The green book, or the BAS, is the second huge change which many of us have lived through. Many grew up with the BCP in its various Canadian guises. Whilst the Canadian BCP underwent some changes in 1918 and 1962 they were not substantive. The order, language and doctrine of the communion service remained substantially that of the Church of England’s BCP of 1662. The BCP even included the 39 articles of religion.
The BAS changed all of that:
- The language was different. It was no longer the language of Shakespeare. It was modern English, not quite everyday, but no longer a so-called “holy language.” That was difficult for some people but a relief for others.
- The order was different. Whilst the content was mostly the same, things appeared in different places. The Lord’s prayer, for example was no longer at the beginning and end of the service, but just before communion.
- The doctrine was different. The emphasis on judgement and penitence of the BCP was replaced by a focus on grace. The 39 articles disappeared. The “Peace” became the transition from the service of the word to the celebration of Eucharist (Holy Communion). I remember there being a huge fuss in the Church of England around the expectation of greeting our neighbours at the Peace!
- And there were choices, notably a variety of Eucharistic prayers reflecting different seasons and theologies.
I am a child of the Book of Alternative Services, or at least the Church of England’s version of the BAS, the Alternative Service Book, which preceded the BAS by 5 years. Because I came into the church in my late teens I was never subject to the BCP as a child. I was just about old enough to be a part of the experimental services that preceded the ASB in England. If I had been in Canada I would have known a different process, in which my parish has a proud place. Pinned to the wall above my desk is a copy of “The Trail Liturgy”: Trail’s claim to fame, at least in Anglican circles. “The Trail Liturgy” was one of Canada’s experimental services and was thus a direct precursor to the BAS.
I had little use for the BCP until I came to Trail and found two congregations which were still using it. We continued with the BCP until the second of those congregations ceased to gather in 2018. But I never warmed to it. The BCP felt like stepping back in time, not just to the 1950’s but further to a world in which the church and state went hand in hand and the common people were given a form of religion to keep them in their place.
And now things are changing again. We have new liturgies and new options. There are new Eucharistic prayers and new Collects and new translations of the Psalms: so many options and no single book with everything in it. And these things are valuable and good and fit into the new church context of data projectors and screens. But I have found myself grieving for the era of the BAS. It still expressed some form of certainty and cohesion. I was used to its language and its patterns. I feel that we are losing something that held us together as a church – though I recognise the change is needed. I am sure that was how people felt in the transition from the BCP to the BAS.
There is much I could say about the BAS. I think it was ultimately a better book than England’s ASB. Particularly I commend the introduction to the book and to the Eucharist – each of which still has much to teach us about our worship. Here at St Andrew’s we still use one small section of the Trail liturgy which did not make the final cut for the BAS. As we offer the Eucharist to the people of God in Trail we say “The food of God for the Family of God.”