An Ancient Advent Hymn

There’s an Advent Hymn that I’ve wanted to point out to people for a while, and I figured I’d pull it up for you all at this blog.  It’s called Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding, and the reason why I’ve had it in mind is because it quotes the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent in its first verse.

… except, as I suddenly realized as I sat down to write about it, this hymn was written in around the 6th century.  So it’s probably not quoting the Collect as we know it.  But it’s making the same Romans 13 reference as the Collect, which means that the way we collect Scripture together to develop the themes of Advent is the way the Church has done it for over 1,500 years.  Let’s check it out.

Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding;
“Christ is nigh,” it seems to say;
“Cast away the works of darkness,
O ye children of the day.”

There it is, our “cast away the works of darkness” reference from Romans 13.  Christ is near, we are children of the day, so put on the armor of light.

Waken’d by the solemn warning;
Let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.

The theme of waking up, or staying awake, is also a prominent refrain in Advent hymnody and Scripture.  Christ as the morning star, or the sun at dawn, is also a common Advent image, depicting his Return as the beginning of a new and eternal day.

Lo! the Lamb, so long-expected,
Comes with pardon down from heav’n;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiv’n.

Now we’ve got an echo of “Come thou long expected Jesus” (another Advent hymn).  And this third verse also highlights something that tends to get downplayed by a number of people today: Advent is a penitential season.

So when next he comes with glory,
And the world is wrapped in fear,
May he with his mercy shield us,
And with words of love draw near.

Honor, glory, might, and blessing
To the Father and the Son,
With the everlasting Spirit,
While unending ages run.

I think it’s nice to see the same conflicting emotions from the 500’s that we have today when it comes to the subject of eternity and judgment: fear, mercy, and love.

The Trinitarian doxology in the final verse, by the way, is characteristic of ancient hymns.  It’s impressive how many subtly different ways people find to praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the same 8.7.8.7 meter.

Another great thing about this hymn is that it fits anytime during Advent.  The reference to the first Sunday’s Collect makes it especially good for the first Sunday (in modern prayer book tradition, which no longer repeats that Collect throughout the season).  It also appeals well to the Collect for the 4th Sunday, so the end of the season works as well for this song as the beginning.  But apart from that, the wide sweep of classic Advent themes make this hymn great for any time in the season.

The Blessing at Communion

The last part of the Communion service in the classical prayer books is the Blessing.  Specifically, this one (albeit with the 2019 wording)…

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always.  Amen.

Once this blessing is pronounced, people can get up and go.

Except, in the modern order, we now have an extra Dismissal that follows, and usually music as well.  But until the 1970’s (or perhaps the arrival of something like the Anglican Missal?) the Blessing marked the end of the liturgy.

I have heard it argued that the priest offering a Blessing at this point is redundant – what greater blessing could be conferred than receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord?  But there are a couple different answers.

First of all, ending a worship service with a blessing is biblical.  It is the Old Testament pattern – even though the sacrifice of animals and their oblation in the Temple and the eating of the meat was the “high point” of the Old Covenant liturgy, the priest was still to bless the people after.  It is the New Testament pattern too, in a way: St. Paul ended each of his epistles with a blessing of some sort.  It is a little ironic, though, that the blessing we use is not explicitly used as a blessing by St. Paul (cf. Philippians 4:7 – it was actually the Epistle reading a couple Sundays ago).

Secondly, the specific content of this blessing is appropriate.  In a general sense, the argument against a blessing after receiving Holy Communion does sound logical, but this objection is undermined by what this blessing calls for: that the people would be kept in the knowledge and love of God.  It is a blessing of perseverance – may the people, who have just celebrated their unity with and in Christ, always remain so.

Third, and finally, it is analogous to the Prayer of Humble Access.  If you reduce the meaning of this blessing to some sort of generic blessing, then yeah it’s lame.  Same deal with the Prayer of Humble Access: if you reduce the meaning of that prayer to some sort of generic confession, then it’s redundant and silly too.  But both of these prayers, although bearing similarities to other prayers and “functions” within the service, bring new and different lights to the table (or, from the Table in this instance).

