How the Daily Service was framed

It’s amazing that they could put on a religious service each day in only 15 minutes, but what did it look like?

The BBC has an online archive of its magazine Radio Times and I looked at each day in January and July 1941. Despite the name, the Daily Service only took place from Monday to Saturday, but interestingly the book seems to have been used day by day in order, skipping over the Sundays. This fits with the goal, stated in the preface of Each Returning Day to provide a comprehensive arc of prayer each month, rather than in each service. A spot check suggest that some Services may have been omitted in order to keep the book and calendar it sync.

But since the description of each service was only a book page listing in New Every Morning and Each Returning Day we’ll have to look at contemporary accounts and other broadcast services, mainly the longer Sunday service and services for school children. It was, in essence, morning prayer, with an abbreviated psalmody, and no sermon.

The Sunday services did not have a standard format, but — in 1941 at least — oscillated between “high” and “broad” forms, appealing to an all-out audience, both those in the established churches in England and Scotland, and Dissenting churches, Catholics excluded. So it’s possible there was a standard set of texts with elements in common, but not a standard service.

But my interest isn’t re-enacting those services, but seeing how that approach might make Sunday worship easier to plan, and the conduct of worship easier to teach. For next time.

Reviewing “Each Returning Day”

A few days ago, a second book arrived from the United Kingdom, the 1940 BBC prayer book Each Returning Day.

Four years had passed since the first BBC service book for the broadcast Daily Service, New Every Morning, and with those years the beginning of World War II. The new book was intended to be a supplement, but it served broader needs. The slim preface, written by F. A. Iremonger suggested its usefulness as a resource for private, family and congregational worship, though it was not specifically authorized in Anglican churches. Each days prayers were not meant to be comprehensive, but part of a monthly cycle, following. My own copy seems to have been the property of a Birmingham congregationalist minister, R. R. Osborn, who himself broadcast the Daily Service from time to time. My copy has those little pencil marks that ministers add to make the book more useful, and to keep from repeating prayers.

The tone is more patriotic, but not as much as I would have expected for a wartime supplement. As Dean Iremonger put it: “To pray about nothing but the war and their relatives may lead, in times of loss or distress — as it did frequently in the last war — to a revulsion against all religion; and for these in particular several sets of prayers are included which have no direct connexion with the war, but which may deepen and develop the sense of union with God through prayer.”

Because it’s hard to find here are the thirty daily services. (For months with thirty-one days, “it is suggested that any set of prayers be used which may be of special relevance at the time.”)

  1. For Faith in God
  2. For the King and the Royal Family
  3. For a New World
  4. For our Children
  5. For the Unemployed
  6. For Rulers and Statesman
  7. For the Grace of Perseverance
  8. For the Church of Christ
  9. For the British Empire
  10. For a Quiet Mind
  11. For all Workers, especially those engaged in war-work
  12. For the Forces of the Crown
  13. For those who Mourn
  14. For Courage
  15. For our Enemies
  16. For the High Court of Parliament
  17. For the Gift of Sympathy
  18. For the Spread of Christ’s Kingdom
  19. For the Spirit of Service
  20. For those at Sea
  21. For Peace
  22. For our Nation
  23. For the Sick and Wounded
  24. For the Protection of Almighty God
  25. For our Homes
  26. For the Spirit of Sacrifice
  27. For Chaplains, Doctors, and Nurses
  28. For Absent Friends
  29. For the Love of God
  30. For the Fallen in Battle, and all Departed Souls

Unlike the first book, this one does not have hymn suggestions, the hymns, psalms and a reading from scripture is noted in the Radio Times listing for the service.

Indeed, the form is spare. An opening sentence, a versicle and response, a brief themed call to prayer, a few appropriate collects, and a notion for use of additional prayers and the Grace.

The appendix has those additional prayers, including the hoary Book of Common Prayer’s collect “for all conditions of men” and the General Thanksgiving; these also show up in the Universalist prayer books, and are worthy for use as-is or in modern editions.

How the wartime Daily Service might have sounded, first notes

It’s been more than a month since I order my copy of the BBC’s wartime supplement prayer book, Each Returning Day: A Book of Prayers for Use in Time of War and I’ve not gotten it, so let’s move ahead with a few notes on New Every Morning I’ve picked up while we wait. This helps us understand how the book was used. I started this series here.

