A mobile app featuring daily prayers from the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) in English now also features Bible prayers in Inuktitut—and will soon expand into other languages.
Created by the Prayer Book Society of Canada (PBSC), the Common Prayer Canada app includes full prayer services for each day of the year including psalms, Bible readings, collects and some canticles. The society, which aims to celebrate and promote use of the BCP, says on its website that the aim of the app is “to introduce the Book of Common Prayer to a new generation.”
The Rev. Chris Dow, rector at St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit and dean of the diocese of the Arctic, serves on the national council of the PBSC. He has been involved from the outset in development of the Common Prayer Canada app, which began with English prayers. Since an April update, the app also includes prayers in Inuktitut from the Eastern Arctic Inuktitut Bible translation.
Dow says the PBSC plans later this year to add prayers in the Inuinnaqtun language of the Central Arctic, as well as the Walton Cree prayer book used on Hudson Bay’s eastern coast which includes translations from the prayer book.
“Really, the sky’s the limit for this app in terms of the number of languages that could be added,” Dow says. “We hope that Inuktitut is just the first of many.”
The society is in early talks to include a French translation of the BCP, he adds, with plans to form a small subcommittee of French-language speakers. Dow has also spoken to Lydia Mamakwa, bishop of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, about incorporating liturgies in other Indigenous languages.
The project to create Common Prayer Canada began just after the pandemic in March 2020, when the PBSC received a request to develop a BCP app. The society, he says, agreed it could be useful, for more than one reason.
“We thought that it would be a benefit to lay readers and clergy who could use the app in public worship from a tablet,” Dow says. “We thought that it would be a benefit to people who were on the go.”
The PBSC partnered with a U.S.-based developer, Episcopal priest the Rev. Greg Johnson, who had developed an app based on the 1979 edition of the BCP used in The Episcopal Church. The Common Prayer Canada app was released in Advent 2020.
“It was really just a matter of taking our particular liturgy, lectionary, and plugging it into the framework that he had already built,” Dow says. “That’s why we were able to develop the app in a fairly short period.”
Various updates followed, notably the incorporation of prayers in Inuktitut. That change followed a positive review on Apple’s App Store by diocese of the Arctic Suffragan Bishop Joey Royal, who suggested including Canadian Indigenous languages.
Some collects are not available in Inuktitut because the Eastern Arctic Inuktitut prayer book, first published in 1960 and then reprinted in 1987, has never been digitized. At the moment, Inuktitut prayers in the app only include those found in the Bible; others such as the Lord’s Prayer are not. But Dow says he hopes that with the app now done, the digitization of the entire Inuktitut prayer book won’t be far off.
Such a project would require a fair amount of work, he says, and the use of optical character recognition software. Another issue is the wording of the Inuktitut prayer book.
“The language would have to be updated,” the dean says. “It’s quite old. Apparently, a lot of native Inuktitut speakers today would, so they tell me, struggle to understand certain parts of it. Also, it was translated into Inuktitut by English priests from the south who came up here as priests, learned the language very well, and yet—so I’m told by locals here—they weren’t Inuit, so they don’t have the mindset of an Inuk.”
An updated translation, Dow says, would have to be done by a native Inuktitut speaker.
Nick Kigeak, a student at Arthur Turner Training School—the Anglican theological school located at St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit—worships primarily in Inuktitut. He downloaded the Common Prayer Canada app last year and uses it for morning and evening prayer sessions.
The language of the existing BCP translation in Inuktitut, Kigeak says, is “still pretty old Inuktitut, which most people won’t understand today.” But he has been told revised Inuktitut prayers will be put on the app, which he finds helpful.
“From my experience, it helps me carry less books,” he says with a chuckle. “It would be really good to see [the entire BCP there] in Inuktitut at some point.”
“I think it’s a good idea to have the app,” Kigeak adds. While elders may be less familiar with electronic devices and therefore less likely to use the app, he says, “I think it’s really useful for younger generations, just since they’re mostly doing stuff on devices now.”
The Common Prayer Canada app is available for iOS and Android on tablets and smartphones, as well as in a desktop version.