The first English Prayer Book, which was largely the work of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, was published in 1549. There were revisions in 1552, 1559, and 1604, before the Prayer Book as we know it was issued in 1662.  This process was an important part of the Reformation that sought to bring the Church of England back to the Bible in belief and practice.

Cranmer's original work needs to be understood against the background of liturgical thinking and practice in the Medieval period. The 1662 revision needs to be understood in the light of controversies in the century following the publication of the first Prayer Book. The significance of the historical context will emerge in some of the discussion that follows.

An Australian Prayer Book was published in 1978, climaxing a first phase in the process of liturgical reform in this country. It contained conservative revisions of traditional services in modern English, together with more radical and contemporary alternatives. A further process of experimentation led to the production of A Prayer Book for Australia in 1995. This, however, proved to be more theologically controversial, and it has not been as widely used in the Diocese of Sydney.

Since 1993, the Archbishop's Liturgical Panel has been authorized to produce a variety of services for use in the Diocese of Sydney, leading up to the publication of Sunday Services (2001). Anglican churches around the world continue to produce new liturgies, varying in faithfulness to the doctrine and practice of The Book of Common Prayer.

In the sections that follow, lessons will be drawn from the Prayer Book of 1662 and related to our situation today. Where relevant, important changes in recent revisions will also be noted.

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