Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Moving the Furniture: Liturgical Theory, Practice and Environment

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Moving the Furniture: Liturgical Theory, Practice and Environment

Article excerpt

Moving the Furniture: Liturgical Theory, Practice and Environment. By William Seth Adams. New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 1999. vii + 172 pp. $19.95 (paper).

In this book William Seth Adams, the J. Milton Richardson Professor of Liturgies and Anglican Studies at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, brings together eleven essays written over a fifteen-year period that challenge the reader to "move the furniture," literally, within liturgical space, and metaphorically, within emotional and intellectual space.

The areas covered are wide ranging-from penetrating questions about the extent to which the ritual life of the Church really fosters Christian/Jewish reconciliation given the continuance of anti-Jewish language in Scriptural and liturgical texts to a discussion about the burial of the dead and the use of liturgical space, the place of burial and the relationship between the remembrance of the dead and the continuing formation of the liturgical community.

Although wide-ranging there are common themes running throughout-firstly, the centrality of baptism and the ministry of the baptised; secondly the issue of justice; and thirdly the deep conviction that the liturgical life of the Church is formative of the Church itself. "I am beset by the notion that the way we pray together, serve together, eat and drink together-that all this is formative of our heart and life in and for the world" (p. vi).

This kind of passion permeates the essays, together with a passion for what I would call "joined-up-thinking." So often the words of the liturgical texts proclaim one thing, their liturgical performance another. Hence Adams consistently pursues challenging questions, and happily asserts when he is unsure of the answers. He clearly enjoys asking the questions and pushing the boundaries and is not perturbed when the answers are unclear.

This distance between what the text says and what is so often done is well illustrated in relation to the centrality of baptism. BCP 1979 says "Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's Body the Church" (BCP, p. …

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