Now, all that having been said… the 2019 Prayer Book states that

The Bishop, when present, or the Priest, gives this or an alternative blessing

But what is an “alternative blessing”?  None is supplied.  In the classical prayer books this choice didn’t exist: that blessing was the blessing.  But there is another blessing in the old prayer book tradition – the Burial Office ends with a different blessing, also found at the end of the Committal in the 2019 Prayer Book:

The God of peace, who brought again the from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight…

Notice in both blessings that these are not (strictly-speaking) prayers.  “May God ___” is a prayer, but these are more like statements (or perhaps subjunctive verbs, if I remember my grammar correctly): “God… make you perfect” and “the peace of God… keep your hearts and minds.”  Blessings are “speech-acts”, like when a minister declares a man and a woman husband and wife, or baptizes somebody.  However sacerdotal you may or may not choose to view these “sacramental rites”, the reality is that these are special acts of the Church through her ordained ministers.  Pentecostalism, especially in its Prosperity Gospel extreme versions, has yielded an unhealthy practice that is creeping into evangelicalism: “declarations” in the name of Jesus for one or another sort of blessing.  This practice is essentially usurping the special role of the ordained clergy, popularizing it for all Christians, and reducing its gravity and import often to crass hopes and dreams for health and wealth.  Be very careful what you do, or permit, along these lines in your ministry context.

One last note about the option for different blessings at the end of the Communion service.  I strongly suspect that the main reason the 2019 rubric permits an “alternative blessing” is to authorize the Seasonal Blessings that have been provided in supplemental books such as Book of Occasional Services and Common Prayer (2000).  If you are so inclined, you can peruse those materials for a variety of blessings – probably finding a unique one for every Sunday of the year.  Although modern liturgy trends seem to prefer such variety, classic Prayer Book wisdom does not support this, so I would advise priests not to deviate from the standard Prayer Book blessing very often.  Maybe grab a “solemn blessing” for Christmas Day and Easter Day; maybe use another blessing from the Bible or pre-existing tradition on other special and rare occasions; otherwise, be sure to use the standard historic blessing virtually all year.

If it’s always changing, it’ll never stick in the people’s minds, and go in one ear and out the other.  And, given the fact that the standard blessing is for our hearts and minds to kept, that would be sadly ironic indeed.

Overview of Revelation

The Revelation (or Apocalypse) of St. John, the last book of the Christian Bible, can be rather difficult to make sense of. And when you throw into the mix the wide range of conflicting teaching on how to interpret it, things can get very complicated indeed. Since we’re just getting into this book now in the 2019 Prayer Book’s Daily Office Lectionary, here’s my overview on what this book is about and how to read it profitably.
For further reading:
Subject Index:
* 00:00 Revelation/Apocalypse
* 02:46 Signs, Metaphors, and the Literal Sense
* 07:17 Examples: seven lamps, lamb that was slain, city dressed as a bride
* 12:58 Interpretive Approaches: preterist, historicist, futurist, spiritualist
* 20:18 The 1,000 Years: pre-millennial, post-millennial, amillennial
* 30:30 Concluding Summary

Back to basics: what is liturgy?

Some of the stuff that’s ended up on this blog has been pretty specific – to a particular occasion, or exploring a particular prayer within the liturgy.  But some of the entries and articles have been more broad and general.

Perhaps the most important sentence I’ve ever written (in the context of this blog) is this:

The Prayer Book is our liturgy.

It is, not contains, our liturgy.  If you think of the Prayer Book as a book that “contains” or “has” the liturgy that we use, then the book is still just a tool, and not your companion on the way.  Anglicanism doesn’t “use” liturgy, it “follows” or “goes with” liturgy.  The first article listed below, What is liturgy? explains this in further detail.

From there, feel free to peruse some of the other basic questions of liturgy that perhaps you’ve never quite managed to put into words yet.  Not that I’ve got all the answers either, but it’s a work in progress we’ve got over here 🙂

Liturgy in general:

Practical & Procedural Advice:

Two Post-Communion Prayers

I can just hear the traditionalists gnashing their teeth at this title.  “Two post communion prayers?  What’s wrong with your new prayer book, couldn’t you just settle on one like the good old days?”  The funny thing, in this case, is that the 1662 Prayer Book actually did have two choices of prayer after the reception of Holy Communion.  The second option is essentially what we have to this day in American Prayer Books – the “post communion prayer.”  The first option might be called a Prayer of Oblation, and American prayer books have typically placed it as part of the Prayer of Consecration.  So where the 1662 Prayer Book has a one-or-the-other-prayer situation, books like the 1928 use both, having moved one to a different spot.

