Welcome to Sunday: An Introduction to Worship in the Episcopal Church

By Farwell, James | Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Welcome to Sunday: An Introduction to Worship in the Episcopal Church


Farwell, James, Anglican Theological Review


Welcome to Sunday: An Introduction to Worship in the Episcopal Church. By Christopher L. Webber. Harrisburg, Pa.: Morehouse, 2003. xi + 110 pp. $12.95 (paper).

In a straightforward and accessible style, Christopher Webber provides newcomers to the Episcopal Church with a useful text for decoding the mysteries of its liturgical worship. This is timely, as the anti-ritualism of modernity gives way to a renewed appreciation for the power of symbolic activity to human spirituality. From the symbolism of buildings, the work of the various orders of ministry, and the various gestural/ceremonial aspects of worship to the parts of the eucharistic rite itself, Webber addresses areas that commonly inspire questions among newcomers and even among those who know the liturgy more intimately. Any parish priest knows the need for this sort of book. Well-framed, manageable questions accompanying each chapter invite reflection, making it useful for individual readers or for a small inquirers' class. The book assumes that intentional participation in the liturgy is important to the engagement of the congregational member in the full power of the liturgy itself (see his discussion of the offertory on page 92) and, as such, is an entry point into life with the God whom we encounter through our corporate prayer.

If Welcome to Sunday has any shortcoming, it maybe that it does its work too well. Too much privileging of perspicuity and attendant explanation allows modernist tendencies ushered out by the front door to return through the back: I "get" the liturgy if I get what it "means" or "stands for," as if its point is somewhere other than the activity of the assembly's symbolic participation in a mystery. A high level of ambiguity, paradox, and antinomy is a constituent of the liturgy's function and power. Explanations must be careful not to reduce the complexity of the symbolic to a point beyond the need of the newcomer and the character of the liturgical. …

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