St. Jude’s Episcopal Church hosts annual Elizabethan worship service


For Iron County Today

St. Jude’s Episcopal Church, located on the corner of Harding Avenue and 200 West, will offer area residents and the Utah Shakespeare Festival visitors an opportunity to discover how William Shakespeare worshipped and to have tea with HRH Queen Elizabeth I when it celebrates its annual Elizabethan worship service and tea at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

The worship service is adapted from the 1559 Book of Common Prayer, which was commissioned by England’s Queen Elizabeth I.  It is open to the public at no charge, although a free-will offering is appreciated.

“We’re very pleased offer this opportunity for play goers and those interested in Shakespeare to learn more about how he worshipped and the impact that worship had on the language of his plays,” Rev. Lee Montgomery, St. Jude’s Vicar said. “It’s very exciting to think that much of the language in our present-day worship service dates back to the time of Queen Elizabeth and the Bard of Avon.”

According to Prayer Book Scholar, John E. Booty, the Bible and the 1559 Book of Common Prayer were the two most influential books in Elizabethan England.  We forget how radical it was in 16th century Europe to have books at home at all, and especially written in the vernacular—the language of the people. 

“Shakespeare was clearly shaped by a culture in which the vernacular was remarkably vigorous…What made the Elizabethan Prayer Book such a pivotal early modern book is that it was a performed and participatory text.  It was therefore a text open and accessible to the literate and illiterate, cutting across boundaries of class, education, and gender.  As with the plays of Shakespeare, the Prayer Book needs to be understood as something constructed to be ‘acted out,’ not only as words on a page,” Judith Maltby of Oxford said.

St. Jude’s has a long history insofar as the service in concerned, Montgomery said.

“It was created as a way to show our support for the Utah Shakespeare Festival and to give theatre patrons a chance to experience the form and the language of an Elizabethan worship service,” he said. “Our hope is that an understanding of the centrality of religion in Elizabethan society and the use of the Book of Common Prayer in the Anglican Church will provide new insights into Shakespeare’s plays.”

St. Jude’s has celebrated an Elizabethan Mass annually since 1991, when Father Ron Belnap was the Vicar.  Originally, the congregation used the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, which was the second Prayer Book of the Church of England.  It was prepared and adopted during the reign of Edward VI.  In 1998, The Rev. Debora Jennings, who was then the Vicar at St. Jude’s, suggested using the 1559 revision of the Book of Common Prayer because that was the Prayer Book that William Shakespeare would have been familiar with.

This year’s offering will feature a “mini-museum” describing the people and events of the English Reformation and the creation of the Church of England and the Book of Common Prayer. Members of the parish will dress in costume, and there will be appearances by Queen Elizabeth, William Shakespeare, and other historical figures from the period.  After the worship service, visitors will be treated to a nineteenth century English Tea held in the Parish Hall. The Tea is also open to the public at no charge.

For additional information contact The Rev. Dr. Lee Montgomery, St. Jude’s Vicar, at (435) 592-0034 or Parish Administrator Carol Bolsover at (435) 586-3623.

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