In the 2019 Prayer Book, though, with our two communion rites, we end up with two different versions of the post-communion prayer.  Before preparing this write-up, I’d not yet spent any time comparing the two prayers against one another, and was pleasantly surprised at what I discovered: they are essentially the same prayer.  Check it out:

post-com

Of course there are some differences, and even the slightest difference can imply a much larger shift in emphasis and focus.  So let’s take a look at some of the variations between these.  The Prayer on the left side is the Anglican Standard Text, and, minus a couple words and one phrase trimmed out, is the same as found in the 1662 Prayer Book.  If you’re interested in that “true standard”, you can find it at the end of this entry.

The first major streamlining in the Renewed Ancient Text (right column) is where the prayer makes an aside to further explicate the nature of the Church.  “The body of your Son, and heirs of your eternal Kingdom” is made to cover for twice as much material in the Anglican Standard Text.

The next noteworthy omission is in the petition.  The first prayer asks God to assist us with his grace, while the second prayer asks God to send us out.  Both involve doing the good works according to his calling, but the former leans first on a prayer for perserverance in faith and the latter leans more on mission.  Indeed, that reference to serving as faithful witnesses of Christ is the only element of the second prayer that is truly unique to it, rather than a reduction of the other.

In short, both Post Communion Prayers in the 2019 Prayer Book are based upon the historic Post Communion Prayer.  The Anglican Standard Text is slightly shortened from the original, and the Renewed Ancient Text is even more shortened, and given a “missional” flavor toward the end.  They still ultimately communicate the same thing to us, but they do send us in slightly different directions.

– – –

ALMIGHTY and everliving God
we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us,
who have duly received these holy mysteries,
with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood
of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ;
and dost assure us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us;
and that we are very members
incorporate in the mystical Body of thy Son,
which is the blessed company of all faithful
people;
and are also heirs through hope of thy everlasting kingdom,
by the merits of the most precious death and passion of thy dear Son.
And we most humbly beseech thee, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace,
that we may continue in that holy fellowship,
and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in,
through Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost,
be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

Harvest Home (but which one?)

Perhaps my favorite Thanksgiving hymn is Come, ye thankful people, come, also known in other books as Harvest Home.  Typically when dealing with hymns and songs on this blog, I stay away from the most popular entries, since people are more likely to have learned something about them already.  But this one… well, let’s just go for it and we’ll see what happens.

This is a great Thanksgiving Hymn, picking up immediately on one of the key origins for this holiday: the end of the harvest season.  Hence the first stanza:

Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest-home;
All is safely gathered in
‘Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come;
Raise the song of harvest-home.

Pretty straight forward, yes?  God is the creator and supplier of all things, that time of year draws to its close, so let’s go worship and thank him.  Simple.  Almost too simple.  But the second stanza is where things start to transform:

All the world is God’s own field,
Fruit unto his praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown,
Unto joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear,
Then then full corn shall appear;
Grant, O harvest Lord, that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be.

Suddenly, while keeping the same imagery, the theological meaning has completely changed!  Now the field is God’s creation, the purpose of creation is praise him, wheat and tares grow together in the church, and we are called (planted) to bear the fruit of praise and thanksgiving.  Several parables and teachings of Jesus can be seen here, both distinctly and discreetly, and whether you follow either the 2019 prayer book or the traditional prayer book Sunday lectionary, themes like these have become prominent in recent weeks.

But we’re not done yet; stanza 3 takes it to another level:

For the Lord our God shall come,
And shall take his harvest home,
From his field shall in that day
All offences purge away,
Give his angels charge at last
In the fire the tares to cast,
But the fruitful ears to store
In his garner evermore.

Woah.  The return of Christ!  Judgement day!  The angelic harvest of the church… again the same parables alluded to, but now with a distinctly Advent theme.  This song can singlehandedly transition the worshiper from late Trinity to Advent!  The 4th and final stanza turns this into a prayer:

Even so, Lord, quickly come
To thy final harvest-home;
Gather thou thy people in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified,
In thy presence to abide;
Come with all thine angels, come;
Raise the glorious harvest-home.  Amen.

