Almost 2 years ago, I wrote an introduction to the Moravian church, which is interesting knowledge for Methodists because of the Moravian influence on John and Charles Wesley. I intended to continue the discussion, but grad school got the better of me and I never made it back to it.
I’ve been reflecting lately on the early theological development of the Wesley brothers, back when the Methodist movement was just some blokes in Oxford who wanted to be closer to Christ, and how much of an influence the Moravian church was for them. In fact, it’s largely thanks to the Moravians that the modern Methodist church is a singing congregation.
Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod;
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?
Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.
This beloved hymn comes from the 19th century revival movement in America, and was written by Robert Lowry, a Baptist pastor who from his childhood had a gift for composing. Lowry began a life of ministry in the Baptist church at age 28 and pastored churches throughout the northeast. He became one of the prominent hymnwriters of his generation; though he was quoted as saying, “I would rather preach a gospel sermon to an appreciative, receptive congregation than write a hymn,” his contribution to hymnology during the revival era cannot be understated. He set many of Fanny Crosby’s hymns to music with his gifted ear for melodies, and wrote both words and songs to several hymns we still sing today.
Almost a year ago, I finally got my own copy of the Book of Common Prayer. The BCP is a tool for worship that’s vital to faith practice for many Episcopalians*, but is frequently viewed with suspicion or bewilderment by non-Anglicans, if they’re even aware of its existence at all. When I got it, I didn’t have much of an idea of what I was acquiring at the time; it came in an order from Amazon along with a hymnal and some textbooks, and I set it aside, figuring I’d get to it eventually.
Last January, I was rereading Richard J. Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, and I decided to commit to the inward spiritual disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, and study for the duration of Lent. That’s when I discovered how essential the Book of Common Prayer can be to the modern life of prayer for Anglicans and non-Anglicans alike.
*There are a few terms that I’d like to clarify right off the bat, in case you’re not familiar with them. The Episcopal Church is the American derivation of the Church of England. The term “Anglican” thus refers to those within the Church of England, as well as to those who are considered Episcopalian, along with both churches’ liturgical traditions.