The Book of Common Prayer: A detailed analysis

Rev'd Dr Lesley McLean
Rev'd Dr Lesley McLean in the procession for the 2022 MOW Conference

The Rev’d Dr Lesley McLean has completed a detaled analysis of the language of the Book of Common Prayer and its revisioning in contemporary Australian Liturgies, as well as in the writings of Jim Cotter and Janet Morley.  This analysis also considers the implications of the relationship between spirituality and language in the context of the use of the revised Prayer Books in the Anglican Church in Australia.

You can find Lesley’s thesis attached. BCP thesis – styles 22 May 2023

A prayer book beside a candle and a guitar.
A prayer book



A profound shift has occurred in the body of common knowledge of the Anglican Communion since the Book of Common Prayer ceased to be the “common prayer” of the church. This thesis argues the importance of the quality of language style in liturgy and its effect on the spiritual life and development of worshippers.

A detailed analysis of BCP language demonstrates why its poetic qualities have influenced the spiritual formation of four centuries of Anglicans, so that the banality of the modern Australian texts has grave implications for the Anglican Church in Australia.

The character of Anglicanism has been, and will continue to be, affected spiritually and theologically by the inept language. Gifted modern British writers Jim Cotter and Janet Morley demonstrate that some modern religious writing can be creative, poetic and inspirational.

The year 1999 heralds the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Cranmer’s 1549 The Booke of Common Prayer and Administracion of the Sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the Church after the use of the Churche of England. By drawing attention to the very real lack of good English and inspiring poetic and spiritual language in our present Prayer Books, it is hoped that a higher quality of liturgical language will be sought by compilers and worshippers alike, in new writings and a rediscovery of the wonders of the Book of Common Prayer.


Minor thesis submitted to the Centre for Studies in Religion and Theology, Monash University as part of the requirement for the Master of Arts in Religion and Theology. 1998.