Sid and Rosie’s Christian Year: a book review

Penelope Wilcock is the novelist behind the Hawk and Dove novels (haven’t read them) She has worked as a Methodist Minister and chaplain and been a tutor and trainer for Methodist preachers. In 52 Original Wisdom StoriesWilcock takes us on a journey through the Christian year following the stories of Sid and Rosie. Sid and Rosie are an older couple. Sid is a Catholic turned Quaker.  Rosie is a spiritual-but-not-religious soul  who has left regular church attendance behind. Both are thoughtful believers despite their distance from the church. Sid draws on his history with liturgy. Rosie’s reflections bring her into contact with the East– Buddhism, Taoism, etc. They are remarried and have children and grandchildren, though none together.

Wilcock begins with Advent and ends with the feast of Christ the King. Each narrative ends with questions for ‘sharing and wondering’–discussion or personal reflection–and a prayer. And all the stories are fully-photocopiable, free-of-charge for use in churches and groups. In addition to the broad liturgical rhythms, some of these stories reflect on feast days for particular saints. The breadth of the Christian year allow Wilcock to engage the whole human experience and each story is a revelation about the spiritual life, the human experience, and Sid and Rosie.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I figured this would offer me some liturgical reflections, a way to beef up my preaching, especially in high seasons like Advent, Lent and Easter. But I got something different. By placing her reflections in the voice of Sid and Rosie, two ‘Dones’ who had left mainstream religion behind, she offers us an insider-outsider perspective of those who believe but don’t readily belong. There is also a quotidian quality as they fit Christianity into daily-life, unadorned by ecclesiastical vestments.

But Sid and Rosie aren’t theological lightweights. They deeply engage the Christian story and seek to follow Jesus. They reflect on hosipality, love, life,  death, brokenness and more. I liked meeting them in these pages. I give this three-and-a-half stars. My point of critique would be, I wish that Sid and Rosie came to a richer engagement with Church as a body of caring believers. They engage the tradition well, but I think there is something to the experience of the Christian life they are lacking.

Note: I recieved this book from Kregel Publications (and Monarch Books) in exchange for my honest review.

Introduction to Christian Liturgy: a book review

Why do we Worship? What is Liturgy? What are the main periods  of liturgical history? What characterizes  liturgy in each of these periods?  What does it mean to sanctify time?  How is liturgical space arranged? How is the body used in worship? How are children formed in Christian worship?

Introduction to Christian Liturgy by Frank C. Senn

These are just some of the questions which Frank Senn answers in Introduction to Christian Liturgy. In this book he describes, catalogues and commends a thoughtful appropriation of liturgical practices in worship.  This is a solid introduction  to liturgy and covers topics like:  what liturgy is, history and culture (and how liturgy inculturates), the order of service, the liturgy of hours, the church calender and the history and meaning of various seasons,  life passages, liturgical arts, and how congregants participate in worship.  While Senn himself is a Lutheran pastor and liturgist, his approach is ecumenical. He is able to synthesize the insights of liturgists and scholars from various traditions (i.e. Schmemann, Wainwright, Lathrop, White, Bradshaw, etc.) and he surveys liturgical traditions from the Orthodox to the Vineyard movement.

This is a very good book for anyone interested in liturgy.  In each of  the chapters (which explore the topics listed above), Senn answers a series of  questions. This makes this book a quick reference for each of the various elements.  Senn calls his book a ‘pastoral liturgical handbook’ and envisions that this book will be most useful to pastoral leaders by making them knowledgeable of the liturgical tradition and enabling them to answer specific questions lay people may have (1-2). His contention is that pastors who are knowledgeable of the history and trends can help shape the liturgy for a particular context in a way that is congregationally  and culturally sensitive. He does not articulate a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to Christian liturgy, but commends to you the rich resources of the Christian tradition.

Three groups will find this book helpful. As Senn envisions, this book will be helpful to pastoral leaders and other worship leaders as a resource on liturgy. It will help pastors answer questions about the liturgy and help them lead congregants into the significance of various rituals and ceremonies. Secondly, this book will be well used in an academic context. The  comprehensive way in which Senn addresses the various pieces of Christian liturgy makes it an ideal text for courses on liturgy and worship.  I would have loved a text like this in seminary which described the various elements of worship in various traditions.  Third, the educated lay person will also find this book helpful. The question-and-answer organization to this book, makes it a quick and accessible resource. This is the sort of reference book which is great addition to a personal or church library.

My own ecclesiastical tradition is not directly named in this text. The church I attend is not particularly ‘high church.’ We have a worship team and  don’t often follow the Lectionary but we do have some liturgical features we hold dear. We celebrate weekly communion, observe the Christian seasons and our pastor will ‘robe up’ to perform baptisms and dedications (significant life events).  This liturgical ‘hodge podge’ is due to the fact that my denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church retains some of the traditional elements from their Swedish Lutheran roots, but their churches also bear the influence of revivalism.  Senn names and describes both of these influences and there is a lot here that would be applicable to my context. Likewise, Christians from a wide swath of Christian traditions will also find various entry points into this subject matter.

I am happy to recommend this book to students, pastors, worship leaders and any one interested in liturgical practice. This is an ‘introduction’ so does not say all that needs to be said about liturgy, but Senn points readers to other resources at the end of each chapter, so that they may deepen their liturgical understanding. Senn does what any good guide does and names the flora and fauna of the terrain he traverses and points the way for those who wish to explore further. I give this book five star: ★★★★★

Thank you to Fortress Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Prayer for Epiphany Week 2

 

I know it has been quite some time since I included my prayer reflections. Life has been busy but I aim to renew the practice. This is my prayer reflection on John 2:1-11, the lectionary text for today. 

 

Six stone jars stood empty.

The had held the water

for the washing of hands.

Now they sat hollow in the entry way.

 

Mother Mary had come and

begged You,

Defend the honor of the hosts.

May no one know the limits of their hospitality,

that they invited guests but did not have enough.

 

Six stone jars stood empty.

They had held the water

for the washing of hands.

You had them filled to the brim.

 

And when they poured them out.

Wine flowed–better than any wine

the guest had, had  before. the chief steward

was full of wonder (though he did not know the source).

 

Six stone jars stood empty

They had held the water,

which had turned to wine.

Long after the guests had their fill

and Ordinary Time resumed they held

the memory of the wine on their tongue.

Later they would remember You were there.

The day that everything changed.

 

Prayer for Ordinary Time (Fifth Sunday after Pentecost)

This prayer is my reflection on the following texts from today’s lectionary texts: Psalm 130, 2 Cor. 8:7-14, Mark 5: 21:43. 

Out of the depths I call to you–

knowing that if you counted my sins, I could not stand.

My soul waits,

More than the watch man waits,

more than the watch man waits.

Lord our friends and loved ones die,

they get sick and old and we watch them suffer

for years and wonder why.

We see people healthy and full of life reduced by disease

to a shadow of their former self.

My soul waits,

More than the watch man waits,

more than the watch man waits.

When you wore our flesh

and drank the dregs of humanity

you healed those who suffered year after year,

you beheld grieving parents and raised the dead.

We long to see your healing and life in the lives of those we care about.

We grieve and ache as we watch our friends in anguish.

and yet we know that with you there is mercy

redemption–plenteous redemption.

Lead us into your spacious way.

My soul waits,

More than the watch man waits,

more than the watch man waits.