Prayers Abroad

Prayers at Sea (1717 engraving)

The Forms of Prayer given at the back of the 1662 BCP contain an echo of Anglican polity before Lambeth. They belong a time where the Kingdom of Great Britain had spread her branches far across the globe by merchant and colonial enterprise. With Navy crews and Company plantations naturally followed the rites of the English Church, which the Diocese of London regulated, keeping common order and uniting prayers of scattered communities. The Prayers for Use at Sea  hearken back to this era, evidencing the old jurisdiction before revolution.

On Oct. 1st 1633, Englishmen in Holland were placed under the beginnings of a missionary district supervised by the Bishop of London for British emigres. This system started through the auspices of Bishops Laud and Juxon in the London Orindary(1), and, though it briefly suffered vacancy during the Commonwealth,  it continued roughly until the American Revolution.  During this hundred-and-fifty year period, Anglicans outside England were appointed the doctrine and order as decided by the province of Canterbury through the London bishopric. This relation was  first proposed by Archbishop Laud to Charles I who then charged the royal privy council to square the details. Arthur Cross quotes Peter Heylyn,  describing London’s authority over British abroad:

“Laud (at this time  Bishop of London) not thinking that he had done enough for the peace and uniformity of the church at home, sets out to look after it abroad.’ And after detailing the steps by which that prelate succeeded in obtaining his desired authority [raised to the Archbishopric], our author concludes as follows: ‘And now, at least, we have the face of an English church in Holland, responsible to the bishops of London for the time being as a part of their diocese, directly and immediately subject to their jurisdiction. The like course was also prescribed for our factories in Hamborough and those farther off; that is to say, in Turkey, in the Mogul’s dominions, the Indian Islands, the plantations in Virginia, the Barbadoes, and all other places where the English have any standing in the way of trade.'” (p. 234, Schemes)

What’s interesting is the mutual supervision of the British navy and English commerce coincides with maintenance of church order overseas. The 1662 BCP’s Prayer for Sea are a relic of an earlier polity where the altar belonged to an ecclesiastical center.

Unfortunately, by Laud’s time the American colonies had become notorious harbors for dissent. The Life and Times of Archbishop William Laud records troubles related to migration and radicalism in 1637:

“Eight ships were stationed in the Thames, to convey a host of zealots across the Atlantic, but they were stopped by an order of Council; and as many of the Puritan ministers, regardless of the amor patriae, resolved to gratify that extravagance which they could not indulge in their own country, and were ready to follow that which they termed “the gospel” into New England. An order of Council also prohibited “all ministers unconformable to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England; and that no clergyman should be suffered to pass to the foreign plantations without the approbation of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London.” (p. 141-142)

Frere says the 1661 revision adopted sea prayers from the presbyterians  and ‘Anglicized’ them for the Navy.  Sea prayers first appeared in the Puritan Directory of Public Worship, introduced by the Long Parliament, with the intent to replace use of the Prayer Book in the British Fleet (p. 651, The Annotated). The use of ‘forms’ rather than fixed prayers for mariners tells something about the situation abroad, namely, that dissent was more common the further removed from ecclesiastical authority(2). This was compounded by the lack of educated chaplains.

Often, what happened on shipboard was likewise true in colonies. The growth of non-conformity in the colonies was a common complaint, pictured by this 1716 letter sent from Pennsylvania to London:

“For want of an Episcopacy being established among us, and that there has never been any bishop sent to visit us, our churches remain unconcecrated, our children are grown up and can not be confirmed…But more especially for want of that holy power which is inherent to your apostolic office the vacancies which daily happen in our ministry can not be supplied for a considerable time from England, whereby many congregations are not only become desolate, and the light of the gospel thereby extinguished, but great encouragement is given to sectaries of all sorts which abound and increase amongst us; and some of them pretending to what they call the power of ordination, the country is filled with fanatic teachers debauching the inclinations of many poor souls who are left destitute of any instruction or ministry.” (p. 237,Schemes)

Complaints of this sort were typical of ‘fronteir Anglicanism’ , and the weight of the blame fell on London Ordinaries during the mid-18th century with scholarly divines like Dr. Robert Lowth who repeatedly rebuffed Wesley’s plea for the supply american priests (3). Nonetheless, the growth of the British territories outpaced meager support London provided.  Much involved the necessary education of colonial priests, namely, their having competence in ecclesiastical language(s). Royal bible societies like SPCK assisted London by funding oversea church buildings, book materials, as well as circuit clergy for colonial congregations. Resources were endemically short.

