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Author, William Sydnor 

Reviewed by Diane Miriam Grondin, Province 1 Representative

The Prayer Book Through the Ages, formerly titled The Story of the Real Prayer Book, is published by Morehouse Publishing, copyright 1978, and written by William Sydnor. The Rev. William Sydnor, now deceased, retired as long-time rector of Christ Church, Alexandria, in the Diocese of Virginia.

Aptly named, Sydnor’s book gives an historical perspective of the evolution of the Book of Common Prayer from the first Church of England Prayer Book in 1549 through the adoption of the current American Prayer Book of 1979. Although not the sole author, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (1533-56) is credited as architect of the first Book of Common Prayer. Americans began work on a Book of Common Prayer for use in the new American church almost as soon as the ink dried on the document ending the Revolutionary War. The Episcopal Church has continued revisions of the prayer book including the contentious debate over the revision of the 1928 Book. 

Written by an American Episcopal priest, this book is intended for an American audience. Each chapter of Sydnor’s book describes the revisions and the reasons for those revisions. One does not need to be an academic to read this book. It is a book written for real people with language easy to follow. Sydnor says, “by understanding the delicate balance between the need for change and the preservation of what is timeless … Episcopalians will find anew the common ground of common prayer which is our legacy, our inspiration, and our joy.” The Book of Common Prayer as handed down from century to century is not only our history but also our legacy into the future.

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