The Seabury Society has published a slim volume called A People’s Companion to Holy Communion, meant to function as a guided tour through the Holy Communion service in the ACNA’s 2019 Prayer Book. As explained in the Preface, this book builds upon the 1914 work of Bernard Iddings Bell, The People’s Book of the Holy Eucharist, mainly updating the language and bringing it into conformity with the 2019 BCP and the ACNA Catechism, To Be a Christian.
The book opens, then, with excerpts from the ACNA Catechism, the sections on the sacraments and on Holy Communion. We are then provided with a 2-column walkthrough the Holy Communion liturgy itself, with the liturgy proper in the right-hand column and rubrics (instructions) and devotions on the left.
In addition to brief explanations and comments on what it happening throughout the liturgy, there are also several suggested private devotional prayers throughout the service. The book also indicates liturgical postures and gestures (sit, stand, kneel, make the sign of the cross, etc.) and when they take place. Reading this book during a Holy Communion service would be like sitting next to a very well informed liturgical veteran whispering explanations and guidance in your ear along the way.
The book closes with a few hymns and prayers, an explanation of some ecclesiastical symbolism (nave, choir, sanctuary, candles, incense, etc.), and a thorough guide to self examination based upon the Ten Commandments. There is a concluding confession of sin, followed by the collect for the 21st Sunday after Trinity (“…grant to your faithful people pardon and peace…”).
All in all, this is a very helpful and informative resource, especially for people who are new to liturgical celebrations of Holy Communion. The explanations are concise, the devotional prayers are rich, and it pairs very nicely with the ACNA Prayer Book and Catechism (with references to both throughout). Its one weakness is that, given the liturgical diversity within the ACNA and the Anglican Communion more broadly (a diversity that the Seabury Society has bitterly lamented, at least previously, in their “Manifesto”), this book would only be a perfect hand-in-glove fit for Holy Communion services in certain churches.
Nevertheless, even if everything in this book doesn’t apply to your church’s particular Holy Communion service, I am sure you’ll learn something profitable from this book that will enrich your experience the next time your partake of the Eucharist. Purchase a copy from the Seabury Society today!
Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book by the publisher for an honest review.