Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

A Book of Vigils

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

A Book of Vigils

Article excerpt

A Book of Vigils. By Christopher L. Webber. New York: Church Publishing, 2002. 152 pp. $20.00 (paper).

A Book of Vigils provides helpful suggestions about vigils of prayer, including vigils for the sick, at the time of death, for peace and justice, in the presence of God, and before the election or consecration of a bishop. It should be a useful resource for anyone planning such an event, as it includes useful and detailed suggestions about planning a vigil, including such minutiae as attention to concerns of safety.

"The keeping of vigils in the form of extended periods of nighttime prayers is an ancient Christian tradition," Webber tells us, and his book may well help rekindle the tradition in our time. Among the book's most helpful attributes is its emphasis upon the use of extended periods of silence. Thus, the materials presented serve more as matter for reflection and meditation than as words to fill up a period of time.

There are several areas in which I wish Webber had taken a slightly different direction. First, where references are given for materials included (which is not everywhere), an unfortunate pattern emerges. Fully sixty per cent of the quotations come from the Bible, and another twenty per cent from liturgical texts-so far, so good. While the remaining selections seem to be excellent choices-inspiring, orthodox, and mainstream-twenty times as many are attributed to men as to women. Given the preponderance of a male viewpoint in Scripture and historical liturgical texts, women's voices are seriously underrepresented in this volume-only about one per cent of the total.

Second, Webber emphasizes that the texts he has compiled are provided as outlines or samples, not to be thought of as "liturgies to be followed verbatim. …

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