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Daily office synergy

Over the years I've gained a lot of experience in how parishes can establish the Daily Office as part of the ground upon which parish life stands. I've consulted with many parishes as they in engage the practice. It’s been part of my own spiritual discipline since seminary – sometimes more fully than other times. And with the cooperation of parishioners I've been able to establish the practice in parishes where I’ve served.

The Daily Office and the Sunday Eucharist are the foundation for a parish’s health and faithfulness. The Office brings us into the pathways of grace. It roots us in the scriptures and the common prayer of the church. It is the heartbeat of the Body of Christ. It allows us to enter into the ancient rhythms of awe and adoration. It concretely connects us to the church throughout the world. It teaches us that our spiritual life is not dependent upon our feelings. 

[NOTE: This posting is a slight revision from one offered several years ago on the Order of the Ascension web site.]

Four interdependent elements

I have come to understand that there are four interdependent elements that help a parish maintain the Daily Office as part of its grounding.This is a mix of understandings from ascetical/pastoral theology and systems theory. In relationship to one another those elements create a synergy that can sustain a parish's public office and generally enhance a healthy cultural density.

1. Train and coach parishioners for saying the Office in their own daily life

2. Establish in the parish a public offering of the Daily Office on most days of the week

3. Keep the saying of the Daily Office in front of the various congregations of the parish

4. The clergy of the parish participate in the public office on most days it is offered

There is a synergy among these four elements. They support and reinforce one another. They energize one another. A parish where one or more of the four is weak will stand on shaky ground.

An example -- recruiting people for teams will be easier if there is a large and growing number of people saying the office on their own. They are likely to value it and will have some sense of its elements. They may be more willing to be on a team if they also sense that helping in the public office is valued - because it is kept in front of members and the Vicar is personally committed.

The task is to place the parish in the pathways of grace and we do that by grounding the parish in Eucharist and Office. It is setting lose the dynamics of health and faithfulness

1. Train and coach parishioners for saying the Office in their own daily life

Offer a substantial amount of training (2 hours +/-) every year in the saying of the daily office. It may be as part of orienting people to the life of the parish or within a broader course on Anglican spirituality. It needs to be offered every year to deal with new members and people who have come to a place in their life where they are seeking a richer spiritual life. Larger parishes or parishes just trying to get a public office off the ground might offer the program three of four times per year. 

The most effective way of doing this that I've seen is to offer the training as two 1 hour+ sessions with a week in between the sessions.

In the first session participants are introduced to several ways in which they might do the Office -- use the BCP, on the web, longer-shorter forms. An emphasis is placed on the three core components of the office -- the appointed psalms, the appointed reading(s), and the Prayers. People make a decision of the way in which they will do the office during the following week.

Participants do the office during the week. 

The second session is a time of reflecting on their experience -- how did it go for them? The stance of the coaches is as supportive guides; there's no tone of judgement. The reflection is an opportunity to learn from their experience and to receive additional coaching.

In addition to the yearly training program, people need to know that there are others in the parish willing and able to provide spiritual guidance in saying the daily prayers of the church. People often need one-on-one coaching as they take on this and other forms of spiritual practice.

Provide an invitation by affirming the Office as central to our tradition -- this is how we Anglicans stay grounded in the scriptures and prayers of the church; it is how individuals maintain a vibrant spiritual life; it is us praying the scriptures not simply studying them. We invite you to find a way to engage the daily office that fits your temperament, your circumstances and your schedule.

Think in terms of getting the parish to a position where 15 – 20% of those at the Eucharist each Sunday say the Office in some form.

2. Establish in the parish a public offering of the Daily Office on most days of the week

At the heart of Prayer Book spirituality is the parish saying the Daily Office. And the parish does that in two primary ways: one is by individuals saying it on their own and the other is by the parish’s public offering.

Thomas Cranmer didn't include the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer for the clergy, or laity, to use it as a private breviary. It is there for the parish’s communal use.

The structure for doing this varies from parish to parish. In some the rector sets the time, is always present as the officiant, and invites others to attend. I know of parishes where a layperson asks the rector if they can say it each day. They take on the responsibility and others are invited to come and participate.

Probably the most effective, rewarding, and powerful way I've seen it structured is by using teams. A team accepts responsibility for saying the Office for a given day of the week. So every Monday there are three to five people who come together. They rotate who officiates, reads, sets up before. and straightens up after. Others from the parish attend regularly or from time to time but the team provides the stability.

It does take a good bit of work to maintain the teams.  People have changes in their schedules and life circumstances. Some move away. Parishes need to spend energy on recruiting new people to teams each year. It’s most effective if it’s roughly the same time period each year. The Epiphany season and in early June are often good times.  In most parishes they are times that are generally free from commitments and programs. In each case it’s possible to invite people to “try on” being part of a team for a specific time period – Lent and Easter seasons, or through the summer.

There also needs to be a person that frequently participates in the Office who plays a kind of coordinating/oversight role. In most parishes this will be the rector though it also works to delegate the task as long as the person stays in touch with the rector’s thinking and desires.

