One of the highlights of my childhood was the discovery of fossil known as Lucy. An example of Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy pushed forward our understanding of human origins by pushing back the clock. And from that day to now (when I think about the new version of Cosmos) I’ve come to expect the figure of a forked family tree, and a journey back to some critical node that separates our own path from the ones not taken.
And so it is with this exercise in Unitarian and Universalist liturgies, except that we’re only going back a couple of centuries, not millions of years, and the branches have a habit of lapping back on to themselves at a later point. And the Unitarians and Universalists grow along side of each other, one not eradicating the other. Think song birds, not hominids.
And we don’t have to go to the Rift Valley in eastern Africa, but to Boston. The place is King’s Chapel; the year, 1785.
I choose the first edition of the King’s Chapel prayer book not because King’s Chapel still uses a prayer book (in a later, 1986, edition) or even because it is the best known of the Unitarian or Universalist prayerbook churches, but
- because it is the earliest American Unitarian or Universalist prayerbook
- because it has a direct inheritance from the 1662 Church of England Book of Common Prayer,
- this inheritance is acknowledged, and
- because it influenced the production of the first United States Episcopal Church prayer book, in 1789.
We’ll see the parallels between Morning Prayer in the 1662 and 1785 books next, and after that comes the divergence.