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1774 'Book of Common Prayer' destined for church historical center

Friday, January 18, 2013

Chuck Johnson of Stratton, Nebraska, reads "The Book of Common Prayer ... " that has been in his family for generations. It falls open easily to "The Lord's Prayer." In June 1812, the book belonged to "Ann," who wrote, "Do not steal this book ... ."
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)
STRATTON, Nebraska -- The church bulletin, recalling the stories of Martin Luther and John Wesley and history of the Methodist Church, triggered memories of the church book that Chuck Johnson inherited from his father and tucked away for years in a safe deposit box.

"The church history got me thinking about the book," Chuck said, gently holding the ages-old leather-bound book that fell open easily to "The Lord's Prayer." Chuck and his wife, Joyce, retrieved the book from the safe deposit box and started contemplating how to continue the family tradition of passing it on the youngest boy in the Johnson family.

The book is called, "The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies according to the Use of the Church of England together with the Psalter or Psalms of David Pointed as They are to be Sung and Said in Churches."

The book was printed by T Wright and W Gill in Oxford (England), 1774. It's printed using a "long s" that in old manuscripts and fonts resembles today's lowercase italic f: " ... as they are to be fung and faid in Churches." According to historians of ancient writing, the long s fell out of use in roman and italic typefaces in Britain and the United States between 1795 and 1810.

The book outlines services for church services such as funerals, baptisms, Communion. The pastor who performed Chuck and Joyce's daughter's wedding ceremony used the book. "It's a pretty traditional wedding ceremony," Joyce said, and, smiling, added, "It has 'obey' for the wives."

How the book came into the Johnson family Chuck lifts his shoulders and arms and admits, "I have no idea." Some of the earlier names written in it are Dawson, who were Chuck's father's people, Joyce said. Chuck and his family are from South Dakota; his grandfather Johnson was from Canada. "I recognize some of the names," handwritten under "Family Records" in the book, Chuck said.

The book was passed to Chuck from his father in 1965, and he and Joyce tucked it into a climate-controlled safe deposit box.

The book is traditionally passed to the youngest Johnson boy, but neither of Chuck and Joyce's sons has sons. "We have no 'youngest Johnson boy' to pass it on to," Joyce said.

They've decided to donate it to the Nebraska United Methodist Historical Center/Archives in Lincoln, Chuck said. "It needs to go to someone who would care for it," Joyce said.

According to the Nebraska Wesleyan University Website, "The Historical Center serves as the official repository for the Archives of the Nebraska Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, a resource for local churches in the preparation and preservation of their history, and a museum featuring historical treasures of the church."

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