Introduction to the Prayer Book 1789 Services

Welcome to this parish church, The Church of The Saviour, a Memorial Church, given by Mr. Vinton of Providence, RI, here in the city of San Gabriel. Read the plaque here on the east wall of the nave. Within a few years it was renamed Our Saviour.

This might be the first service you came to in 1872-3. It had been founded in 1867. The State of California had been established September 9, 1850, just 17 years later.  This first building, made of adobe brick, was dedicated on Monday, SEPTEMBER 9, 1872, five years after the founding in 1967, by Rev. Henry Messenger, Rector.

We are worshiping in the very space that the first congregation dedicated this building to the Glory of God and I am sure, that was a very proud moment for these “pioneers” of faith, the FIRST non-Catholic parish in the San Gabriel Valley.

The windows were not glass, they were open, with a cloth covering. There was a potbelly stove at the back to keep us warm…and there was no electricity or amplification, just kerosene lamps. This was a sacred place, the first Protestant church here in very Catholic San Gabriel.

This morning we are using the Prayer Book of 1789, the first Protestant Episcopal Church of America. That same year, was also the first year of Presidency of George Washington of this new nation. Look through the Prayer Book with me and also look at the “Order of Service” provided with music and scripture.

The principal services were Morning and Evening Prayer. Generally Communion was once a month. This morning we celebrate “The Administration of the Lord’s Supper” or also called, “Holy Communion”.

This parish was most unusual. It had a priest, a bell tower, a choir and a pump reed organ. Today, we will use a harpsichord to accompany the choir.

A Prayer Book and Hymnal was a rare item. They could be purchased, but were not provided by the church for the congregation. Today, we have provided for you a copy of the 1789 Prayer Book.  Also, you will have an “Order of Service” with the mass parts and hymns.

The service is led by the Minister/Priest.  As you will see in the Prayer Book; that when the Holy Communion section comes, the Minister is then called Priest.

The service starts simply, and as indicated, with the Lord’s Prayer, The Collect, and then we will do the “Decalogue” which is the recitation of the Ten Commandments, with a Response by the People (The John Merbecke mass).

Follow along with the Prayer Book. There are portions that are here that we will not do, and in “those days”, if you had not prepared for Communion (confession, fasting) you would not be partaking of communion. You would have heard the week before, an Exhortation, that would inform you: “Dearly beloved, on ----day next I purpose, through God’s assistance, to administer to all such as shall be religiously and devoutly disposed the most comfortable Sacrament f the Body and Blood of Christ…” You might not come to church next Sunday, would you might leave at the Offertory, because you had come for the “Word”, scripture and sermon.

I have taken the liberty to BOLD FACE those parts that you can participate with in this liturgy. We ALWAYS respond to the prayers with AMEN. The music would have been sung by the choir or said by those present that had a Prayer Book, or probably had memorized the entire service… There is no “elevation” of the Gospel, there is no “Doxology”, no Peace, no “Prayers of the People” that we have come to participate in, and we do not stand for the “Great Thanksgiving”. Much of the service is either kneeling or sitting.  We have the luxury of kneelers, they would have had a kneeler cushion, if you brought it to the church, or one of the guilds would have them made for specific people.  You simply knelt on the floor.

We sing the “Gloria” at the end of the service as a hymn of Thanksgiving. Then there is a Blessing by the priest, and no Dismissal. The service concludes with a hymn.

You see also, there are no candles, a simple fair white linen on the Table, the Table against the wall, or “in the midst” as the Prayer Book says…no women at the Table or assisting.  No three-year cycle year lectionary. We make an exception today, the Rev. Nancy Shier will be preaching. (Later after service, I was talking with a member who has been here many years, and she said that if you came into the church and saw candles on the Table, you knew that there was to be communion that day. I learned something that day, thank you Roberta.)

This is a FIRST for most of us. It takes us back in time, way back in time, 150 years and more. Find your peace with this liturgy, find it moving in a different way than we are “used to”…

Now, let us prepare and stand to sing an Opening Hymn, found at the back of your “Order of Service” booklet, Hymn 159     Now that the daylight fills the skies.

Our next ADVENTURE in worship will be on MARCH 19, the Third Sunday in Lent, and we will use the Prayer Book 1928, which this parish adapted in the mid 1930’s.  This Prayer Book was used here at COS until mid-1990. By the mid-20’s the High Altar area and the crossing was added to greatly enlarge the capacity of this church. So, if you have a 1928 Prayer Book, bring it with you on March 19.

MusicPhil SmithComment