This is a parish offering of the Daily Office. That differs from what may be appropriate in a monastic or cathedral tradition.  Use the Prayer Book and the appointed psalms and readings not a monastic breviary or arrangement of elements. While people may be exposed what for them is to a new way of prayer -- that way needs to be the Prayer Book's way. 

3. Keep the saying of the Daily Office in front of the various congregations of the parish

The starting place is the simplest place – have the Office schedule on the home page of the website, in the weekly e-newsletter and the Sunday bulletin, and posted in a prominent place so people walking by on the street can see it.

It also helps if: the clergy make use of sermons to teach about the office, there is a more complete description of the place of the office in Anglican spirituality on the parish website, and occasionally there are blurbs and parish newsletters about the place of the office in individual and parish spiritual life.

We need to internally market those things that are foundational.

4. The clergy of the parish need to participate in the public office on most days it is offered

Parish spiritual life is deepened by clergy participation in the public office and is deflated if clergy are routinely absent or signal by their behavior that other things were more important. I recall a participant in the Church Development Institute of General Seminary sharing his experience as a curate. The parish said Evening Prayer Monday through Friday. The rector never attended. Worse yet, the rector left his office at 6:00 pm when EP began and walked past the doors of the chapel. It was emotionally devastating to those carrying the weight of that ministry. It also undercut the authority of the rector.

The clergy play a critical role in shaping the parish’s culture. What we want is to shape parish culture based on sound pastoral and ascetical theology and practice, our disciplined reflection on our experience, and processes of listening closely to the more Apostolic members of the parish.  How we approach the Daily Office is part of that.

Edgar Schein's list of what shapes organizational culture includes rites and rituals, stories and myths, physical space, and statements of belief and values.  They are all important. But they are secondary forces. What primarily shapes organizational culture is the behavior of leaders. In relationship to the Office that means what we pay attention to, participate in, measure, reward, and work to influence on a regular basis. 

One of the most important acts of the priest to build the health and faithfulness of parish is to be at the Office most days of the week and to be part of one of the teams.

There are related actions the priest can take that will help. It's a powerful witness when someone calls to set up an appointment with the vicar and the vicar responds by saying, “That's when we say noon day prayer. How about if you come and join us and we'll go to lunch and meet after that.”  It’s a Benedictine principle that nothing come before our common worship. So, we need to ask that parish meetings not take place when the Office is being said and that the parish office stop its work and people join in the Prayers of the Church.




Postings about the Office on Means of Grace, Hope of Glory

Introducing the Daily Office into a parish's DNA    

Daily Office: the priority of worship   

The Office: Daily, the Hours    

Parish development resources: Episcopal Ethos, the Daily Office    

A life, not a program    


Developmental Initiatives on the Daily Office: action planning tools

Equipping Individuals to Use the Office

A Public Daily Office


Fill All Things: The Spiritual Dynamics of the Parish Church. Sections on the Office include – The threefold rule of prayer (the Prayer Book Pattern) pp. 56 – 57, the Daily Office relationship with the Eucharist pp. 59 – 60, on pages 169 -  178 thoughts on why people say the Office, its place in parish development, how to strengthen and promote the office, quotes from various writers, stories of parishes saying the Office, and a poem by Amy Hunter.

In Your Holy Spirit: Traditional Spiritual Practices in Today’s Christian Life – pp. 43 – offers an understanding of the place of the Office in the person’s spiritual life and specific suggestions about how people can say the office in a way that takes into account their personality and life circumstances.

In Your Holy Spirit: Shaping the Parish through Spiritual Practice – Eucharist and Office pp 21 – 22, “The Daily Practice: The Prayers of the Church” pp. 43 – 51 including the primary elements, individual use, parish communal use, the importance of experimenting and innovating, and ways in which we undercut the parish’s saying of the Office.

Practicing Prayer: A Handbook – Offers ways to engage the Office along with a variety of personal devotions.

From  Saint Gregory’s Abbey -  Seven Times A Day I Praise You: Prayer Books for Daily Use


On the web

TenMarks of Vibrant Parishes – see #1 Houses of prayer for all

Daily Office inParishes  - examples 

It's a blog posting by Carl McColman -- "Seven Reasons to Pray the Divine Office - Prayer Does Not Change God — It Changes Us"

This video is part of the Society of Catholic Priests (Episcopalians) PR effort. But the story he tells is about how he and his parish engaged the Daily Office.



An article on Daily Office related apps


Tutorials/explanations in parish churches and other








Note - there are what I see as errors in a a few places but on the whole the material might be useful as a staring place in developing your own web pages.


A Nashotah student The issues are very real for the student. However he misses what the BCP tradition is really about -- it's not about the priest saying his/her office, it's about the parish church offering its Office. 

A Presbyterian


Christianity Today

Learning the Ancient Rhythms of Prayer: Why charismatics and evangelicals, among others, are flocking to communities famous for set prayers and worshiping by the clock

The Rise and Fall of the Daily Office