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Video Games and the Prayer Book: How One Teen’s Journey to Faith Led to the Creation of the Traditional Language Liturgies

BY RACHEL THEBEAU

“I think liturgy is fun,” said then-19-year-old Jacob Hootman with an innocent smile.

A self-proclaimed “nerd,” Jacob, at age 16, began a personal project that would put his stamp on history, one that could have a greater impact than he could have imagined at the time.

“Some of the ACNA trial liturgies were on the website and I looked at them and I was a little taken aback because there were no traditional language options. And so, I sat down and said, ‘well, I don’t have anything to do this Spring Break,’ so I started putting the ACNA liturgies into traditional language,” said Jacob describing his experience back in 2016. “I had it in my head that I could probably get somebody to use it.”

With zero expectations and simply to be sure he was giving credit where credit was due, Jacob sent his work to the Liturgy Task Force. To his surprise, he received an email response from Fr. Ben Jefferies, Secretary of the Liturgy Task Force at the time, applauding his work and asking if he could pass it on to Archbishop Bob Duncan, then-Chair of the Liturgy Task Force.

“I was sixteen, I thought that would be the coolest thing ever!” Jacob said with a chuckle.

A couple months later, Jacob was formally asked – via email – to join the Liturgy Task Force as a member of the Traditional Language Committee.

“Now, because this had all taken place online via email…nobody knew I was a kid,” Jacob explained, recalling that Fr. Marcus Kaiser had originally thought he was a 40-year-old man. This, though, resonated in Jacob as a mix of humility and insecurity as he wondered what he had gotten himself into.

But that insecurity went beyond just his young biological age. Jacob is a fairly young Christian. He has only been a believer for 5 years now, only 2 or 3 years at the time he began translating the trial liturgies into traditional language.

So, how does a teenager and baby Christian become fascinated with liturgy?
Initially, video games.

“I had played a video game that was set in the medieval era. It was historical in nature and so the Church was a big part of it. In order to get better at the game, I thought I’d read about the Church,” he described, laughing at the “embarrassing story” from before he even attended church. “I didn’t understand it, but I thought it was interesting,” he said of the liturgy he found in the 1979 Prayer Book given to him by his aunt.

Consequently, when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and they decided to “try to find God,” Jacob thought they should try a liturgical church, and St. Laurence Anglican Church in Southlake, Texas was the closest. Jacob was fourteen. He would be baptized and later confirmed with his mother not long after.

The priest who baptized him, Rev. Bill Blewett, also catechized him using the 1928 Prayer Book and his appreciation for the traditional language was born.

“It’s more than thee, thy, and thou,” Jacob says. “It’s language like, ‘miserable offenders;’ it’s language like, ‘our bounden duty and service;’ things that call to mind that what we are doing here is special.”

A proper young man who showed up to the interview in a suit with his Anglican Church in North America lapel pin, Jacob may seem like a unicorn of a young person, but is he?

Likely not. Jacob is a member of Generation Z, distinctly different from the Millennial generation which is generally categorized as those born 1981-1994, despite their very regular confusion. Most of the stereotypes floating around regarding young people are primarily stereotypes of Millennials and a particular contingent of Gen Zers.

However, notably, Gen Z is fairly polarized, and there is a large contingent of Gen Zers (born mid to late ‘90s to around 2010) who are vastly different from the anti-religious, non-committal, progressive, entitled stereotype of today’s young people in the West.

Rather, many Gen Zers look and sound like Jacob Hootman. They are much more likely to attend church than Millennials at their age. Even if lacking religious affiliation, many Gen Zers tend to be more traditional in a variety of ways. Many marry and have children young. They are drawn in by tradition and the authenticity it reveals. They are ripe for Christ’s harvest through liturgical means. Jacob would concur.

“It is something unique with this generation, something new that God is doing, raising up a new generation committed to the historic orthodoxy of the Church,” he reflected. “There’s a new wave of interest in classical, orthodox Anglicanism and orthodox Christianity in general.

“The Anglican tradition of Christianity, which really reflects the best practices of the early Church and of the Reformers, is authentic Christianity, and I think that’s going to be what really draws younger people to the Church,” he says of the authenticity that he and I (a Millennial) agree is appealing to both of our generations.

“Our generation is very much not religious, so for a lot of people this is totally foreign to them,” he described of his generation’s response to the liturgy. “But it’s not the Christianity they recognize. I think a lot of people have a caricature of Christianity in their mind – some parts of it are always true and some parts are not – and that’s just a reality we have to struggle with as we are dealing or working with people that are not from a religious background.” He continued by saying of his generation’s response to the liturgy that “they like it because it’s different.”

The Prayer Book is the greatest evangelistic tool we’ve had since the Bible or the actual Christian believer.

– Jacob Hootman

To Jacob, the Prayer Book is vital to our ability to reach people, particularly those in his generation. “It’s the greatest evangelistic tool we’ve had since the Bible or the actual Christian believer. The Prayer Book really has the ability to expound what we believe and draws people in, it includes them. It’s by its very nature inclusive of the congregation,” he said as he went on to describe the various ways the laity are involved in the liturgies, noting the particular inclusiveness of the 2019 BCP.

Yet, we must expose people to the Prayer Book in order for it to evangelize them. That is, we must use it: “Imbuing your every day with Prayer Book spirituality makes the Prayer Book visible. And if the Prayer Book is visible, it will be attractive to other people. That’s its nature. People will think ‘I want to learn how to pray like that’ or ‘I’ve never heard that before; that’s something completely new to me.’”

Jacob knows this from experience. When sharing dinner with his friends, he offers to pray over their meal. When they gather at his home, he invites a different friend each time to pick a prayer from the Prayer Book to share. Though many of his friends are not Anglican, they appreciate what the Prayer Book offers. They also think what he has accomplished in translating the traditional language edition is pretty cool.

Nonetheless, Jacob says he’s “just a normal 19-year-old guy.” If true, then Jacob’s testimony exemplifies a new wave of evangelism amongst the younger generations: use of liturgy and historic roots to reveal in humility an authentic faith to ordinary people. (And, perhaps, some video games don’t hurt.)

As Anglicans, we know we have the liturgy and historic roots, but, as Jacob says, what really makes us attractive and authentic is our relatability. “That’s the thing that I think is really special about the ACNA: we are a province of ordinary parishioners, a province of ordinary people. It’s not so much that we’re all these great and high and mighty figures, we’re just normal people who do great things for the Church.”

To hear more from Jacob, including insight on reaching his generation, check out the Things Anglican podcast here.

*Update: Jacob is now 20 years old and the Secretary of the Liturgy Task Force. The Traditional Language Edition of the 2019 Book of Common Prayer is now under review by the College of Bishops and is available for trial use here. An approved printed volume is expected later this year.

Learn more about the traditional values of Generation Z:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, RACHEL THEBEAU

Rachel is the Deputy Communications Director for the Anglican Church in North America and, in that role, Managing Editor of The Apostle Magazine. She works remotely from New Braunfels, Texas where she is a member and leader at Christ Our King Anglican Church.

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