“Come, Lord Jesus” is the prayer at the end of the book of Revelation, and a key theme of the season of Advent (indeed, it is the Acclamation at the beginning of the modern Communion liturgy.)

It helps a great deal that Thanksgiving Day normally lands three days before the beginning of Advent, like it does this year.  Occasionally Thanksgiving is early enough that there’s still one Sunday left before Advent, but however it works in a given year, this hymn is a fantastic end-of-the-year song to sing.  There are a handful of Thanksgiving songs that I really like, and even more available in most hymnals, so I kind of feel bad appointing it every year at the expense of the others… but you know what?  I think this one’s worth it.

Readings Review & Planning Propers 11/25

What we’re doing on this blog on Mondays is looking back and forth at the Daily Office readings (or lessons) so we can better process together what the Scriptures are saying, and list the recommended Propers for the Communion or Antecommunion service for each day of the week.

Readings Review

Last week: Judith 11-16, Ecclus. (Sirach) 1, Acts 17-20:16, Isaiah 30-36, Luke 3-6:19
This week: Ecclus. (Sirach) 2-11, Acts 21-23, Isaiah 37-43, Luke 6:20-9:17

Special lesson for Morning Prayer on Saint Andrew’s Day: John 1:35-42

This weekend in Morning Prayer we began the book of Ecclesiasticus, the full title of which is The Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, often called Sirach for short.  This is a book of wisdom literature, like the book of Proverbs, but unlike that book is largely written (or compiled) by one man (whose name is in the title) and translated into Greek by his grandson.  This book even has a Preface (chapter zero, basically) which gives us a note about its translation, and that you always lose something in the process.  That in itself is a fascinating insight into the manner of self-awareness of ancient writers.  Anyway, if you’re not familiar with Sirach, check out my brief introduction to this book from last year.

Meanwhile, in Isaiah, we’re just getting into a brief historical interlude in the middle of the book, where we hear the story of some of King Hezekiah’s interactions with Isaiah.  If you have a keen memory you may recall some of this material from 2 Kings.

After that, starting with Isaiah chapter 40, we get to the second half of the book.  Some scholars think that this section of the book was written by Isaiah’s prophetic successors or disciples because it takes on a different tone and focus.  Although it may be an unnecessary stretch to assume a change in authorship, it is absolutely true that the style of the book changes.  Chapters 40-66 no longer deal so much with specific oracles and prophecies against specific nations and peoples, but take on a much broader scope.  Jerusalem, Babylon, and other important cities are still mentioned along the way, but the emphasis is not so much on what’s going to happen to them specifically so much as what’s going to happen to the whole world.  Almost every chapter from here to the end has at least a couple famous verses that the casual Bible-reader will recognize.

  • 40 = “Comfort, comfort my people…” and “They will soar on wings like eagles…”
  • 42 = “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold… I have put my Spirit upon him…”
  • 43 = “Remember not the former things… Behold, I am doing a new thing…”
  • 49 = “Can a woman forget her nursing child… yet I will not forget you.”
  • 51 = “Awake, awake, put on strength…”
  • 52 = “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news…”
  • 53 = “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…”
  • 54 = “In righteousness you shall be established”
  • 55 = “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near…”
  • 56 = “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”
  • 57 = “thus says the one who is high and lifted up… I dwell in the high and holy place… to revive the spirit of the lowly…”
  • 58 = “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness…”
  • 59 = “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart…”
  • 60 = “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you”
  • 61 = “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me… to bring good news to the poor…”
  • 62 = “You shall no more be termed Forsaken… but you shall be called My Delight Is In Her…”
  • 64 = “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter”
  • 65 = “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”

Almost every one of these chapters find a home in the lectionary in Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, or near Easter…. most of the major feasts of the Christian year.  This is because, as we will see, reading through, a great deal of Isaiah’s writings point very clearly to Jesus, the New Covenant in his blood, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Planning Propers

This is the week of Proper 29 (or Last Sunday before Advent in the traditional calendar), so keep in mind that the historic Prayer Book default is that a mid-week Eucharist will repeat the Collect & Lessons (the propers) for yesterday.  Otherwise, we recommend…

