The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education

Third Edition

Sharon Ely Pearson and Robyn Szoke

May/2009, 336 Pages, PAPERBACK, 6 x 9

ISBN-13: 9780819223371



While this one-volume guide is especially useful for Christian educators, showing them how to teach week by week according to the ethos and tradition of the Episcopal Church, it also provides a valuable and useful reference tool for all church leaders and members in connecting Christian faith to daily life.

This new guide to Christian education and formation is based on the Book of Common Prayer, the cornerstone of Anglican liturgy and theology. Keyed to the Revised Common Lectionary, all activities and lessons are structured on the seasons and lessons for Years A, B, and C. The guide stresses the major themes of baptismal theology and shows how teachers, parents, and children can live the liturgical cycle in Christian formation ministries at church and at home.

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Robyn Szoke is associate rector at St. John's Episcopal Church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and former Staff Officer for the Episcopal Church in the area of life-long Christian formation and education.

SHARON ELY PEARSON is a Christian educator, editor, and author with 35+ years of experience in Christian formation on the local, judicatory, and church-wide level. Known for her knowledge of published curricula across the church, she has written or edited numerous books. She is a graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary and a lifelong Episcopalian. She lives in Norwalk, Connecticut.

"This welcome third edition of the New Prayer Book Guide is a rich and well-proven resource not only for educators and liturgists, but for all who seek to deepen their understanding of the church’s worship." —Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop

"A winner for teachers and learners of all ages. With its focus on adult formation, new approaches to Bible study and local and global mission, the Guide overflows with resources for all the baptized." —Fredrica Harris Thompsett, Professor Emerita, Episcopal Divinity School

"A wonderful gift to the Church, this revision of a tried and true favorite incorporates the Revised Common Lectionary readings, making it most useful for all sizes of congregations and also for faith formation in the home." —Janie Stevens, Episcopal Diocese of Texas

"Faith, biblical reflection, spirituality, and discipleship come alive in new and exciting ways. This book is a must-have for every family and church committed to life-long Christian formation."  —Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones, Trinity Church, Wall Street

"Should be on every congregation’s bookshelf . . . and off the bookshelf more often than on. It is a remarkable resource for anyone responsible for Christian Formation or simply interested in the faith of the Episcopal Church as it is understood today." —Victoria L. Garvey, Episcopal Diocese of Chicago

"Sharon Pearson and Robyn Szoke understand that the Book of Common Prayer is a liturgical and theological treasure ready to be mined so that children, youth, and adults are truly formed in the faith." —James E. Curry, Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut

"Sharon Ely Pearson and Robyn Szoke have produced a refreshed, simple, and comprehensive adjunct to worship." —Episcopal Life


“The first and second editions of The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education (1983, 1996) served as essential sourcebooks for those responsible for faith formation. Recognizing that the theology of the Episcopal church is embedded in the prayer of the church, they were designed to help parents and godparents, Christian education teachers and Directors, priests and bishops see how the rites, prayers, catechism, calendar, memorialization of holy men and women, and lectionary cycle of Scripture could be used as a curriculum. Mapping correlations between the contents of the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and The 1982 Hymnal, they offered a model of faith formation that explored faith themes and Christian commitments.

Concerned that this resource was no longer available, Sharon Ely Pearson spearheaded the effort to update and expand these editions for a new generation. Inviting Robyn Szoke to be her co-editor, Pearson, Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Inc since 1997, and Szoke,  Associate Pastor of St Johns Church in Carlisle PA bring over fifty years faith formation experience. Reiterating that all Christians are teachers and learners, the editors add insights from faith development theory, contemporary pedagogical practice, generational studies, and global awareness to craft a sourcebook accessible to “all who share in the life of the Christian community (11).” 

As a guide, this is not a book to be read; rather, it is an education and formation-oriented reference to be used to enhance communal and individual experience and understanding of Episcopal beliefs, practices, and traditions. Unlike Marion Hatchett’s classic, Commentary on the American Prayer Book (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995) or The Oxford Guide to the Book of Common Prayer: A Worldwide Survey (Oxford: Oxford University Press Inc, 2006), edited by Charles Heffling and Cynthia Shattuck, that enable readers to study the historical, theological, and liturgical roots the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education uses Biblical stories to correlate faith and action and to illuminate ways that Christians can engage God’s mission and follow Jesus’ Way.  

Developed in three segments, it identifies The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) as both a “statement of what we (Episcopalians) believe and our call to ministry (5).” Part I organizes elements by liturgical seasons. Within each season, it offers definitions, significant themes, “great words,” symbols and traditions, Bible stories, and hymns.  It also provides generational insights by exploring the seasons through the eyes of children, youth, daily life, and global communities, as well as offers suggestions for living the season at home and at church. Part II is structured by the three-year lectionary cycle. For each week, it identifies themes, key words and concepts, highlights from Christian practice and liturgical traditions, ideas for formation in baptismal discipleship, and holy men and women recognized by the Church’s lesser feats and fasts. Part III expands the original’s exploration of the Learning Process by emphasizing ways to share the Biblical Story. Notable are the eight detailed methods for Bible study at home and Church: Lectio Divina, The Aural Method, Equipping the Saints, Listening for the Word, Modern Application, Transforming Bible Study, Reflection Beginning with Scripture, and Reflection Based on Ubuntu and Indaba.

As a very comprehensive guide, it offers much to be commended. Although some redundancy occurs within the seasonal and lectionary sections, Pearson and Szoke weave a significant amount of content from two previous editions with new material and generally succeed in maintaining a consistent, unified voice.  In places where earlier editions did not provide material, they added it.  For example, the first edition does not consistently complete the full format for each season. Other significant enhancements are the use of the Revised Common Lectionary, correlation with the Episcopal Church’s catechetical guide Called To Teach and Learn (New York: The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society PECUSA, 1994), inclusion of highlights for different generational perspectives, teaching techniques that recognize multiple intelligences (see Howard Gardner, Multiple Intelligences, Basic Books, 2006), the expansion of hymnals referenced, and the identification of web site resources.

One concern is that the editors presume a greater level of religious literacy than currently exists, particularly for GenX parents. The edition could be enhanced by providing the rationale for some of the Church’s practices. For instance, the text identifies that advent wreath candles can be purple or blue but does not explain why a church would choose one over another (purple is the color of penitence, suffering and fasting while blue is more hopeful and anticipatory). 
Like many publications, there is a companion web site, that Pearson maintains personally. Envisioning it as a way to keep the Guide current, she sensitively and immediately responded to a concern that I shared with her directly that many sections were still “under-construction.”  Active in the digital world, Pearson produces Living IN-Formation, a monthly eNewsletter of Christian education resources, and regularly shares her expertise on the National Association of Episcopal Christian Educators (NAECED) listserv. Inviting interaction, this site could be a substantial resource for the use the Prayer Book as a guide for practicing faith.” — Julie Anne Lytle, PhD, Episcopal Divinity School

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