Throughout our Bicentennial year we have celebrated several liturgies that were used in our 200+ years. On June 11th we will celebrate a liturgy from 1822, the year St. Paul’s was founded. The Book of Common Prayer used at that time was authorized in 1797, the first American prayer book. The service will be Morning Prayer and holy Communion, very likely the service used as the first service in the newly formed St. Paul’s. Many of the words will be familiar to those who grew up using the 1928 BCP, and indeed familiar in some part to all of us from our Morning Prayer/Holy Eucharist Sundays using Rite 1 from the 1979 BCP.
While many of the words will be familiar, the visual aspects of the liturgy will be quite different. Churches in those days were very plain; not highly ornamented as St. Paul’s is today. There were no hangings, no flowers, no candles, no Altar as we know it, and probably no separate Lectern and Pulpit. The Altar wasn’t called an Altar, rather it is referred to in the rubrics of the 1797 BCP as “The Table.” It had a simple fair linen cloth on which the bread and wine were placed. The Minister wore a cassock and surplice for vestments, if any vestments were used. There were no acolytes, lectors, or Lay Eucharistic Ministers as we know them. The Table was placed perpendicular to the congregation and the Minister stood on the north side (left side). It was a much simpler time.