Book of Common Worship (Presbyterian)—2018 edition

I thought that perhaps some shipmates with ecclesiantic tendencies might be interested to know that later this month, the Presbyterian Church (USA) will publish the sixth edition of its Book of Common Worship. The first edition was published in 1906; the fourth edition (1970) was the one edition to bear a different name—The Worshipbook.

This being a Presbyterian liturgical book, it is not, of course, for mandatory use, nor does it lay down any kind of “law” concerning worship. For us, the “law” worship-wise is set forth in the Directory for Worship, which some have described as a liturgy of only rubrics. A revision of the PC(USA)’s Directory for Worship was ratified (by a wide margin, as I recall) by the presbyteries last year. The revision of the BCW took place on a parallel track with the revision of the Directory, and as with the previous 5 editions of the BCW, the idea is that the BCW provides a model for worship consistent with the Directory. Experience is that while the BCW is not mandatory for use, it is very influential.

The BCW is also not a pew book. It is designed for use primarily by those who plan and lead worship. The new (2014) hymnal does include basic liturgies (without texts needed only by the ministers or others leading worship) for the Service for the Lord’s Day, Baptism and Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant, and Morning, Midday, Evening and Night Prayer. These liturgies were also planned in tandem with the BCW revision.

A few things that I have noted in what has been publicized so far about the revision, some of which seem to relate to recent conversations on the Ship:
  • The marriage liturgy has been revised to reflect the possibility of same-sex marriage.
  • A form of prayer to mark the end of a marriage is included.
  • A liturgy for Extended Communion (taking Communion from the church to the homebound or hospitalized) is provided. (The amendment to the Directory to allow this occurred after the 1993 BCW came out.)
  • Prayers and liturgies for use after national crisis or violent events, including services in a multi-faith context, are provided.
If anyone is interested, an excerpt with a table of contents and preface, which includes a brief history of service books in the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition, can be found here. (And for anyone who's really interested, a pdf copy of the 1993 BCW can be found here.)

Sorry for the long post. Hope someone finds it interesting.


  • demasdemas Shipmate
    The 1993 BCW had a companion book setting out its rationale for its decisions which I remember as interesting reading- do you know if this revision has something similar?
  • I wonder whether the Church of Scotland Book of Common Order will be up for revision soon too (it's a couple of years younger, I think).
  • demas wrote: »
    The 1993 BCW had a companion book setting out its rationale for its decisions which I remember as interesting reading- do you know if this revision has something similar?
    Not that I've heard, but there might one in the works. Bear in mind, though, that the Companion to the 1993 BCW wasn't published until 2003—ten years later.

    And it appears the 2018 BCW will itself include some of what was in the Companion. For example, the table of contents of the 2018 BCW shows commentaries on most liturgies throughout the book. And the Companion had additional instructions/suggestions on things like gestures to be used at various points in the liturgy. It looks like that kind of info will be in the 2018 BCW itself.

    I am aware that electronic and e-book editions of the 2018 BCW will be published in the fall.

    BTW, one other aspect of the new book that I think will be noteworthy: It will include, for the first time, a calendar of commemorations—saint's days and the like.
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