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 Issues | Liturgy | Holy Communion Order Two

Order Two in Contemporary Language

Common Worship contains four communion services and an outline order. One of these follows the principles of the Book of Common Prayer but in contemporary English.

Theological principles.

There are certain key biblical truths underlying the administration of the Lords Supper in the BCP and Order Two. These are the central concerns of reformed theology.

The centrality of the cross of Christ - at the Lord's Supper we are proclaiming the Lord's death until He comes. Other themes must be secondary to this.

A fellowship meal for the people of God - it is not something remote from the people, but the Lord's people gathered at the Lord's table.  Unlike the Medieval Mass where the people were mere spectators this is a meal for all believers.

Word and Sacrament are inseparable - you cannot have the sacrament without the word of God explaining and expounding what is happening.

Human sinfulness - examination and repentance must be fundamental to the service, we come only by grace not by our own merits.

All is by faith - sola fide - 'by faith alone'. The bread and wine do not convey anything in their own essence, the benefits are available only to those who receive by faith.

The benefits of the Lord's Supper are conveyed in a spiritual manner, through the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.

For generations scholars have recognised that the liturgy of the BCP, primarily the work of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was both faithful to these reformed principles and a work of powerful and eloquent liturgy.


Liturgical principles
Order Two in Contemporary Language follows almost exactly the order of the Book of Common Prayer. The only substantial change is the omission of the first and second long exhortations (which are sadly ignored by churches) and a shortened form of the third exhortation is included.

Where texts are common to other services (such as the Creed and Collect for Purity) then the ordinary modern language form is used. Some of these are internationally agreed English language texts which often appear to be driven more by political correctness than biblical theology.

It is perfectly permissible in the new services to substitute a traditional language text, the creed for example. Mixing old and new is very 'post-modern' and congregations may prefer to do it for their own reasons.

In the production of the service there was a considerable difference of opinion about how to handle some of the other texts. One example will serve to illustrate the dilemma.

The Confession in the Book of Common Prayer is a powerful prayer, written in a particular style, focusing heavily on the gravity and consequences of sin, but with many now outdated expressions. Every attempt simply to update the English has resulted in a prayer that feels and sounds much weaker. Some therefore argued that it was best to allow people to use the BCP confession at this point but provide another confession which follows the principles of reformed theology whilst being in modern English. This was rejected by the revision committee. Indeed it was suggested that it was impossible to express reformed theology in anything other than 16th century English. The committee decided that the texts must follow as closely as possible the wording of Cranmer.

Theologically, this seems to betray a fear of admitting that reformed theology has any contemporary value - it is only of antiquarian interest.
Liturgically it has made for a certain inconsistency in the service.

The Confession and Prayer after Communion are all slightly unsatisfactory in that their language is stilted in places. In both instances a theologically weaker alternative is provided in the text. The only other significant issue of language is the retention of the word ÔoblationÕ in the Prayer of Consecration.

Outline of the Service


  • The Lord's Prayer
  • Collect for Purity (As ASB)
  • Commandments (NRSV text). These are part of the opening prayers; we ask GodÕs help to live by His standards. They are not intended to be used to make us feel guilty. The Summary or Kyrie can be used instead.
  • Silent Prayer
  • The Collect for the Day

The Word

  • This is identical in format to the ASB, except there is an introductory 'acclamation' to the Gospel. Two readings are obligatory, three suggested, one must be the Gospel - we are after all remembering Christ at this service.
  • The Nicene Creed is part of our response to the word of God (There are a couple of significant inclusive language changes.)
  • The Sermon

Offertory & Intercessions

  • The collection of monetary gifts. Sentences are provided.
  • The table is made ready for the Lord's Supper.
  • Gathered together around the Lord's table the people of God pray.

The Sacrament

  • A shorter exhortation encapsulates what is to follow, people are exhorted to remember Christ's promises and warnings, examine themselves, give thanks, receive, and resolve to serve. (This text is new and based on the third long exhortation in the BCP.)
  • The invitation to confession (updated form of BCP)
  • Confession (two forms, one close to BCP, the other different)
  • Absolution (BCP updated)
  • Comfortable words (as ASB)
  • Sursum Corda - 'lift up your hearts' (this is an international text, the 'him' has been removed in the fourth line)
  • Preface (updated ones are provided)
  • Praise of God - Sanctus (ASB form)
  • Prayer of Humble Access (As ASB but with the missing lines put back - and an alternative provided)
  • Prayer of Consecration (BCP updated with all the terms Cranmer piled up to avoid misunderstanding)
  • Giving of Communion (Following immediately after the command of Christ. He says it, we do it, without interference. The full form of the words are provided, though they can be split up to make it easier to use - remember it was Elizabeth I who had Cranmer's liturgy altered at this point making the words rather cumbersome.)

Post Communion

  • The Lord's Prayer (again)
  • Post Communion Prayer (One of the BCP prayers, but it does not sound contemporary. Alongside this is one of the prayers from the ASB which is far more likely to be used, though weaker.)
  • Gloria (praising God)
  • The Blessing


What about the Peace?

There is no provision for the Peace. It can be used, but be sensitive.

  • At the start - making peace before we come together.
  • Immediately before the short exhortation - in response to the word of God making peace with others before we make peace with God in the confession.
  • At the end

There is scope for variation within what is allowed although churches should be careful not to lose the doctrine and power of the liturgy as it stands.




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Common Worship
BulletCommunion Order One
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BulletBook of Common Prayer (1662)
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BulletWhat's in a name?


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