It is important that families pray together as the basic society in which the Church is built upon. To that effect, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer at p. 587 provides a form for Morning and Evening Prayer that is shortened from the regular and more formal daily office. Additionally, an even shorter form of both Morning and Evening Prayer are provided for busy families starting on p. 592. Finally, a selection of Additional Prayers are included at p. 594 that can be used as appropriate during a family gathering for daily prayer or separately when applicable to a situation. Of course, their are also the additional Prayers and Thanksgivings located after the full office of Evening Prayer starting at p. 35.
These tools are useful in assisting families with praying together. The purpose is not to merely recite one or both offices daily for the sake of checking it off of a spiritual to-do list but to be used as a tool in discipling families. The regular use of prayer is a discipline that easily catechizes the family to quickly learn the Lord’s Prayer, especially for the youngest members of the family. Including the readings from the 1662 or original 1928 lectionary (not the 1943, which is printed in most 1928 BCPs) will ensure the Word of God is taught by hearing and will result in nearly the entire Bible being heard through the year.
As children come of age, one can easily incorporate elements of the Catechism that begins just prior to the Family Prayer section in preparation for their Confirmation into the church. Additionally, the Thirty-Nine Articles are conveniently located just after the Family Prayer section and can be referenced as needed on answering and teaching the broad reformed catholicism embodying the Anglican faith.
My last post mentioned the expansion of family oratories into something more – what was once referred to as a society of families gathered to recite a daily office and reading from the lectionary. Such a gathering for Evening Prayer can include the shorter versions in the Family Prayer section, especially considering the presence of small children who will likely have a difficult time remaining attentive for a full Evening Prayer service. However, for those families with older children, the full Evening Prayer service can be recited by the laity, minus the absolution after the confession of sins. For purposes of this post, I will assume a shorter service fits better with the average busy American life.
Prattville Anglican Fellowship suggests starting small with a shorter Evening Prayer service from the Family Prayer section and perhaps only meet once a month at first with another family (the meeting location can swap to make it easier on the families participating and to avoid a regular host family from being “burned out”). The evening could start with a small potluck dinner and after blessing the meal the relevant biblical texts from the lectionary could be read and reflected upon over dinner (Perhaps this meal is a modern adaptation of the agape feast). Afterwards, the Evening Prayer service begins and part of the Catechism and corresponding article from the Articles of Religion can be read and discussed.
Naturally, young children will want to be busybodies and play but the fact they hear the common prayer and texts being read week after week will soak into them. What is important is that they see their parents taking the obligation of prayer and Bible reading seriously. Over time, the children will learn the Lord’s Prayer and Apostle’s Creed by “osmosis.” I say this from personal experience in merely being raised a regular Sunday churchgoer in the United Methodist Church, where I easily learned the Lord’s Prayer and Apostle’s Creed by heart at a very young age simply from attending the services regularly. I will forever be grateful that my local UMC parish had not (yet) abandoned the traditional language and outline of a Book of Common Prayer service.
Obviously, the Catechism and Office of Instruction are both very elementary and short documents within the prayer book and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion can be quickly reviewed (although I could easily spend two years on the Thirty-Nine Articles if meeting only once a month – they are short but theologically a deep well). After exhausting these resources, a printed homily or sermon could replace the catechism and Thirty-Nine Articles to enrich and educate attendees on the meaning of the lectionary text (or other biblical text) from a church father or well-known expositor from the faith. I suggest taking a look at any of the following sites for source material: Sermons for Lay Readers; Lectionary Central; and Read the Fathers. An idea I am currently considering is perhaps reading through the two Books of Homilies, or at least the Homily on Salvation (which is specifically referenced as the Homily on Justification by Article XI of the Thirty-Nine Articles).With the internet at one’s fingertips there are a plethora of free sources of classic sermons, catechisms, and commentaries at one’s fingertips. Many Anglican specific ones will be added to the Links section over time.
Essentially, if a couple of families (or more) are willing to gather regularly and say an office I suggest it begin with food and discussing the relevant Bible readings and then flow into a short Evening Prayer service. If it ends after prayer then you have done more than what the average family does on a weekly basis. I encourage families to press on and do a short reading and discussion of the Catechism and Thirty-Nine Articles when one is starting their fellowship of families so that everyone is, in theory, will be well-grounded on the basics of the Trinitarian and orthodox Christian faith. Afterwards, the “study” portion of the evening could expand to include sermons, classic catechisms, or devotional readings.
The key to such a fellowship is to find a few like-minded persons who are committed praying together and seeking holiness in the day-to-day. The first several meetings will be awkward in execution but persevere and things will begin to flow more naturally. Starting off small is better than trying to go “all-in” initially. A meal where everyone alternates reading the lectionary texts and then engage in a short form of Evening Prayer is an excellent start to hopefully something that will grow into a fuller study over time. Godspeed!