Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Rector's Rambling - August 12, 2012 - Capitalization?

DO NOT LEARN HOW TO PUNCTUATE USING THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER! That must sound like a ridiculous statement. After all, the Book of Common Prayer is in proper English, so it must be a great place to learn proper use of the English language, without “Thee” and “Thou” and “Beseech” of course. A wonderful tradition in past generations, learning to read and write was encouraged and reinforced by the King James Version of the Bible (which is actually the version of Scripture authorized for use in the Church of England by King James I). I have read accounts of both urban and rural youth using their Bibles to learn how to read out loud, and I know that I have seen several museum quality needlework items from early pioneers which include verses of the Scripture as practice in both reading and the art of needlework. The Book of Common Prayer is certainly grammatically correct, except in one aspect – punctuation. Capital letters appear randomly within sentences. But there is a reason for this. For example, in the General Confession during the Holy Communion we see, …We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. The capital letters in the italics portion above would not under general grammar rules be capitalized. But there is a genius to it. Because this is a Book of Common Prayer, the capitalization is there to trick you into pausing so that the congregation can pray together! We are accustomed to seeing a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence after a period, therefore we will pause instinctively when we see a capital letter. Putting capital letters after semi-colons or commas makes us pause together, which helps us to pray together.