Wikipedia notes that the 1549 Book of Common Prayer was the first prayer book to include the complete forms of service for daily and Sunday worship printed in English. It contained Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, the Litany, and Holy Communion and also the occasional services in full: the orders for Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, "prayers to be said with the sick", and a funeral service. It also set out in full the "propers" (that is the parts of the service which varied week by week or, at times, daily throughout the Church's Year): the collects and the epistle and gospel readings for the Sunday Communion Service. Those elements remain today making our Book of Common Prayer truly a time-tested, living work.
The church does not revise the Prayer Book lightly or frequently. The current book dates to 1979, which replaced the 1928 version. The General Convention (the Episcopal Church's triennial meeting) asked, in 1997, that the Standing Liturgical Commission, as it was then known, develop a comprehensive plan for prayer book revision. The group did so, and the General Convention approved it in 2000, but it failed to provide adequate funding. However, that effort resulted in the liturgical commission’s developing a series of supplemental liturgies known as “Enriching Our Worship.” [editor's note: the Parish of the Epiphany uses these supplemental rites on a regular basis for our 10:00 worship services]
The 2015 General Convention charged the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music (SLCM) with presenting to the 2018 General Convention in Austin, Texas (this coming 5-13 July), a plan for a comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer. After considering four different approaches, the SCLM will offer a comprehensive plan for revision, as requested, as well as a way for the church to spend time discerning the future shape of its common prayer. So ... stay tuned as our church continues to work to keep this very special book relevant.
This article was written by Priscilla Burns, a member of the Parish of the Epiphany, and the parish administrator at St. John Church in Charlestown, as well as Christ Church in the City of Boston, also known as "Old North." Priscilla notes that she consulted the book, Planning for Rites and Rituals, A Resource for Episcopal Worship, and the internet pages of Wikipedia and the Episcopal Church.