Special acts of worship in the
British Isles and the empire
Since the protestant reformations in the British Isles, special acts of worship have been appointed to mark great public events. During times of crisis and celebration or as annual commemorations, monarchs, governments, parliaments or the established churches ordered petitionary or thanksgiving prayers, services, or days of prayer for observance in all churches and communities within their kingdoms or in their capital cities. From the seventeenth century the practice spread to the overseas colonies, dominions and other areas of British control, either to mark their own regional events or to share in the British acts of worship. For centuries, these special acts of worship had considerable political and social as well as religious significance.
This website presents lists of these special acts of worship for each of the kingdoms of the British Isles, and for the main parts of the British empire as it changed in extent and character. The main lists give the dates and basic details for particular acts of special worship, observed once or for short periods. A further list provides information on the anniversary commemorations in the British Isles, with the periods of annual observance varying from short series of years to several centuries.
These lists originate from research for the four volumes of National Prayers: Special Worship since the Reformation, an edition concerned principally with the British Isles and containing surveys, texts and commentaries, and for Providence, Prayer and Empire: Special Worship in the British World, 1783–1919. For fuller details of these and further studies, see the publications page.
The lists are made available here for reference purposes, and to assist further research.