The Book of Common Worship of 1906

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The Book of Common Worship of 1906 was the first liturgical book of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. It was replaced by a new edition in 1932.

The book was the result of overtures from the Synod of New York and the Presbytery of Denver. Henry Van Dyke was the chairperson of the committee charged with the publication of the book.

The book relied heavily on the liturgical reforms of the Church of Scotland and incorporated much of the liturgical tradition from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. It included liturgies for morning and evening worship services as well as ancient forms of Eucharistic prayers based on Eastern Orthodox liturgies. Prayers and texts were written for festivals and seasons of the Liturgical Year, which at the time of publication was not universally accepted in the Presbytery. Various orders were written for Confirmation, Ordination, and other ordinances. For the first time, "A Treasury of Prayers," a collection of ancient and contemporary prayers, was included. The prayers were drawn not only from within the Reformed tradition but also from within the Church catholic. One such example was the use of the Prayer of St. John Chrysostom,[1] a remarkable departure from the Reformed principles and an intense look into the pre-denominational past. Finally, the book included an extensive selection from Psalms and Canticles; the latter's titles were given in Latin (Magnificat; Nunc Dimittis, Te Deum laudamus etc.), a significant departure from the Reformed tradition.

Many Presbyterians were angered by what they felt was a loss of liberty in worship and criticized "canned prayers." In the General Assembly meeting to approve the book, one commissioner threw the book across the room and said, "Faugh! It smells of priestcraft." Another speaker responded, "This is not van Dyke's prayer book. It belongs to every member of the committee you appointed. It is not a liturgy. It's not a ritual. It does not contain 'canned' prayers. It contains great live prayers of our fathers. Are you going to tell the man who wants to use this book that he can't have it?"

In the end, the book was published but not fully embraced. However, it paved the way for a continuing tradition of liberty in Presbyterian worship in America, balanced with written resources for worship.

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