It may seem a bit incongruous to read the 400-year-old words of the Book of Common Prayer on an app, but that’s what I find myself doing most mornings now, between my other daily rituals of coffee and the two-minute commute to my home office.
The app is an unexpected result of the pandemic. As the reality of COVID-19 and church closures set in last March, so too did an increasing desire – or need – to pray. In particular, there was a renewed interest in praying the daily offices, says the Rev. Chris Dow, incumbent of St. James, Caledon and a national councillor with the Prayer Book Society of Canada.
The Rev. Mark Regis and the Rev. Jonathan Turtle, also of the Diocese of Toronto, approached Mr. Dow with the idea of developing a daily prayer app using the Book of Common Prayer. He ran it by Gordon Maitland, the national chairman of the PBS Canada, who enthusiastically supported the idea.
By Advent I, the start of the liturgical year, the Common Prayer Canada app was up and running for both Android and iOS phones as well as a web-based version for desktop computers. Mr. Dow said the development team wanted no barriers to acquiring the app, so they made it available for free. By mid-December it had been downloaded more than 600 times.
Mr. Dow is quick to point out that replacing the physical prayer book is not the goal. The app includes links on how to buy and use your own Book of Common Prayer. But with churches shuttered, access to the familiar maroon, pocket-sized book is limited.
The team sought feedback during the beta-testing stage from several prayer book devotees, including Martha Riddell, a recent Master of Divinity graduate of Trinity College and the child and youth minister at St. Olave’s, Swansea in Toronto. She says she meets many young Anglicans from evangelical or other denominations – on social media as well as in real life – who love the prayer book. The Eucharist can be overwhelming for some people who are new to Anglicanism, but not so the daily offices. “I have Baptist friends who love the prayer book because there is so much scripture, but also they love the structure of Morning Prayer. It’s a real tool of evangelism right now.”
Here’s how the app works:
- Choose whether you’d like to say daily offices or family prayers. The app automatically sets the day’s appointed scripture and collects.
- If you choose daily offices, you can select prayers for Morning, Mid-day, Evening or Compline, as well as the Litany and the Supplication. If you choose family prayers, you can specify morning or evening.
- Choose from the vast list of occasional prayers and thanksgivings that are meaningful to you. The list of prayers even includes one from the 1918 Book of Common Prayer, “In the time of any common Plague or Sickness.”
- Finally, just press “pray” and the order of service is laid out for you in one easy scroll.
There are other deeper settings as well, such as your preferred Bible translation, whether you’d like the 30-day or 60-day Psalm cycle, a long or short confession and prayer after confession (or an absolution if you’re a priest). The app makes it easy to adjust the size of the text as well.
For laypeople like me who might find Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer daunting, the family prayers are a comfortable alternative. They take just a bit less time to say and are designed specifically for home use. Set notifications to remind you when you want to pray and let this handy tool sharpen your prayer discipline for 2021.
For more information on the app, visit http://prayerbook.ca/resources/bcp-app/ or download Common Prayer Canada from your app provider.
A tipping point of our own