In 1784 two developments powerfully shook the old high church foundations between England and America:  First, John Wesley’s  appointment of Thomas Coke for superintendent of American Methodism; and, second, the episcopal ordering of the Samuel Seabury by non-Juring Bishops in Scotland. Both events posed the very real possibility of a church independent from England, particularly the government of the church under Supremacy.  Even Dr. White and Smith would consider their own irregular episcopacy, eventually forcing London to lift terms of full-subscription for oversea churchmen. In 1787, two bishops for the United States and one for Nova Scotia were consecrated in London with only the Nova Scotia one tendering the royal oath of allegiance.

Of course, the 1789 American prayer book omitted those parts of Oversea Prayers pertaining to the Crown of which older BCP’s (like the 1717) said, “that we may be a safeguard unto our most gracious Sovereign Lord, King George and his kingdoms, and a security for such as pass on the seas upon their lawful occasions; that the inhabitants of our Island may in peace and quietness serve thee our God and that we may return in safety to enjoy the blessings of the land”. The 1789 kept much of the above but removed “Island” for “land” and replaced ‘King’ with the phrase, “that we may be a safeguard unto the United States of America”. The last collect inserted “our country” rather than “our Soveriegn” as these alterations were wanted to better account for ‘american circumstances’ made by the Revolution.

Frere notes that the BCP’s seafaring prayers were not intended to “form a service in themselves, but are merely supplemental devotions, to be used as occasion requires.” (p. 644, New History).  Nonetheless, the incorporation of ‘forms of prayer’ into the BCP started as late as 1662. By 1790, when the American BCP was compiled, further forms made there way into common prayer, namely, those for prisoners, families, and public thanksgivings. This mild comprehension demonstrates how the Church of England  found ways to rope in dissent, usually by giving greater flexibility in liturgy. Given the Puritanical culture of early America, PECUSA would naturally add further forms, vindicating perhaps Smith’s BCP revision principles.

Thoughts: A common analogy holds between the Prayers at sea and Bishop Machray’s ordering of ‘Rupert’s Land’. Both were high church campaigns to tame certain ecclesiastical wilderness(es). Perhaps modern Anglicans face similar challenges in the reform of our own church? Not that a literal wilderness requires taming, but that many jurisdictions have wandered from the Anglican Settlement chose their own standards. Originally, the throne of Canterbury-London was part of an ordered Kingdom where royal prerogative passed fro the Crown through under-ministers in dominions elsewhere.

In contrast, Lambeth was founded in 1886 upon the autonomy of nation-states rather than earlier ‘kingdom’ model. However, this is a revolutionary arrangement compared to the the 1662 prayer book’s record of the older polity– found in the order of petition in the litany, state prayers in mattins and evensong, whole church prayers, and the biddings before the sermon. Thus, Sea Prayers add another testimony for the older polity, reminding churchmen of how throne and altar once projected itself from the church of Great Britain into distant parts.

The original hymn was written by William Whiting of Winchester, England, in 1860. It was originally intended as a poem for a student of his, who was about to travel to the United States. In 1861, John B. Dykes, an Anglican clergyman, composed the tune “Melita” for this hymn. “Melita” is an archaic term for Malta, an ancient seafaring nation and the site of a shipwreck involving the Apostle Paul mentioned in Acts of the Apostles. Eternal Father is the Royal Navy’s hymn. 

(1) Bishop William Juxon curiously simultaneously held three offices crucial to early colonial church policy: the Lord Admiral, London Bishopric, and Lord Treasurer. If there is an ‘Anglican’ form of economic policy, it is mercantilism shaped by the English Church, Royal Navy, and Company Charter. Juxon was ciritical to this development and seems to have coordinated all three for the Common Weal. Thomas Mun’s Treasure by Foreign Trade (1664) seems a seminal work.

