The 1789 Book of Common Prayer

At a service during the bicentennial year, the rite of Holy Communion will be read from the 1789 edition of the American Book of Common Prayer, as used when Saint James’ Church was established in Warrenton in 1816. During the intervening two-hundred years, there have been three revisions of the Prayer Book – the most recent of which was in 1979. The order of service has changed, but much of the eloquent language remains familiar throughout the various revisions.

title_pageHistorically, the service of Holy Communion as given in the 1789 American Book of Common Prayer is derived from the Scottish Episcopal Church, rather than from the Church of England. During the colonial period, there were no bishops in America; clergy in the colonies were accountable to England. However, when William III and Mary II came to the throne in 1688, all the Scottish bishops (and a number of English bishops) refused to swear allegiance to the new king and queen. Thus the Scottish Episcopal Church was established, independent of the Church of England.

Upon the colonies gaining independence, the American church turned to the independent Scottish Episcopal Church where, in 1784, Samuel Seabury of Connecticut was consecrated (by Scottish bishops) as the first bishop in the American Episcopal Church, thereby having avoided swearing allegiance to the English monarchy, as all Church of England bishops were required to do.

The sacrament of Holy Communion used in the Episcopal Church of Scotland in 1764 formed the basis for the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper as found in the American 1789 Book of Common Prayer, and subsequent revisions of the American Eucharist service therefore bore more resemblance to the Scottish liturgy than to the English.

(mobile-friendly Rite for Holy Communion from the 1789 BCP)