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Understanded of the People

May 4, 2012

2012 marks the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), and to celebrate that milestone, St Paul’s Cathedral, in conjunction with the Church Times, will display a host of prayer books, old and new.

Titled Understanded of the People: The People’s Prayer Book 1662-2012, the exhibition will run at St Paul’s throughout May and coincides with a special service of choral evensong on Wednesday 2 May at 5pm, attended by the Prayer Book Society, at which the Bishop of London will preach and the Archbishop of Canterbury will give the blessing.

The BCP remains the classic worship book of the Church of England. Although contemporary prayer books have been introduced, many churches and most cathedrals still use the BCP alongside these modern forms. The 1662 version still has a strong hold on people’s affections and even people with little faith still see merit in its venerable language and historical associations.

The exhibition will include prayer books from the First World War, a prayer book carried by a bride at her wedding instead of flowers, the gift of a brother to his sister as he left for active service in World War II, and prayer books special to people like PD James, Terry Waite, Frank Field and many others. Readers of the Church Times were also invited to submit their prayer book stories and some of these readers will have their books on display.

The Reverend Canon Michael Hampel, Precentor of St Paul’s, said: “The language of the Book of Common Prayer runs like a golden thread through the history of the English language. For many of the contributors to this exhibition, it shaped who they are and it’s a privilege for St Paul’s to be able to share personal stories alongside people’s prayer books.”

The exhibition will be on display in the North Quire Aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral from Tuesday 1 to Thursday 31 May from 8.30am to 4pm.

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