(2) In his footnotes, Frere demonstrates the importance of conformity upon ships, quoting the Navy’s Articles of War, “Officers are to cause Public Worship, according to the Liturgy of the Church of England, to be solemnly performed in their ships, and take care that prayers and preaching by the chaplains be performed diligently, and that the Lord’s day be observed” (p. 645, New History). Incidentally, Puritans ‘forms’ were very long and their tendency was to use extemporaneous prayer to propagandize against the Crown’s prerogative and authority of Bishops in the church.  

(3) Blame for the lack of Anglican clergy in the colonies has frequently been charged.  To England’s credit vis-a-vis revivalism, priests were expected to have a scholarly background.  John Bramhall described England’s order: ‎”This hath always been the doctrine and practice of our English Church. First, it is so far from admitting laymen to be directive interpreters of Holy Scripture, that it allows not this liberty to clergymen so much as to ‘gloss upon the text’, until ‘they be licensed to become preachers.’ Secondly, for judgement of discretion only, it gives it not to private persons above their talents, or ‘beyond their last.’ It disallows all fantastical and enthusiastical presumptions of incompetent and unqualified expositors. It admits no man into Holy Orders, that is, to be capable of being made a directive interpreter of Scripture, howsoever otherwise qualified, ‘unless he be able to give a good account of his Faith in the Latin tongue’. so as to be able to frame all his expositions according to the analogy thereof. It forbids the licensed preachers to ‘teach the people any doctrine as necessary to be religiously held and believed, which the Catholic Fathers, and old Bishops of the Primitive Church, have not collected out of the Scriptures.’ It ascribes a judgment of jurisdiction over preachers to Bishops, in all manner of ecclesiastical duties, as appears by the whole body of our canons; and especially where any difference or public opposition hath been between preachers, about any point or doctrine deduced out of Scripture. It gives a power of determining all emergent controversies of Faith above Bishops to the Church, as to the ‘witness and keeper of Sacred Oracles’, and to a ‘lawful Synod’, as the ‘representative Church.'”

  • Blunt, John Henry. The Annotated Book of Common Prayer. London (1866)
  • Class, Arthur Lyon. Schemes for Episcopal Control of the Colonies. Harvard  (1862)
  • Frere, Walter and Procter, Francis. A New History of the Book of Common Prayer.  MacMillan (1908)
  •  Lawson, John Parker. George  Life and Times of William Laud D.D. Archbishop of Canterbury, V. II  London (1894)

7 responses to “Prayers Abroad

  1. I thank you for seriously looking at ‘The WASP Question’ in your prior article. Here, in this post, you touch on something that is akin to what I have been wrestling with over at my own blog- namely, how the Church OF Europe, in seeking to minister to her own people who lived ‘beyond the Pale’ of civilized, Christian lands, became somehow the Church OUTSIDE of Europe- i.e., missionary activity to those not of the folk and race of Christendom.

    I can only conclude that it was the filioquist ‘universal jurisdiction’ mentality of post-schism Rome, that was the ENABLER for this highly irregular, and clearly heretical [Matt. 15:24] means of ‘bringing in the darkies’ of the world.
    Not to be flippant, but historical records of Anglican clergy in the South of the USA, clearly showed that this was the ‘White Man’s problem’ – and I don’t mean one of noblesse oblige, but rather, that somehow, this whole ‘invite the WORLD’ was an ERROR on the part of White Christendom.

    And, the Orthodox aren’t much help here. After Peter (the not-so-Great) imported Lutheran constructs into Russia, it was only then that any large-scale ‘missions to the pagan babies’ began in Orthodoxy- so, here again, we see the bitter fruits of Rome’s filioquism at work.

    Thoughts on this? I would say that Belloc’s ‘Europe is the Faith: the Faith, Europe’ still holds, but then, it goes against the entire edifice of Benedict XVI’s Weltanschauung… but then, admitting Anglicans (even by pastoral provisions) does, too!