  • Monday 11/25 = St. Catherine of Alexandria (martyr) or Votive*
  • Tuesday 11/26 = Votive
  • Wednesday 11/27 = Votive
  • Thursday 11/28 = Thanksgiving Day
  • Friday 11/29 = Votive
  • Saturday 11/30 = SAINT ANDREW

* A Votive is a “Various Occasion” (page 733 in the BCP 2019).  The traditional appointments are Holy Trinity on Sunday, Holy Spirit on Monday, Holy Angels on Tuesday, of the Incarnation on Wednesdays, of the Holy Eucharist on Thursdays, the Holy Cross on Fridays, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturdays.

Quick Note about the last Sunday before Advent

It’s the last Sunday of the season – Advent starts in one more week!  A lot of us are probably celebrating “Christ the King Sunday” today, so I thought I’d drop a quick reminder here before we misrepresent our own tradition.  The traditional prayer for this Sunday anticipates the tone of Advent:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The modern prayer for this Sunday, now called “Christ the King” but perhaps more subtly and appropriately “Christ the Judge”, also prepares us for Advent quite well:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

If you want to know more about Christ the King as an observance, here are some links:

Book Review: The People’s Work

This book outlines the story of how Christian worship developed since the days of the New Testament.  As a “social history,” this book pays particular attention to the way worship practices (liturgy) were influenced by the culture of the world around, or were a rejection or other sort of interaction with said culture.  It does present some theological background and explanation for some aspects of liturgy, but that is not its main purpose.  You don’t need to be a seminary student to understand this book.

What’s in this book?

To summarize the contents of the book, I’ll list the chapter titles and my brief summary of the content of each.

Chapter 1 – Socially speaking, what kind of group was the Christian assembly?  Pre-existing models for forming a local church include a Jewish Sect, a Household, a Club or Cultic Association, and a School.  But ecclesia (church) as a “Shadow Empire” really brings it all together: the local churches understood themselves as part of a larger universal body or whole.

Chapter 2 – Sacraments and Cult.  The “cultus” of Christianity, especially the Sacraments, have many Jewish and Greco-Roman counterparts to inform their development.

Chapter 3 – Apocalypse and Christian liturgy.  The book of Revelation is a reflection of the liturgy, and the apocalyptic culture of Early Christian worship continued into monasticism.

Chapter 4 – Times, Occasions, and the Communion of Saints. The Calendar and Hours arose for theological and practical reasons; never merely aping or replacing Pagan holidays.

Chapter 5 – Sacred places and Liturgical art in Late Antique Culture.  Sacred space developed in the sharp contrast to Pagan preference, and sacred art developed in sharp contrast to Jewish preference.

Chapter 6 – People and places for different liturgies.  The development of the Orders of Ministry and the standardization of liturgical rites and church architecture were all mutually influencing.

Chapter 7 – Church music through the Carolingian Renaissance.  Music and singing developed in such ways as to combat Paganism and heretics, expand beyond Jewish origins, as well as to beautify worship yet seeking new ways to include the lay people.

Chapter 8 – Vernacular elements in the Medieval Latin Mass.  Worship in local languages was frequently rediscovered through new hymns or carols or other resources.  Protestants only continued that practice; they didn’t invent it.

Chapter 9 – The Medieval liturgical calendar.  The liturgical calendar was developed with few pre-Christian influences remaining.

Chapter 10 – The Eucharistic Body and the Social Body in the Middle Ages.  Beliefs and practices surrounding Holy Communion impacted the social bonds of Medieval European society.

Chapter 11 – The dissolution of the Social Body in the Reformation Communion. The Eucharist lost its place of social centrality during the Reformation, especially to the State.

Chapter 12 – Death here and life hereafter in the Middle Ages and Reformation.  Medieval and Reformation doctrines and liturgies concerning death and burial were among the most radical changes of their day.

Chapter 13 – The ecclesiastical captivity of marriage.  Marriage long held a mixed secular and sacred position, and in the Reformation the Church and State were emphasized by different traditions.

Chapter 14 – Liturgy and confessional identity.  Liturgy, as the performance of theology through worship, was a critical tool for establishing the Reformation or Counter-Reformation.

