I regularly get asked if A New Zealand Prayer Book (NZPB) is available on a website, like Common Worship, or TEC’s BCP.

There is a Windows program. There is no Mac option, but it runs fine on a Windows emulator such as VMware Fusion on a Mac.

The website states “WePray by LabOra is completely free of charge until July 2011”. It states that “WePray has to be registered online. The programme may be started 30 times or 14 days – whatever is coming first – without being registered.” But no registration box has come up for me, and I cannot see on the program where the registration box should be found. If yours does, the Product Key is 1120-1030-1412. [I’m sorry if you get annoyed that, by LabOra reading this post, they may end up “fixing” the registration fault. Maybe my program will just stop in a fortnight!]

For some reason this 21st century program appears as if it was written as a clunky DOS program at the same time as the Prayer Book (late 80s early 90s last millennium). It even includes clip art. Please: it is a mortal sin to use this clip art. [If you can cope with strong language and wonder why clip art is so last millenium check here. If you have no sense of humour, or are horrified at strong language, just trust me: don’t use the clip art]. I fail to understand why the program just doesn’t have a better look.

A real step forward from NZPB is that much more is available in Tongan, Fijian, Samoan, and Hindi [communities using those languages will have to let me know how much computers are used to prepare liturgies in those communities]. Two options are provided for the readings: NRSV (unacknowledged) and CEV (acknowledged). Psalms are from NZPB. Weekday collects are acknowledged from APBFA (I understand this to be A Prayer Book for Australia?).

Sunday collects are provided from NZPB, with one chosen from the three provided. This means that, for example, on the Second Sunday in Lent the collect is:

Collect (Lent 2 – Pentecost 10:2 ANZPB)
Come Holy Spirit, to all baptised in your name,
that we may turn to good
whatever lies ahead
Give us passion, give us fire;
make us transform the world from what it is,
to what you have created it to be.

Not only does the reference to Pentecost continue to confuse, but we have a collect addressed to the Holy Spirit. I am against any increasing formalising of this.

Every day is provided with a proper preface. [Within our formularies in NZ this may only be used for the prayer of NZPB starting page 420, or 512 – or the TEC equivalent to p512.] The proper preface is called “People of God Advent Opening Prayer for Great Thanksgiving”. I have no idea why the Advent proper preface is being used. So this coming Sunday (Ordinary 6) the program has the collect from Advent 2 and the proper preface for Advent. I also do not know why the proper preface is called an “Opening Prayer for Great Thanksgiving” (try a search for this – the concept is unknown on the internet).

Everything has been chopped into its constituent parts. Every NZPB eucharistic prayer is presented, not in its entirety, but chopped into 12 different Institution Narratives, acclamations, 12 versions of the anamnesis, 12 versions of the epiclesis… This is the way the whole program is constructed. You have an informal greeting, followed by a choice of greetings, followed by sentence of the day, a choice of prayers of preparation for the service, a choice of songs of praise, introductions to confession, invitations to confession, confessions, absolutions, and so on and on it goes…

This may be a wonderful resource for those who have studied liturgy deeply, and are well trained and formed. For others it may produce services that feel like the funny pictures we construct when we can choose different body parts: head of an emu, body of an elephant, legs of a giraffe… In a province which has been so minimalist in liturgical study, training, and formation, I have grave reservations. There is a strong movement abandoning liturgy in the Anglican Church here and, in my experience, it is because they are rightly reacting against the poor quality that they have either experienced or tried, without good formation, to produce themselves. For many this program will be akin to trying to write poetry or a novel using a computer program which provides a choice of article, followed by a choice of adjectives, followed by a choice of nouns, followed by a choice of verbs, followed by a choice of adverbs,…

A program like this has potential. A website would be better. Common Worship‘s site is a good model [and remember most of Common Worship is licit in NZ formularies]. Maybe more than ever before, my book Celebrating Eucharist may be a way to help overcome some of the issues I have highlighted. I would be quite happy to discuss including Celebrating Eucharist on this resource. Other resources beyond A New Zealand Prayer Book have already been included.

Have fun playing round with this – and do add your own reflections.

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