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Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (10/29/10) Hardcover – November 28, 2010
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From the Back Cover
It's more than a book--it's a movement.
About the Author
Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution and Jesus for President, is a founder of The Simple Way, a community in inner-city Philadelphia that has helped birth and connect radical faith communities around the world. thesimpleway.org Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of God's Economy and The Wisdom of Stability, directs the School for Conversion and lives with his family at Rutba House in Durham, NC. jonathanwilsonhartgrove.com
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As other reviewers have noted (somewhat angrily) this book is not The Book of Common Prayer. Anyone who has read the product description, though, is already aware of this. It has many characteristics of The Book of Common Prayer though. There are outlines for Evening and Noonday prayer, but rather than having a simple rubric for Morning Prayer the book is filled with individual devotionals for each day of the year. So, for those who are familiar with both the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and those evangelical devotionals with a thought/meditation/prayer/reading/all-or-some-of-the-above, it might be helpful to think of this as something in between.
Perhaps it is not fair of me to write this review as I have certainly not read the entirety of the book (and I probably won't be done until a year from now--that's how the book works), but I will do my best to provide a review of what I have read of it.
The introduction is pretty good. It won't provide the depth of history behind liturgy that people who have already fallen in love with, studied, and practice liturgy would like. It is exactly what it claims to be--an introduction and nothing more. It seems that the intended audience is more those that are unfamiliar with liturgy than those who are familiar with it. It is what you would expect from the New Monastics in its critical attitude toward government and the idea of serving the Kingdom of God being mutually exclusive of serving the nations of this world. The point of being ecumenical is stressed over and over. It doesn't give a very complete history of liturgical prayer. Rather it just stresses that liturgy is a big part of the church's history. As the unhappy Anglican/Episcopal reviewers have mentioned, Thomas Cranmer is not even mentioned.
The Morning Prayers are pretty sweet. For those of you who are used to a tradition that uses liturgy, you'll either feel comfortable because of the way it seems sort of like what you use or you'll feel a bit uneasy about how it seems almost like it but not quite. I swung back and forth between those feelings reading the first nine days of morning prayers to get caught up. Aside from the liturgical aspect, the stories and quotes inserted about saints/heroes of Christianity are awesome. Great short little stories about amazing people. I really like this about this book.
One criticism I have about the liturgy in this book is that there's no reference made to where the material came from. I recognize a lot of it from my beloved Book of Common Prayer and a lot is straight out of the Bible, while other bits sound vaguely familiar. I've been to a lot of different kinds of churches and read a lot of liturgy, but I'm no expert so I can't pinpoint where it all came from. I wish there were a bunch of footnotes saying where all the material came from. That would be helpful in understanding what we're saying. Also, it's kind of difficult to appreciate another culture/tradition/time period's contribution when it's not even given credit. These people have clearly mined through so much material; I just wish I could have a map of where they've gone to get all of this.
The Occasional Prayers section is pretty helpful. A lot of these are comparable to some of the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer with a few notable ones that have no parallel prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. Two that really stood out to me are A Litany to Honor Women and Death of Someone Killed in the Neighborhood. I specifically like these two because these are things I've actually tried to pray about and felt unable to find the words. Scripted prayers provide words to pray when you don't know how to put words to your thoughts and feelings.
In conclusion, I wish this book were more thoroughly annotated to provide a richer understanding of where the prayers come from, but aside from that I'm really liking it. As far as the criticism made by a couple of my disgruntled fellow Anglicans that it's not The Book of Common Prayer, they're absolutely right, so if you're looking for that just buy that. It's a pretty sweet book too. It's definitely got the leanings of the New Monastics. It's got their subversive pacifist fingerprints all over it (and I like that). It's different from any prayer book you've seen and hopefully will make everyone feel a little bit welcome and a little bit displaced, which is good because we've got a lot to learn from trying out other folks' ways of doing things.
I'm sure I'll find more I like and dislike about it as the year goes on and this review is certainly not my final take on it, but hopefully some of you can benefit from my thoughts from the first few readings.
Grace and Peace to all of you.
I would agree with others that the kindle version can be a bit cumbersome to navigate vs. a paper version (I only have kindle).
However, the convenience of having it on multiple devices is worth it to me.