  • The New SCM Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship described the Daily Service as “a simple daily office comprising a sentence of scripture, a hymn, a prayer, a Bible reading, psalmody, intercessions and thanksgivings, a closing hymn and blessing.” With descriptions in the Radio Times it should be possible to figure out how the service was set out.
  • The New SCM Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship also notes that “[w]omen as well as men led the service.” Notes elsewhere about BBC staff leading the prayers suggests that it was a lay office. (Ordained women ministers from Dissenting churches did lead the fuller broadcast Sunday service in this period.)
  • Winter’s Tale describes how tight the service was timed. For example, the Lord’s Prayer might be read at “anything between a brisk 24 seconds and a reverent 36” with blessings timed to choose one to fit the remaining time. It was 15 minutes long.
  • In the article “Hymns on the Air” by Cyril Taylor (Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland bulletin, October 1947), we learn that the Daily Service “contains two hymns, the first being linked with the opening prayers of worship, thanksgiving, or confession, the second with the closing prayers of intercession.”
  • The hymns came from Hymns Ancient and Modern and Songs of Praise (and didn’t vary as listeners followed along in their own books at home) plus metrical psalms and paraphrases “which we know will be particularly appreciated by listeners in Scotland.” Hymns were often shortened for time, and the tune was selected for its suitability for an octet, so none of the grand ones like “NUN DANKET or EIN’ FESTE BURG, or even OLD HUNDREDTH.”
  • Not so relevant to our concern, but interesting all the same: the BBC had a studio specially consecrated, looking something halfway between a period office and a chapel, used until destroyed by German bombs. It was lovely and must have made religious broadcasting seem that much more special.

“New Every Morning” for radio worshipers

I’ve neglected my public writing far too long, but neither have I had much to say. About a month ago, I started reading documents related to World War Two. This is not a new interest, but the occasion was accidental: I found a set of official bulletins from the Office for Emergency Management — entitled Victory — and that prompted a search for more. Turns out there’s a BBC history project, where years of the magazine Radio Times were scanned and the schedules digitized. All of 1939 are available to read, and with them the opening months of the war for the British. Add other documents and you get an amazing story that I’ve just begun to investigate.

The BBC had a basic problem: German bombing could knock out a part of the pre-war regionalized service. The solution was to consolidate the various radio programs into a single Home Service with transmitters blanketing the country. At first, the whole country’s broadcast service was reduced to news bulletins, recorded music and exceptional amounts of theater organ. This was during Hitler’s Phony War, and the BBC developed a other entertainment, documentary and informative programs, plus regional segments, including news and notices in Welsh. Religious broadcasting was a conspicuous part of the programming, including the Daily Service, which marked its ninetieth anniversary earlier this year. Naturally, I’m interested in what they came up with, not the least because they were responsible for a pan-Christian audience. (I’ve yet to find reference to Jewish or other religious programming during this period.)

Since 1936, and through the war and post-war period, the BBC Daily Service used a service book, New Every Morning, with a supplemental book Each Returning Day published during the war. How were they used? Did they appeal to an ecumenical audience? What limitations were put on the service to perfectly hit the fifteen minute broadcast window? I ordered copies of each book from British booksellers, and New Every Morning has since been delivered.

I think there are probably lessons for worship services with wide appeal, worship services for dispersed groups, and brevity. (Brevity being one of my ongoing beefs with Protestant liturgy.)

I’ll let you know what I find.

Boston NPR station streams in free format

Good news from the Free Software Foundation: Boston National Public Radio broadcaster WBUR has begin streaming its content in the free Ogg format. The importance?

Unlike MP3, Windows Media, Real Audio or Quicktime, Ogg Vorbis is not restricted by software patents. The threat of these patent lawsuits chills independent development of multimedia software tools. The use of unencumbered formats like Ogg Vorbis is necessary for providing access to publicly funded news and other programming without dependence on the patent-holding corporations and proprietary software vendors.

Patent-encumbered formats owned by companies like Microsoft and Apple require listeners to use non-free software; controlled by them, not by the users. They design their software to restrict the users and spy on their activities. If users choose Ogg Vorbis for audio and Ogg Theora for video, they can use many different media players, including free software designed to respect their freedom and privacy. (Full press release at FSF)

In short, you shouldn’t have to go through a proprietary gate to get to content supported by the public purse. For more background, I wrote about the Ogg format twice last year here and here.

Good for WBUR. You can listen to the stream (in a number of different formats) here.