  2. Fr. John,

    I’d avoid placing a conflict between national and catholic principles (see quotes). Nor do I see any problem with Christian mission to pagan lands and consequent moral uplift. Where I draw the line, or begin to raise an eyebrow, is when missionary mandates are juxtaposed against christian duties of keeping one’s private household. The best of Anglican catechisms taught degrees of love, beginning with one’s home before the unchurched ‘world’. Christ went to Jews before Gentiles, and if we keep those general principles consistent, I don’t see a problem. I am in basic agreement with Fraser:

    “The church of england gave birth to the Old English nation during the Dark Ages. In the New Dark Age, the ecclesiastical heirs and successors of St. Augustine of Canterbury will be called upon to save Anglo-Saxon souls from the satanic forces unleashed by a disintegrating world-system.. In times past, every European ethnonation sought a mystic union with Christ through the medium of its own distinctive bioculture. Until every nation enters into the holy, catholic, and apostolic faith, the ‘universal brotherhood of man’ is little more than a pious hope. There is no such thing as a ‘human being’; the word is little more than an empty philosophical abstraction. The experience of belonging to particular families, tribes, and nations has always brought Christians closer to God… the apostle Paul took pains to assure fellow Jews that there was a place reserved for their ancient ethnonation (Israel) in Christ’s spiritual kingdom alongside the Greeks, the Romans and, centuries later, the Anglo-Saxons. Indeed, the Church inspired the birth of the English nation.”

    My own sentiments on ethnic households are hopefully in accord with the Russian Church. How ethnicity is specifically ordered remains the privy of the magistrate (see patriarchal state), so there is a fair amount of latitude. Nonetheless, the principle remains.

    In my opinion, most arguments about ethnic preservation are unproductive because they attempt to merit value upon intrinsic biological traits. Thus, I heartily agree with the following (from the same ROC website),

    “It is contrary to Orthodox ethics to divide nations into the best and the worst and to belittle any ethnic or civic nation. Even more contrary to Orthodoxy are the teachings which put the nation in the place of God or reduce faith to one of the aspects of national self-awareness.”.

    Meanwhile, the main thrust of the post was to examine the authority assigned for British colonies prior to the Revolution. It seems today’s troubles that reverse mission with home duties are wound together in very problematic ecclesiastical questions. I’d wager the sort of self-effacing missionary activity you’re likely describing is bound up with very low views on polity, namely, tent revivals and secret conventicles. It perhaps follows that diminished views of clerical offices would translate to low ideas of family authority as well as their propriety associated.

    The filioque seems a bit of a red herring.


  3. I won’t argue the point you’ve clearly missed in my question on your own blog, Sir. You’ve done much good work here, and I don’t want to become cantankerous. But if you can only see the Filioque as a ‘red herring,’ then you clearly don’t know what I was getting at. The ENTIRE schism of Rome from the other 4/5ths of Christendom, is predicated on the fact that Orthodoxy viewed (and still views, to this day) the Filioque (and her subsequent philosophical discourse) as heresy.

    Rank, utter, pure heresy.

    That fact alone clearly does not make what I said, to be any sort of ‘herring’- red, or otherwise.


  4. Dear Fr. John,
    I didn’t mean to be so abruptly dismissive. My apologies. What really disturbs me about the filioque isn’t the alleged theology behind it, but its breach from common order. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the study recently issued by the ACNA’s Ecumenical Relations Task Force, but its chairman, Bishop Ray Sutton, did write a paper on the problem of filioque, proposing to drop it from the Creed upon the next Anglican BCP revision. This was the best article I could find on the subject.

    My own experience with Eastern Orthodox is that the filioque is really peripheral to the deeper problem of Augustinianism. This is what I meant by “red herring”. Augustinianism really is the crux of the matter as well as Aquinas. Eviscerating Western theology as it developed after 1054 seems to be standard fare for WRO, and this is without dredging up contentious calendar questions. So, the filiquoe, in this sense, seems somewhat superficial.

