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Home > Dr. Bayer: Promoting the Book of Common Prayer

Dr. Bayer: Promoting the Book of Common Prayer

November 10th, 2009

By Sarah Pride

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722
OfficeOfCommunications@phc.edu

Dr. Roberta Bayer (R) with her husband, also a Ph.D., and their two children, as the Bayers receive their doctorates from Notre Dame

Kneeling on plush prayer benches in the new prayer chapel of the Barbara Hodel Student Life Center, a handful of students and faculty read together the One Hundred Twenty First Psalm.

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills; from whence cometh my help?” reads Dr. Roberta Bayer, Assistant Professor of Government. And the others echo with the next sentence: “My help cometh even from the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth.”

Every Thursday afternoon, Dr. Bayer facilitates an Evening Prayer service from the English Book of Common Prayer (BCP). She wishes to introduce students to a book that, she says, has been “one of the most influential for centuries, next to the Bible.”

“[The Book of Common Prayer] teaches you to pray reverently and beautifully, in a way proper to the majesty of our Lord,” Bayer says. “It’s part of my love of God to worship him in a way that has connections back through all of Western Christendom. The Christian heritage is a lot deeper than what we see only in the current day.”

A bi-monthly journal edited by Dr. Bayer, Mandate, contains numerous essays from scholars passionate about the original Book and its heritage. The 1979 revision of the American Book of Common Prayer, she and many others assert, introduced serious theological flaws not present in the original texts.

“I want to remind my fellow Anglicans of Reformed theology,” emphasizes Dr. Bayer. She notes that “Nineteenth-century evangelicals were really pro-prayer book.”

The BCP contains an order of service for morning and evening prayer, with a calendar of “lessons” that guide readers through the Old and New Testament, as well as marriage and funeral services and other important “offices.” For over four-and-a-half-centuries, some version of this small book has undergirded church services and personal devotions around the world.

A product of the Reformation in England, the BCP collected Church offices (or orders of service) that were formerly in Latin into the common language, so all people could understand. Dr. Bayer seeks to maintain the 1789 American version, which was adapted slightly from Thomas Cranmer’s 1549 English edition to replace prayers to the king with patriotic prayers.

Prayer chapel in the Barbara Hodel Center

Along with Mandate and her passion to preserve the BCP, Dr. Bayer participates in the academic arena. Although she recently returned to college teaching from a nearly decade-long hiatus while homeschooling her two sons, she took care to publish at least one academic paper at a political philosophy conference each year during that time. She has studied abroad in Switzerland, Austria, and England at various points in her life, and she earned her Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame, where she met her husband, married, and had her two sons before defending her doctoral thesis.

At Patrick Henry College, Dr. Bayer teaches Freedom’s Foundations I and II in the core curriculum, as well as classes in the Government: Political Theory track, with a special focus on contemporary and medieval political theory. Currently, she homeschools her youngest, teaches part-time, and writes.

“PHC is like no place I ever worked before,” shares Bayer. “At a secular university, you basically just want to get ideas across. Here, students are always connecting their faith to what they are studying in interesting and provocative ways.  This deepens everyone’s understanding of the faith.”

When asked her future goals, she thinks, smiles, and shakes her head.

“The ability to run a magazine, to be a mother, and to teach – that’s really what I wanted out of life,” she says.