The Catholic Faith

I sometimes wonder what it would have been like in the Church of England, in the days when the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) was universally used, and in the days when evangelicals in the Church of England more than happy with that. How might a young person have been taught the elements of the faith in those times?

They might well have been encouraged to read The Catholic Faith: A Manual of Instruction for Members of the Church of England by W.H. Griffith Thomas, published in 1906. Griffith Thomas (1861-1924) was Principal of Wycliffe Hall in Oxford at the time, and his book seems to have been very popular. I’ve just finished reading the original edition (there’s something special about holding a book in your hands that is more than 100 years old, isn’t there?), but you 21st-Century types might prefer to read it online, in its revised edition of 1952. The note to this revised edition describes it as “this popular handbook” and notes that “Since it was first issued the book has passed through numerous editions, totaling 63,000 copies in all”.

The book is both comprehensive and concise, and very accessible. It serves as an introduction to the faith of the Catholic (i.e., universal) Church, in a way that follows closely the catechism of the BCP, and with a general approach that is not at all dissimilar to (good!) modern evangelical articulations of the faith. But it also serves as an introduction to the Church of England, particularly to the Book of Common Prayer. Finally, the third of the book deals with some “current questions”: issues of the day at the start of the 20th Century.

Probably the most useful part of the book, from my perspective, was the overview of the Book of Common Prayer, which is mainly to be found in chapters 6-15 of the second part. I had been looking for a simple commentary on the BCP, and this serves the purpose well.