The Archbishop of Canterbury

The fundamental purpose of Celebrating Common Prayer – The Daily Office SSF is this: to help the Church as a whole to pray together daily in a reflective and structured way.

This was always Cranmer’s intention in The Book of Common Prayer. Although his version of Morning and Evening Prayer has long provided a non-eucharistic form of public worship on Sundays and has done much to characterise Anglican public worship, it has only rather patchily achieved his other purpose of being the regular worship attended by the whole congregation and offered day by day in parish churches throughout the land.

For many regular Sunday worshippers, personal prayer during the week is unstructured and haphazard. This places even more burdens on the Sunday act of worship, which has to do the task of nourishing and sustaining reflective prayer during the week as well as celebrating and proclaiming the risen life of Christ in word and sacrament. A pattern of daily prayer which complements eucharistic worship, such as this book, offers a major resource to the Church. I hope many Christians will use it to engage in a common pattern of daily prayer which will unite us all in prayer and praise and allow us to feed on a common diet of psalmody and canticle.

Since the publication of The Alternative Service Book 1980, our knowledge of the origin and purpose of daily common prayer in the early Church has grown enormously. As a result, many people long for a return to a simple and more celebratory form of common prayer for our time.

In this book, a large number of contributors have helped the Society of Saint Francis to offer to the Church a pattern of daily prayer which meets many of the needs expressed by Christians from a wide variety of traditions. There is a simple structure for Morning and Evening Prayer, when desired. The services can be led by lay people as effectively as the clergy. There is an emphasis on celebrating together rather than ‘saying the Office’ as a private and exclusively clerical obligation.

As well as the texts, suggestions are made as to how the services might be celebrated in a wide range of circumstances. The use of music of different styles and of a visual focus – the Bible, a lighted candle, a large cross, for example – will enrich the worship for many.

Although the services are conceived for corporate use, they can also be adapted easily so that people may use them when alone. We need to recognise and cater for the many Christians who are not part of a family which shares their faith. We need to recognise too that there are many occasions when people may have need of a structured form of prayer when they are on their own, whether it is in hospital or on a commuter train, those peculiar forms of isolation when there are many people around. It is in these situations, as well as in other corporate gatherings, that this book will help us to know that we are sharing fully in the Church’s prayer. It is this – the recovery of a joyful partnership in common prayer – which is at the heart of this welcome proposal.

X George Cantuar
Lambeth Palace, London