Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Some Recent Books on Liturgy

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Some Recent Books on Liturgy

Article excerpt

The famous Lean Inge of St. Paul's, London, was supposedly asked once if he were interested in liturgy. "No," he replied, "nor do I collect postage stamps." The ongoing liturgical explosion (in several senses) of our time has made it difficult for Anglicans anywhere to find refuge in the Dean's aloof disdain. Congregations actively involved in liturgical renewal and innovation well outnumber those clinging exclusively to old patterns. An amazing volume of publications, books, and periodicals come out even vear in the field of liturgies. The challenge today for nonspecialists is to keep enough of a sense of what is going on so that our liturgies can be creative, nourishing and also "orthodox."

Liturgical reflection is at an important st:age in its development. The great movement of the last 50 years, culminating for Episcopalians in the 1979 Book of Con Prayer, has reached its goals, at least in the formal sense of having then within the covers of the books found in ever; Episcopal pew rack. What the Prayer Book represents is the fruit of a century of liturgical scholarship, the profound renewal of interest in and knowledge of the Bible, and widespread ecumenical cross-fertilization. Certainly fine-tuning of the results of this liturgical reformation is still going on, but increasingly both scholars and pastoral liturgists are moving to the next generation of concerns.

One of these is frustration with the failure of the liturgical movement to produce the conversion of understanding on the part of ordinary parishioners that the leaders of the liturgical movement envisioned. Another is the great question of inculturation, attention to the way in which the Gospel must be proclaimed within particular cultures or subcultures in order to present its message truly. Related to this is concern about gender, racial, and cultural biases that may distort or limit the meaning the liturgy is intended to convey. Coming from quite another direction, there is increasing attention to the liturgical examples of the church growth movement, to reaching the unchurched and the "anti.churched" without betraying the heritage and catholicity of Anglicanism. Finally, in this millennialist age, there is a good deal of looking ahead at what may be or should be coming up in liturgics in the next generation.

From this list of issues, it should be clear that liturgy is not of interest only as a narrow, technical discipline. It is, rather, a lens through which we can apprehend the nature of the Church as a whole, and beyond that the nature of our culture and its place in history. Perhaps, harking back to Dean Inge, the s ame could be claimed of philatelics, but for Anglicans at least liturgy is a far more important lens. We have made worshiping together, common prayer, the hallmark of our identity-not doctrinal confession, not connection with a founding figure (other than Jesus!), not a magisterium, not appeal to biblical texts. While we differ over many issues that perplex our culture, we are for the most part able to worship together and thus to live together.

With this as prologue, let me turn to some recently published books that are of particular importance to Episcopalians with broad interests in liturgy anc[ its development. Historical and cultural perspective

Christian Worship in North America: A Retrospective: 1955-1995. By James F. White. A Pueblo Book. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1997. ix + 318 pp. $29.95 (paper). The Landscape of Praise: Readings in Liturgical Renewal. Edited by Blair Gilmer Meeks. A Liturgical Conference Book. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996. xvi + 335 pp. $25.00 (paper).

These hvo volumes offer excellent overviews of where we have traveled in the last generation and how things look to leaders in the field of liturgies today. Professor White has taught for many years at Notre Dame. His volume collects essays published over the course of his career, some of them updated, others prefaced wit]li an explanation placing them in their historic context. …

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