The Canterbury Book of New Parish Prayers:
Collects for the Church and the World
By Max J. Kramer
Who’s it for? Anyone who plans public prayer, leads public prayers in any context, or wants to expand their praying vocabulary.
What is this book?The Canterbury Book of New Parish Prayers is a collection of over 500 prayers, composed of a bidding and a collect, for a wide variety of occasions for Church and civil life.
How did the author compose these prayers? The prayers were largely written by Max Kramer in his ministry as precentor (liturgical coordinator) at Canterbury Cathedral for use in the Daily Office. He edited these prayers into this collection during the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020.
What difference will this book make? In his introduction, Kramer notes how oftentimes, contemporary collects tend to be too lengthy or intimate and that this can detract from their utility for the Church. (I’d add abstract or avant-garde.) This collection of prayers offers concise, concrete prayers that are aimed at public proclamation, but are also suitable for private prayer. I believe that the style of prayers this book exhibits can serve as a tool for liturgical renewal and catechesis.
Why is this book significant? In short, here is a highly-visible liturgist and author offering the Church a collection of excellent new prayers. It represents a break from what many encounter as the typical form of prayers in the Office, but is deeply grounded in historical precedents for style and content. As such, it is a fine (and sorely-needed) example of liturgical renewal.
Why is this book useful? Kramer offers prayers: biddings and collects, for just about every occasion I can think of. While some are specific to British contexts, the collection is fantastic, and anyone who is involved in planning public worship (or leading public prayers) will benefit from this collection.
Kudos. One thing that impressed me with this collection was the traditional bidding-collect pattern that Kramer used throughout. Many people’s only exposure to this form of prayer is through its use on Good Friday. Some newer collects, like those written and translated by Bosco Peters do make use of short biddings. As I’ve used these collects in my own prayer, I’ve found that a fuller bidding, followed by a prolonged pause can greatly increase the “prayerfulness” of the collect from the typical short pause after “let us pray.”
Additionally, the biddings can be reworked into intercessions for specific intentions should a planner want to use the litany form of prayer many are accustomed to, especially in the Eucharist and Office.
Hidden Gem: A hidden gem for catechists, pastors, and teachers is his inclusion of a brief primer on how to write collects. Kramer writes that “the regular shape of collects, their formal quality and their universal outlook give them the power to be heard not as the overhearing of the private prayer life of another but as the common prayer of all the souls gathered into one place, to which each voice can join its own sincere ‘Amen.’”
He hit the nail on the head; the Church suffers a deficit of spontaneous public prayer. So often, at least in my experience, when someone is asked to lead a public prayer that person offers either a rote prayer or a spontaneous, but often rambling, prayer.
Knowing how to spontaneously pray, or at least write, a collect offers a solution to this. The primer is grouped into four sections: character, brevity, structure, and style. The structure section gives a fuller picture than the “you-who-do-to-through” shorthand that so many people use to teach this style. The main section, 3 ½ of 8 pages, is on the style of the collect with an emphasis on the rhetorical tools that can be used to create public prayer that sticks with the assembly.
Kramer, Max J. The Canterbury Book of New Parish Prayers: Collects for the Church and the World. Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2021. 308 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 9781786223036.
REVIEWER: David J. Wesson