Thanks to Fr. Isaac Rehburg for submitting this guest post to our BCP in Daily Life series. Fr. Isaac is the curate at All Saints Anglican Church in San Antonio, TX, where he lives with his wife and daughter. When out of his collar, he works as a residential real estate appraiser, or plays music with his family.
As a bi-vocational priest, I spend at least as much time “in the world” as I do working in the Church. One of my favorite aspects of the Book of Common Prayer is how its pattern of living out the Christian faith is designed to work equally well for folks in “regular life” as for folks who spend most of their time in and around the church building. While one of my duties as a priest is to pray the Daily Offices, I have long found them to be much more than a duty; they are a means of grace whereby I meet with the Lord and hear from him in the Scriptures, Psalms, and formal prayers of our tradition. There is certainly something very reassuring in the knowledge that God’s people have been continuously meeting him in similar ways since even before Our Lord physically walked the earth.
When my wife and I got married in early 2014, we determined to bring that pattern of daily prayer into our growing family. When our daughter was born in 2015, centering our family life around habitual prayer patterns became even more important.
Since we are part of a traditional parish that uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, our family prayer patterns tend to be, well, by the book! At home, we usually pray at least one of the Daily Offices together, typically chanted. When we put our daughter to bed, we pray over her using the shortest option for Evening Prayer from the Family Prayers section (i.e., the version with the Lord’s Prayer, the Collect for Aid Against Perils, and the Aaronic Benediction). Because of the Offices and the Family Prayers, our daughter is being raised with the rhythms of the Prayer Book as a matter of course. She will say “Amen” or “Thanks be to God” at the end of prayers or lessons. She likes to sing along with the Canticles. Of course, as a small toddler, her attention span is small, so she rarely sits through a whole Office, but often plays while we finish it. We do have a copy of the Prayer Book for her to thumb through while we pray, and she is usually very insistent on using it.
Thus far, the best times have probably been during Advent when we light one of the candles in the Advent Wreath and sing a verse or two from the Hymnal before the Office. Our daughter loves the candles and singing, and insists on participating in lighting the candles and blowing them out. Singing has been a big part of her formation, and hearing a not-quite-two-year-old try to sing along with “Crown Him with Many Crowns” cannot help but bring a smile to a parent’s face.
For chanting, we generally use the chant tones from the St. Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter by Lancelot Andrewes Press. I was self-taught, mostly using the tutorial from St. Dunstan’s, and later I taught my wife. As we are both very musical, it was not too steep of a learning curve. I had been chanting the Psalms regularly for about two years before we got married; it took about two months of faithfully using the Psalter to feel reasonably comfortable with the various tones. Though my wife did not come from a particularly high church background and had never chanted before we married, she is now one of the strongest chanters in the parish and seldom even needs the noted and pointed Psalter. For the past year or so, we have also been leading a weekly chanted Matins service at our parish, which has helped spread use of both the Daily Offices and the chanted Psalms beyond our family.
All in all, it has been a great blessing patterning our family devotions and traditions in a manner that has such a rich connection to Christians of all times and places. I look forward to many more years of growing in the Lord and growing together through family prayer.
I have found the Dunstan Psalter to be very ‘accessible’, that is, easy to use. The introduction to the Psalter by J. H. Blunt is superb. The instruction for reading of chant notation is very good, though for me, supplementing it with an on line tutorial was indispensable. Attending a chant intensive workshop topped it all off. It is a wonderful way to sing the Psalms and the Offices.
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There are recordings of the Psalms chanted to the tones from the St. Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter on the CanticaSacra.org website, for those who do not yet know how to chant the Psalms. Go to “Music in our Liturgy,” then “Psalms” -> “Psalms by Number” on the website. There are also audio tutorials on how to learn to chant the tones.