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The BBC's Emily Buchanan
"There will not be another prayer book for many decades to come"
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Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 14:06 GMT
New Synod, new prayer book
The Queen and the Dean of Westminster
The Queen arrives at Westminster Abbey with the Dean of Westminster
By religious affairs correspondent Emily Buchanan

The Church of England's new service book - Common Worship - was officially used for the first time on Tuesday when the Queen inaugurated the new General Synod at Westminster Abbey.

The Queen was presented with her own copy of the book, which will come into use in churches from early December.

It has taken 15 years of liturgical debate at Synod to come up with the new version which it is hoped has answered many of the criticisms of the previous one, the Alternative Service Book, or ASB.

new prayer book
It has taken 15 years of debate to produce the new book

Common Worship contains revised modern services and the old 17th century text of the Book of Common Prayer, in one volume, and clergy are free to use whichever versions are appropriate for their congregations.

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Reverend David Stancliffe who chaired the Liturgical Commission, hopes it will resolve differences between traditionalists and modernisers in the church, since old and new are given equal footing.

Modern language

At All Saints, in Colchester, Essex they have been trying out the new service book and the congregation seems pleased with it.

At a baptism service over the weekend the parents and godparents said they liked the fact the christening was now part of the main service and involved the whole congregation.

Some claim the book has boosted congregations
They also found the language both poetic and easy to understand.

The vicar, the Reverend Chris Newlands, defended the use of modern language in church.

He said: "Not everyone here has English as their first language, and with this new service we can communicate the church's true teaching to people."

He also claimed his congregation had increased since using the new book.

Fierce critics

But there are some traditionalists who disapprove of any modern language services being available.

They argue that the church's decline began when it started to abandon the original Book of Common Prayer.

The Reverend Peter Mullen of St Sepulchre's Church in the City of London has just brought out a book of essays arguing against modern services.

He feels Common Worship, although an improvement on the Alternative Service Book, is still misguided.

'Inferior and tawdry'

He says: "It's like somebody coming along and saying we've got to modernise Shakespeare, it can't be done.

If you get language that is not the Book of Common Prayer and you put this inferior, tawdry, miserable rubbish in its place, we've seen what happens, people are not attracted to it."

Modernisers on the other hand argue the Church of England would have declined even more if modern services had not been made available.

Common Worship looks as if it will have a longer life than the ASB which was only ever meant to last ten years. Although it has not resolved all the conflicts now, over time it may well have a healing effect.

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