    In this respect, I don’t see the point of making such concessions until there’s more parity between Anglicans and EO. Otherwise, it’s a one way street much as ecumenical talks with Rome. Anglican progress with Orthodoxy was built upon capital of the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. Have you read of the Jerusalem Bishopric? Curiously, the Jerusalem Bishopric was an Non-juror article presented to the Greeks in the course of discussion. Its closest realization came by Lutheran-Anglican cooperation.

    ACNA’s 2011 discussions with the Orthodox as well as the status of the filiquoe study can be read here. +Ware and Klucas+ are both involved. A balanced assessment of Western Rite can be heard by clicking here.


  5. Something interesting about degrees of love in eastern eucharistic ritual. In the prothesis five loaves of bread are partitioned, and these are specifically for members of the church rather than the world. It absolutely makes sense that Christ has a special, even jealous, love for his Church, and one would see this expressed in the communion ceremony. However, Anglican tradition has seriously truncated, if not omitted, heavenly saints in the whole state prayer. In this respect, I much prefer the 1549. Anyway, here are the rankings given in the Eastern church respecting both heavenly and earthly communions. I think they tell us something a heavenly pattern to love, or relation to divine presence, which might have an analogy to earth. Note, two prosphoras (bread offerings) have already been cut, so are not mentioned here. The first being the particle of the Lamb. The second being a commemorative element for the BVM which sits on the right side of the former. This is what follows:

    “From another prosphora 9 Particles are cut out and placed on the Lamb’s left side, in commemoration of:
    1. the Angels,
    2. the Prophets,
    3. the Apostles,
    4. the Holy Hierarchs,
    5. the Martyrs,
    6. the Holy Godbearers,
    7. the Unmercenaries (Doctors who worked without demanding payment),
    8. the Ancestors of Christ,
    9. the Saint who authored the specific liturgy that is served that day.
    From the fourth prosphora, Particles are taken, in commemorative prayer for the living, e.g.: the founders of the parish, the people and clergy of the Church.
    From the fifth prosphora, Particles are taken, in commemorative prayer for the dead, those who, as St. Paul said, have “fallen asleep” or “reposed” in the Lord. Here are remembered especially those who are buried in the Church cemetery.”

    I tend to believe a hierarchy on earth won’t be quite reformed until the heavenly one is first restored liturgically. The Anglican reformation was principally concerned with the church militant, so our prayers focus mostly upon the fourth prosphora which is further differentiated by the litany.


  6. An interesting point on the above might be that, in the old days, particles were taken from the fourth Prosphora for the Emperor, the Patriarch, the Synod, and then for the other living. This, of course, denotes the earthly hierachy in full, At one time, in many places, the name of the King (in England and other monarchies) or the Emperor (Germany, etc) was given in the Canon of the Mass. In Austria, despite the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the mention of the Emperor continued until 1919. Up to the 1940s revision of the Holy Week rite, the prayer for the Emperor and the mention in the Exsultet continued to be printed in the liturgical books of the RC. Here in the USA, all these were omitted. For quite a while, this meant that the civil authority was not mentioned during the Mass—highly unusual, this. The Church has always prayed for the civil authority, whichever form it took.
    A side note: the Old Believers, following a much older tradition, uses seven Prosphora, but I don’t know the exact usage in distribution of the particles.


  7. There’s actually quite a bit of material on mariner reform as social lens to the emerging British Empire. Contributing author to Mercantilism Reconsidered (Oxford 2014), Brent Sirota, said in ‘The Church, Anglicanism, and the Nationalization of Maritime Space’,

    “The forms of prayer, it has been suggested,comprised an Anglican response to the Supply of Prayer for the Ships of this Kingdom issued by the Long Parliament in 1645 as a supplement to the Puritan Directory of Public Worship. Moreover, the prayers in some small measure revived the martyred archbishop William Laud’s dream of an imperial Church of England, forfeited along with his life in the political and religious crisis of the English civil wars. Most importantly, the additional prayers signaled a new cognizance on the part of the both Church and state that English national life now comprehended both land and sea, and that the subjects of the reestablished confessional state might require the consolations of its public worship far beyond the traditional demarcations of parish, diocese, and kingdom.” p. 196


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