appear as though you are looking at a page out of the BCP, customization features will be available to enlarge the text size or switch to a high visibility mode with a dark background and light text, which some people find easier to read, and some formatting adjustments are planned to ensure that the app is visually pleasing as well as easy to use.
The app will be available for online or offline use on your Android and Apple mobile devices (including iPads and other tablets), and will also be accessible on the web through the Prayer Book Society’s website. Development continues at this point, and features will be adjusted in time for the planned release on the 29th of November 2020, the First Sunday in Advent.
The Society hopes that this mobile app will encourage Christians throughout Canada to take up the discipline of regularly praying the Offices during this “Covidtide”, as well as throughout the next liturgical year and beyond.