THE PARISH OF St. Aidan’s, Toronto, was in real trouble a few years ago. There was talk of reduced ministry, since the congregation had declined. Now, under the leadership of Rev. Mark Andrews, the parish is thriving and growing. And one of the elements has been the use of the 450-year-old Book of Common Prayer.
Fr. Andrews wouldn’t call St. Aidan’s a “Prayer Book-parish” but the church does successfully alternate use of the BCP and the Book of Alternative Services at its Sunday services at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. His predecessor had been moving the parish towards predominant use of the BAS, with only occasional use of the BCP.
But Fr. Andrews says it wasn’t only long-time parishioners who supported increasing use of the BCP. “I’ve found that many of the younger people we’ve attracted lately prefer BCP. When a couple comes to me to be married I give them the choice, and I find many young couples prefer BCP.”
The popularity of the BCP with younger St. Aidan’s parishioners can also be credited to educational efforts Fr. Andrews has made. The parish conducts regular instructed Eucharists where the liturgy is described in detail while it is happening.
Although St. Aidan’s alternates BAS with the BCP, the parish follows the Revised Common Lectionary, but follows the BCP church year.
Located in the Beaches area in the east end of Toronto, St. Aidan’s has a large building, with all the upkeep that entails. But the parish revival has also seen more groups renting the parish, and more activity than ever before. The parish now has two day care centres, and is the site for amateur theatre productions.
Fr. Andrews says parish life has also been enlivened with square dances, a Mardi Gras, more Bible studies, a growing Sunday school, confirmation classes for the first time in five years, and a recent mission.
Deputy warden Elizabeth Hill says parishioners enjoy the use of both BAS and BCP in services. For older parishioners the BCP is something they’ve grown up with, but Ms. Hill says younger parishioners also appreciate the BCP for its language.
“The BCP flows so well, that it’s almost like one long prayer. I find the BAS has more interruptions.”
Ms. Hill is aware some people might have qualms about the exclusive language in the BAS but she says that most parishioners are capable of understanding the context in which the BCP was written.
“I haven’t heard people complaining about exclusive language. I think people realize when it says men in the BCP it doesn’t just mean men.” Bob Bettson is a freelance writer based in Toronto.