Bath Abbey sparks backlash as rector replaces 400-year-old morning prayers with 'contemporary' service

Olivia Rudgard
The Rector of the Abbey has decided to change the Sunday service - PA

Bath Abbey has sparked a backlash among churchgoers who are upset that it has replaced its 400-year-old Sunday service with a version said in "familiar" modern English.

The church was among a handful to retain the Matins service, which is based on the Tudor Book of Common Prayer. 

After Easter it will be replaced by a modern choral Eucharist.

The Abbey said it decided to change the service to make it more accessible as more people are familiar with the modern service. 

In a letter to the congregation sent in December, the Rector of the Abbey, The Reverend Prebendary Edward Mason, said: "Generations of Anglicans have now grown up with Eucharist not Matins. 

"Few are now sustained in their faith by Matins these days. Casual attenders, visitors and those returning to faith are much more likely to be familiar with a Eucharist."

But some worshippers are upset by the changes, which they say are based on making the service more "fashionable" and will drive older members of the congregation away.

Ann Taylor, who is in her seventies and has been attending the service for 20 years, said she would not be attending the new Eucharist because it was in "supermarket" English.  She said around 300 or 400 people currently attended. 

"We think it's been changed for fatuous reasons," she said.

"The lady who sits in front of me turned around last week and said 'have a good Easter, but I don't know when I'll see you after that'. It's very sad."

The Matins service at Bath Abbey was popular, a member of the congregation said Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images Europe

The Prayer Book was written by Thomas Cranmer in 1549 during the reign of Edward VI and revised in 1662. The version used in churches today is broadly similar to the Cranmer's book. 

A spokesman for the Prayer Book Society, which works to preserve usage of the text, said: "It was written by Cranmer over 400 years ago and it's beautiful. 

"For many people who have used it all their lives, to suddenly have that taken away is devastating."

A Bath Abbey spokesman said: "Changes to worship are made carefully and after long periods of consideration and prayer."

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