Liturgy and the Moral Self Humanity at Full Stretch Before God: Essays in Honor of Don E. Sabers. Edited by E. Byron Anderson and Bruce T. Morrill. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1998. xii + 231 pp. $27.95 (paper).
It is a rare thing for a reviewer to find himself (or herself) in the role of evangelist or huckster, but that is where I must begin. That is, upon reading this wonderful collection of essays, I find myself wanting to convince and convert the readers of this review to the virtues of these writings and to see that the book is widely read (and therefore widely sold).
These essays, freshly written and gathered, are offered in celebration of the sixtieth birthday of Don E. Sabers, for many years and currently Professor of Theology and Worship at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta. ATR readers will know Saliers from such writings as The Soul in Paraphrase: Prayer and the Religious Affections (1980), Worship as Theology: Foretaste of Glory Divine ( 1995), and most recently Worship Comes to Its Senses (1996). Theologian, poet, musician, Methodist, liturgist, teacher-in Don Sabers one finds real treasure and quite durable goods. And those who have contributed to Liturgy and the Moral Life have responded with treasure of their own. (Faithfulness requires that I also report that Pro Saliers's daughter, Emily, is one of the Indigo Girls.)
The precipitant for the outpouring in this collection is an essay Saliers wrote and published in 1979 (Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 7, no. 2). Entitled "Liturgy and Ethics: Some New Beginnings" and printed first in the current book, it presents in full amplification the conviction that "[q]uestions concerning Christian ethics and the shape of the moral life cannot be adequately understood apart from thinking about how Christians worship" (p. 15). Convinced that Christian worship is "a characterizing activity" (p. 17), an activity that gives shape and proportion to religious affections and virtues, the author goes on to say how this is so and why.
It is this essay that, when struck as if a tuning fork, vibrates through all the other essays. Twelve in number, these essays are arranged under three headings: "Liturgical Theology: Tradition, Practice, and Belief" (here one finds Gordon Lathrop, James F. White, Bruce T. Morrill, S.J., Henry H. Knight III, Steven J. Land and Stanley Hauerwas); "Formation of Character: Person, Practice, and Affection (E. Byron Anderson, Peter E. Fink, S.J., Mary Ewing Stamps, Roberta Bondi and Gail Ramshaw); and "Word and Music: Forming a Liturgical Aesthetic" (Brian Wren and Paul Westermeyer).
The book concludes with a bibliography of Don Saliers's published work-a wonderfully impressive list-but the real reward is the "Afterword" from Sabers himself that precedes the bibliography. …