Chapter 15 – Popular devotions, Pious communities, and Holy Communion.  Popular (or “paraliturgical”) devotions, hymn singing, Pietist meeting groups, and attitudes toward receiving Communion in the 17th-18th centuries revealed a growing sense of emotionalism and individualism.

Chapter 16 – Worship Awakening.  Revivalism in the USA, largely driven by culture, codified the emotional and individualist notion of worship and made it consumerist (what I get out of it, rather than what we put into it).

Chapter 17 – Liturgical Restoration.  The Enlightenment beginning in the mid-1700’s made the liturgy rationalistic and asserted more state control over the church.  Liturgical restoration has been slowly ongoing ever since.

Chapter 18 – Liturgical Renewal.  Liturgical renewal is a movement that has focused on the congregation’s participation in worship… often controversial but ecumenically successful.

Good points about the book

Whether you’re a Roman Catholic well-established in the Mass and the Hours and the Rosary, a Pentecostal who can’t imagine a legitimate worship service without speaking in tongues and prophetic utterances, or anywhere in between, there is a tendency to take one’s worship tradition for granted.  It’s not just about “why” we worship the way we do, there’s also the question of “how” our tradition ended up the way it did.  The Prayer Book I use wasn’t around in the 13th century.  The way your church baptizes people isn’t identical to how the Early Church baptized people.  This book traces the development of many aspects of worship – sacraments, ministry, music, calendar and seasons, and others – through the course of history.

This book’s 18 chapters are also organized by topic and arranged chronologically, so if there’s something in particular you want to read about, it’s pretty easy to dive in to the chapter(s) you need, and skip the rest.

Frank Senn wrote this book in an informal manner.  He doesn’t use more technical terms than he has to.  And when he does use them (especially Latin words like gradual or sanctus) he explains them right away.

Bad points about the book

However, once a technical term has been defined, Senn feels free to use that term without re-explanation through the rest of the book.  If you’re reading each chapter all the way through, this won’t be a problem, but if you come to this book aiming to study the Protestant and Revivalist worship culture of America, you may run up against a few references to material in earlier chapters without explanation or footnote.  Not that that’s a terrible thing, it just makes it harder for someone new to the subject to cherry-pick their way through this book.

My only disappointment with The People’s Work is the Epilogue.  There he briefly introduces the “emergent church” movement and offers a brief definition of the “liturgical retrieval” that they tend to practice.  And then, without much explanation or argumentation, he asserts his opinion that the future of Christianity in the Global South is going to be characterized by emergent liturgical retrieval.  It’s an oddly incongruous conclusion to draw after spending most of 18 chapters tracing a continuous development of worship practices for nearly 2,000 years.

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 5/5
The book is very well organized, dealing in liturgical topics and historical periods with remarkable unity.

Devotional Usefulness: N/A
It’s more of a history than a liturgical-insight source.

Reference Value: 4/5
This is not explicitly Anglican, but its attention to all of Christian history is pretty helpful.

Overall Thoughts

If you’ve never thought much about worship practices before, this is a good first book to pick up on the subject.  If you think you know a lot about worship, but haven’t read many (or any) books on the subject, this is still a good first book to delve into.  The author is an attentive scholar, careful to keep his opinions out of the way (until the epilogue), giving a fair hearing to Roman Catholics, Revivalists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Pentecostals alike.

If you really want to dig into the subject of liturgy and worship, this is an excellent resource for giving you the scope of Christian worship without getting bogged down in too many technical details.  Pair this with a book that explores liturgy from a theological/spiritual perspective, such as Liturgical Theology by Simon Chan, and you’ll have yourself a fantastic start into understanding the basics of why worship takes place the way it does.

Introduction to Advent

With Advent just over a week away at this point, let’s have a proper introduction to the season.  This is the first of about twelve videos I’m going to make about the different parts of the church year.

The season of Advent begins the church year with a focus on the advent (or arrival) of Jesus, both in as a baby at Christmas and as a glorious king upon his awaited return. Our place, in response to both those themes, is to prepare and make ready.
For further reading:
Subject Index:
* 01:10 Introduction to Advent
* 01:29 Major Themes
* 07:13 Historical features
* 12:19 Walk-through with the 2019 BCP