This year marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. The KJV is without doubt “the most influential version of the most influential book in the world, in what is now its most influential language.”[i] The KJV has produced well over 200 turns of phrases and has in many ways shaped the way the English language is spoken. After some 400 years, the KJV is still the most popular and widely used version of the Bible.
The KJV was the first translation of the Bible that was crafted with the intent to be read in public, so it was carefully translated to insure a poetic, dignified, and meaningful experience to the hearer. And it is very difficult to argue that the goal was not accomplished.
One other note of interest for the people of the parish is that it was the Anglican Church who gave the world the King James Bible. Around 50 priest scholars were commissioned to create this timeless translation. We Episcopalians are often accused of not being a people of the Bible, ironically enough by some who believe the King James is the only ‘real’ Bible! Little do most know of this very influential contribution to English Christianity and Western Culture and language.
There is yet another major influence and contribution the Anglican Church has given to English speaking Christianity and Western Culture- The Book of Common Prayer. Most specifically the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. To this day, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is the most popular and best selling prayer book in the English-speaking world. You will find the BCP in airport and hospital chapels, military bases and many university oratories.
The 1662 BCP has shaped and informed most English speaking and Protestant churches. If you have ever heard- ‘Hey we do that in our Church too!’, there is a good reason.
While the shape of the Liturgies in the 1662 BCP are ancient in origin, the crafting of words and phrases, as well as the construction of prayers is distinct and has the same intention as the KJV- to be read in public in a poetic, dignified, and meaningful manner. It is a gift to the wider world.
I say all of this as an introduction to a change in the Liturgy at Saint John’s during the Advent and Christmas season. Since I have been with you all, I have had numerous requests to use Rite I (the Liturgy with the language of the KJV and the 1662 BCP) at the 10:30 service. And for some time I have been very resistant to employing Rite I at the 10:30 service. But after having several of the youth at EYC state how ‘awesome’ the Rite I language is after attending the early service… I gave in.
So, beginning this Sunday, Advent I, and running through the end of Christmas (January 8th), we will return to our roots as it were. And with anything change made in the life of the parish, some will love it, others will be ambivalent, and still others will have an aversion to it.
So, no matter how you feel, I invite you to think about and be affected by the language and prayers that helped to shape and form our language and culture. Be inspired, be convicted, allow the poetry to wash over your soul… or, rest in knowledge that it is only for a brief season before we return to contemporary language! But no matter how you receive it- be sure to pay close attention to the service leaflet, because there are changes to the responses and to the spoken prayers.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!