Book: The Service for the Lord's Day

Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1984. 192 pages, $6.40.

In 1980 the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. resolved to develop a "new book of services for corporate worship, including a Psalter, hymns, and other worship aids." It also requested that over the "next several years a variety of worship resources be made available… for trial use throughout the church before any publication is finalized."

These two books, which represent the firstfruits of this agenda, were prepared by the Office of Worship of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The liturgies in both volumes build on The Worship Book and The Book of Common Worship integrating resources and insights gleaned from the universal church over the past decade. The texts of these liturgies, written in a clear, crisp style, are deeply dependent on biblical passages.

The Service for the Lord's Day. The first section of this three-part book provides an outline of the service, along with instructions and explanatory notes. Interestingly, in this service the Peace, historically most often linked to the Offering and the Lord's Supper, has become an expression of reconciliation after the confession of sin and the pardon. The service includes three Scripture lessons, an indication that the Presbyterians, like other "mainline" denominations in recent years, encourage the use of a lectionary. It's also noteworthy that these lit-urgists, following the lead of Calvin, perceive the Lord's Supper as a normative part of each Sunday's liturgy.

Section two, which provides many models for each element of the order of service, presents a rich resource for any pastor or worship leader. From a full page of biblical greetings, through literally hundreds of generally well-conceived and well-articulated calls of worship, confessions of sin, and so on, to eight authoritative models of the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving, the book offers a wealth of material.

The final section supplies a commentary on the service. Through a discussion of six "convictions" about worship the authors arrive at a four-part foundation for the order of service: Assemble in God's Name, Proclaim God's Word, Give Thanks to God, and Go in God's Name. Again and again the bookemphasizes the Word-sacrament shape to each Sunday's liturgy, reflecting both the New Testament and Reformation theology of worship.

Gregg A. Mast is Minister of Social Witness for the Reformed Church in America.