A conference on the Book of Common Prayer will be held at the University of Picardie in Amiens on 7-8 September 2012. The aim of the conference will be to situate the Book of Common Prayer and more largely Anglican liturgy in the cultural and liturgical history of the Christian West.
Abstract submission deadline: 10 March 2012
The year 2012 marks the 350th anniversary of the Act of Uniformity of 1662, which authorized a final revision of the Book of Common Prayer. Until the publication of the Alternative Service Book in 1980, the 1662 Prayer Book remained the only official liturgy of the Church of England; it has also, to a greater or lesser degree, been the starting point for the liturgy of most of the Anglican churches which have formed around the world since the 18th century. This anniversary is also that of the refusal of many puritans to use this liturgy, resulting in their ejection from the Established Church and the development of Nonconformity, which made English-speaking Christianity peculiarly pluralistic and diverse. This conference will not only examine the liturgical revision of 1662 and the consequences for England of the 1662 Act of Uniformity, but it will also seek to situate the Book of Common Prayer and Anglican liturgy in general within the liturgical and cultural history of the Christian West.
The conference will welcome papers focusing on one or several of the following themes:
1) The Genealogy of the Book of Common Prayer
The conference will welcome contributions on the direct and indirect genealogy of the 1662 Prayer Book, the way it relates to earlier Anglican liturgies as well as to medieval liturgical developments. Comparative studies of 16th and 17th c. liturgical evolution will also be welcomed, bringing to light, wherever relevant, parallel developments and mutual influences in the Anglican and other churches, both Protestant and Catholic, in the British Isles and beyond.
The way in which the Book of Common Prayer has been used in church services and in family or individual worship will be of interest to the conference: the Prayer Book has been a source of inspiration for many family devotional books, its rubrics have been more or less strictly observed in church services, and the use and status of a number of the services it contains have changed over time. Equally worthy of study is the refusal of both Nonconformists and Catholics in the widest possible sense of the term - both Reformation-era papists and some 19th and 20th c. Anglo-Catholics - to use the Book of Common Prayer. Divisions over Prayer Book rites also led some to seek liturgical compromises and accommodations; for example, the Anglicans and Nonconformists in the late 17th and early 18th c. who hoped to reunite all moderate Protestants within a broader established church. Finally, the history of the theological interpretations of Prayer Book liturgies, both inside and outside Anglicanism, constitutes an important chapter in the study of the reception of Anglican rites.
3) Legacy and influence
The reception of the Book of Common Prayer in Anglicanism and beyond invites us to consider its legacy. It has been adapted in many different ways over the centuries (its influence on Methodist liturgy, for example, and on some French Reformed circles looms large) and was a major source in the making of the prayer books of the various Anglican provinces as they evolved into autonomous churches. The role – direct or indirect – that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Cranmerian rites in general played for a long time in the definition of Anglican identity raises the question of what makes a liturgy ‘Anglican’. In recent decades, far-ranging liturgical revisions in the Anglican Communion have taken place, requiring a reconsideration of what constitutes Anglican liturgical identity. This question of identity is also on the agenda of the new Anglican Ordinariates recently set up within the Roman Catholic Church.
4) Anglican liturgy, the body and sensibility
The way in which Anglican liturgy has been embodied and has found expression in the ‘beauty of holiness’ is another important aspect enabling us to situate the Book of Common Prayer in Western spirituality and culture. The Prayer Book has been an inspiration for English-speaking literature and church music. And the Anglican liturgy has related in specific ways to the material, embodied character of humanity: it has raised the question of the priest’s position in relation to the altar (eastward or otherwise) and that of his liturgical vestments, it has focused in its own ways on the materiality of liturgical performance, on the significance of the gendered body in ritual (for example in the rite of the churching of women), etc. Questions relating to the body in the liturgy have repercussions today when women are being included in the ordained ministry.
These various lines of exploration, it is hoped, will enable the conference to get an overview of current research on the way in which the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and more largely Anglican liturgy are situated in Western spirituality and culture.
Abstracts (between 250 and 350 words) should be sent to Prof Rémy Bethmont remy.bethmont(at)u-picardie.fr by 10 March 2012.
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