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The BBC's Emily Buchanan
"Church leaders hope the book will help heal divisions"
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Friday, 7 April, 2000, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Prayer book gets modern makeover
 The Bishop of Salisbury
The Bishop of Salisbury with the new prayer book
By religious affairs correspondent Emily Buchanan

The Church of England has unveiled its design for the new Common Worship prayer book.

It has taken 15 years of painstaking work by the General Synod, and contains revised versions of prayers and services which will replace the 20-year-old Alternative Service Book (ASB).

Many people felt that the ASB's language was bland and church leaders hope the new version will be richer and have more depth.

Subtle changes

The new Common Worship book will come into use from 3 December and congregations will notice many subtle changes.

Baptismal and funeral services will have extra prayers and rituals. Mourners, for instance, will now be able to put sentimental objects onto a coffin.

The new book will be available on the web
Throughout the new prayer book, God will still be referred to as He, although he is also described as like "a mother who tenderly gathers her children" in one of the new Communion prayers.

The biggest change people will notice is that, instead of the old system where the ASB had all the modern language prayers and the 17th Century Book of Common Prayer had all the old language - now the new book called 'Common Worship' contains both old and new texts in one volume.

Personal choice

Congregations will easily be able to compare the two, and choose a mixture of prayers to suit their tastes.

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev David Stancliffe, who headed the commission revising the prayer book, said: "There's a great virtue in having the same material in the same book, because it actually says this is what the Church of England is like. It's a church which embraces different styles and different traditions.

"It will also help to heal divisions in the church as people won't be forced to choose one camp or another, they can mix the two."

Churches will choose their own mix of prayers
Worshippers often get very agitated over changes in liturgical texts because it is the language in which they pray, and they are very close to it.

But church leaders hope that, as they've spent many months testing out the new prayers in 800 parishes, any offence it might cause would have surfaced by now.

Traditionalists in the Church have always resisted the Alternative Service Book, as well as the new Common Worship, but they will still be free to use the old Book of Common Prayer, as long as they like.

The new prayer book will also be available on the Internet, so people can download the services and prayers that they choose.

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