While the American 1979 Book of Common Prayer has restored the Eucharistic service to its primary place as the key rite for the gathered Christian community on Sundays, the success of this implementation has had the unfortunate effect of suppressing the praying of the Office among both clergy and laity.
The Daily Office is one of the great treasures of our Anglican heritage. Sunday, Holy-day and even Daily Masses have their place within our piety but they do not—andshould not—replace our need for and practice of the Offices. Rather, the Mass and Office are complementary to one another.
The Daily Office is the daily worship of the Church catholic. It is both symbolic of and an aid to St. Paul’s command in Scripture to “pray without ceasing.” Its constant round of Psalms and Scripture give us fodder for our daily rumination and action. It binds us into the unceasing worship of the whole Church—Militant, Expectant, and Triumphant. It forms us as Christians and as Anglicans. It is one of the greatest gifts that we have to offer to our divided and broken Body of Christ, a fragment of the treasure of the whole that we have preserved and, in this time, may offer back for the edification and rejoicing of all.
None of these things will happen, however, if we do not pray it and teach others to do likewise.
Learning to Pray
The first step, then, is learning how to pray the Office. To that end, I offer two aids, one for use with each rite of the ’79 BCP:
How to Pray the Daily Office: Rite I (Anglo-Catholic Style Daily Office)
How to Pray the Office: Rite II (Office Quick Reference)
Both of these try to capture the internal spirit and logic of the rite they represent. Neither of them is fundamentally authoritative in that they are not liturgical straight-jackets. Mix, adapt, learn what works best for you.
Obviously, these work well with your Book of Common Prayer. They may also help guide you (if you need further guidance) in navigating some of the Anglican websites for praying the Office (Roman options are on the side-bar):
St. Augustine in his commentary on the Psalms correctly stated that those who sing pray twice. Singing or chanting the Office is a venerable and beautiful way to pray. A fully notated and pointed version of the Rite II Office, Collects, and Psalter according to the Use of the Order of Julian of Norwich may be found here.
Teaching Others to Pray
Praying the Office functions best and is intended to be done in community. Anyone can start this ministry. No priests, clergy, or church professionals are needed for a full and proper celebration of the Office. What is necessary is an informed body of people with the commitment to see it through and to see it done well (consistently, respectfully, and reverently).
Hopefully, resources will appear here for teaching the Office. In the meantime, I offer you the pattern that Josh Thomas, founder of the Daily Office blog, advocates:
Listen, here’s how you get the Daily Office to work for adults.
1. You train laypeople thoroughly in the liturgy, and in the process help them become a praying community. It starts the very first session.
2. At the end of the training (10 weeks, 12?), you ask if they want to take this praying community of theirs out into the streets – in the church, private homes, offices, wherever. This requires a commitment: five mornings or evenings per week, without fail, for a limited period of time.
If they do, you build in dedicated times for feedback, plus a party at the end.
3. You publicize the Office in the parish newsletter, e-mail, etc. so the whole parish is invited.
(You might also make available links to online versions of the Office, which I believe are missing on this site.)
In other words, you simply get a core group of people in the habit of saying the Office together. Let them lead the rest of the parish into a deeper appreciation for disciplined daily prayer.
The dailyness of it is what leads us to stability, obedience and conversion of life. Therefore it is a tool of enormous spiritual power, which no parish in this Church should ignore.
But we do, because we think running church services is the priest’s job.
Equipping lay ministers to be confident officiants will change that right quick.
I have one other suggestion: at suitable times, do a full Choral Evensong with Sermon. Let the priest preach and otherwise have nothing to do but pray; she’ll love that. Partner with the choir, organist and any other musicians nearby; in my parish it’s the Bach Chorale. Make it a cultural, artistic and spiritual experience for the whole city. Take up a collection but give all the proceeds to a local charity.
The congregation will love it, and while you’re there, remind them, “We do a plain version of this five nights a week in the chapel downstairs (the nursing home, wherever). Come join us; it deepens your life in just 10 minutes a day.”