The result of the 1892 Revision of the BCPP

The New American Prayer Book: Its History and Contents
By E. Clowes Chorley, D.D.

For the most part the phraseology was left unchanged and there was no attempt at restatement of doctrine. Here and there it was made possible to shorten the services. The first long step toward enrichment of the Liturgy which culminated in the Book of 1928, was taken in 1892. New sentences were added to morning and evening prayer and the ancient chants, “The Magnificat” and the “Nunc Dimittis” were added to evening prayer; also additional versicles and responses. In the same service there was substituted a new prayer for the President of the United States, reading:

“Almighty God, whose kingdom is everlasting and power infinite, Have mercy upon this whole land; and so rule the hearts of thy servants THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, THE GOVERNOR OF THIS STATE, and all others in authority, that they, knowing whose ministers they are, may above all things seek thine honour and glory; and that we and all the People, duly considering whose authority they bear, may faithfully and obediently honour them, in thee, and for thee, according to thy blessed word and ordinance; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end. Amen.’

The following suffrage was added to the Litany: “That it may please thee to send forth labourers into thy harvest.” The occasional prayers were enriched by the addition of three new ones: “For Unity“; “For Missions“; and two for “Fruitful Seasons” and there was added “A Thanksgiving for the Recovery of a Child.” The prayer for Unity read:

“O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord: that as there is but one Body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

After the occasional Prayers and Thanksgivings there was inserted “A Penitential Office” for Ash-Wednesday, an adaptation of the old English Commination Service minus its crudities and curses. New Collects, Epistles and Gospels were added for the first Communions at Christmas and Easter Day as in the First Prayer Book of Edward VI. One Feast was added to the Calendar: “The Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ,” the Collect for which read:

“O God, who on the mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine only-begotten Son wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening, mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty, who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, “world without end. Amen.”

It is worthy of note that this example has been followed in the new Prayer Book of the Church of England. New sentences were provided for the Offertory in the Celebration of the Holy Communion; also a significant addition to the rubric: “And sufficient opportunity shall be given to those present to communicate.” In the Confirmation Office provision was made for the presentation of the candidates to the bishop; also for a Gospel, and rubric reading, “The Minister shall not omit earnestly to move the Persons confirmed to come to the Lord’s Supper,” was added. No change was made in the Marriage service save the insertion of one sentence in the Exhortation describing marriage as “an honorable estate, instituted of God,” etc. In the Commendatory Prayer used in the Visitation of the Sick the ominous words, “And teach us who survive, in this, and other like daily spectacles of mortality, to see how frail and uncertain our own condition is” were omitted. Three Prayers were added to the Burial Office. A New Rubric was inserted in the Office For the Visitation of Prisoners stating that “it is judged best that the criminal should not make any public profession or declaration.” The Collect was changed so as to remove the emphasis from the thought of deserved punishment to the divine forgiveness. In the Communion of the Sick permission was given to shorten the service in cases of contagious disease or extreme weakness; also to use the service for aged or bed-ridden people with the substitution of the Collect, Gospel and Epistle for the day. These ended the changes and additions in the Prayer Book proper. Some changes were made in the directions for the reading of the Psalter in public services. The old set of the “Selection of Psalms” and the Table of “Proper Psalms” for the great Feasts and Fasts in the Prayer Book of 1789 were omitted and new ones substituted. The Nicene Creed was inserted in the ordination of priests and the consecration of bishops. The words “Assistant Minister” were omitted from the Office of Institution of Ministers and, finally, the Articles of Religion were put at the end of the Prayer Book and given a distinct title-page.

With these, and other minor changes, the new Prayer Book was sent forth as the Standard Book of 1892.

Here are some specific examples of changes made in the 1892 BCP:

  • Clerical dress: The 1892 BCP mandated the use of specific vestments for clergy during services, such as the surplice and stole. This was a move towards greater uniformity and formality, but it also reflected the growing Anglo-Catholic influence within the church.
  • Optional elements: Some elements of clerical dress, such as the cassock and biretta, became optional, reflecting a more relaxed attitude towards ceremonial practices.

  • Use of incense: The 1892 BCP did not explicitly forbid the use of incense, but its use became less common due to concerns about practicality and its association with Anglo-Catholic practices.
  • Ritualistic elements: The BCP streamlined some rituals, removing elements deemed excessive or unnecessary. For example, the number of prescribed manual acts for the priest during the Eucharist was reduced.
  • Language: The language of the BCP was modernized, making it more accessible to a wider audience. For example, archaic pronouns and thee/thou language were replaced with more contemporary terms.
  • Music: The BCP provided more flexibility in the use of music in worship, allowing for a wider variety of styles and instruments.

It’s important to note that these changes were not universally accepted. Some Anglo-Catholics felt they did not go far enough, while some Evangelicals felt they went too far towards ritualism. However, the 1892 BCP remained the standard for the Episcopal Church for several decades and continues to influence its practices today.