A Royal First

I’ve just finished watching the Royal Wedding coverage from Windsor Castle. The service was a typically grand affair musically, with both choir and orchestra, including a truly spectacular final verse of Praise My Soul.

Whilst there was much attention over the marital status of Charles and Camilla, this lead to by far the biggest change in the service. Since this was a blessing, they couldn’t use the traditional Book of Common Prayer marriage service. It is worth mentioning at this point that Prince Charles is Patron of the Prayer Book Society, who actively campaigned against the introduction of Common Worship saying that the Book of Common Prayer was all the Church needed, even dredging up a 1989 speech by the Prince in support in the book The Real Common Worship. In the run up to the wedding, the Times quoted Meg Pointer of the society saying “I would hope he would not use the Common Worship service.â€? She said a service could be “put togetherâ€? using the language from the Book of Common Prayer. (Just to be clear, she was proposing that the Archbishop of Cantebury and the one day head of the Church of England make up a non-standard service rather than using the form of service approved by the Church of England for such a situation. The reason being that the Book of Common Prayer, that the society said in 2000 is all the liturgy that the Church of England needs, doesn’t include a suitable service.)

Whilst in the past there have been occasions when rules have been bent over forms of service for Royal Occasions, it is a tribute to the flexibility in the new liturgy that what we had today was the Common Worship service, and perhaps the most public example of the aim of Common Worship to bring everybody in the Church onto a single book.

Although the press were commenting on the use of the 1662 confession, it is worth noting that it is present in Common Worship. They used the proper traditional Lord’s Prayer rather than the 1967 modified version that often gets called the traditional version today, which again is allowed under the rubrics.

There were a couple of interesting diversions from the traditional language. The dedication of the marriage stuck to the modern words in the services, and what especially surprised me was that the question to the families and friends to uphold the marriage was included. The other surprise was that whilst in almost every other respect the option of a traditional language prayer was taken, at the very end of the service, Rowan Williams used the blessing straight from the service, in it’s modern form.

Having said all of that, I doubt many people will have noticed, and to be honest the reason that Charles and Camilla had to use the modern service is that there is no provision for remarrying divorcees in the Book of Common Prayer. Perhaps the real Royal First will be when a Royal Wedding uses the modern language marriage service that the majority of couples use for their Church Weddings.

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