It’s always fascinating to contemplate the future. Scary, exciting, confusing, but certainly something most of us think about. Of course, the best any of us – the most learned expert to the youngest child – can do is look at the past and connect it to the present while expressing some hopes for the future.
I’m particularly interested in two related subjects, often in the news in less than hopeful ways. The future of books and the future of the church. Actually, on this very day, I’m wondering about the future of books in church. Today is a feast day on the liturgical calendar that celebrates the first Book of Common Prayer from 1549. [Read more, if you’re feeling scholarly: Book of Common Prayer, history]
I love the fact that Episcopalians have a common book of prayers. Prayers that we have in common with all other Anglicans. Phrases that are repeated frequently enough to become written on our hearts, responses made nearly automatically after saying them for years. Thoughtfully chosen words that become more alive, rather than tired or trite, because we share them with so many. A calling card, an entry point for those wanting to explore their own faith within, and even without, the Episcopal Church. A book that connects us with past and future generations.
Maybe you’ve already guessed where I’m going with this. Will we have a Book of Common Prayer in our fragmented, downloadable world? Will we feel a need to change the language of our common prayers simply because we can with a few keystrokes, rather than because we must? And most of you know what my real question is. Will we have the musical equivalent to The Book of Common Prayer, a bound hymnal of 700 or 800 hymns that we hold in common with all other Episcopalians? Like anyone else, I can only look at a past which held books as something precious, connect that to a present where information is valued more than knowledge, and have hope for a future that will find renewed importance in holding a common book that connects us to others who are grounding their faith in common prayers, spoken and sung.