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This article is taken from PN Review 24, Volume 8 Number 4, March - April 1982.

Big Business H. S. Ferns

The case for the production of The Alternative Service Book for use in place of the Book of Common Prayer is clearly stated in the Preface. 'Rapid social and intellectual change . . . together with a world-wide re-awakening of interest in liturgy, have made it desirable that new understandings of worship should find expression in new forms and styles.'

Forms and styles! This is the heart of the matter. The authors of the Preface admit as much when they wisely write '. . . words, even agreed words, are only the beginning of worship. Those who use them do well to recognize their transience and imperfection . . . to acknowledge their power in shaping faith and kindling devotion, without claiming they are fully adequate to the task.'

Why spend energy and resources on 'new forms and styles'? The authors of the Preface to the Book of Common Prayer, 1662, gave three reasons for making some alterations in the Prayer Book authorised by Queen Elizabeth I in Parliament (I Elizabeth c.2) in the first year of her reign. The second of these reasons is one of those advanced today for The Alternative Service Book, viz. 'the more proper expressing of some words or phrases of ancient usage in terms more suitable to the language of present times, and the clearer explanation of some of the words and phrases, either of doubtful signification, or otherwise liable to misconstruction.'

There is undoubtedly an argument ...


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