Book: Liturgical Year: The Worship of God

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Supplemental Liturgical Resource 7. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992. 428 pages. $14.95.

The Presbyterian Church hopes to have a new common service book ready by 1993. Meanwhile, seven "trial" books have been published since 1980 in the Supplemental Liturgical Resource series that have tested material to be included in the new service book.

Resource 7 in the series, Liturgical Year, is intended to be used together with Resource 1, Service for the Lord's Day. Resource 1 provides the Presbyterian "ordinary"—that is, the basic service that is done every Sunday. Resource 7 provides the "propers"—the parts of the service that change according to the season, following the Revised Common Lectionary of 1992. The resource is intended for pastors and worship committees.

Liturgical Year opens with a forty-page "Introduction to the Liturgical Year." This essay (under a different title in the Table of Contents) is both a defense of why Presbyterians should observe a tradition that came after the Apostles, and a long sermon expounding the theology of the Church Year.

The second section of the book, taking 210 pages, is the real meat. In the manner of an Anglican Prayerbook or a Lutheran Agenda, this section provides a scriptural call to worship and an opening prayer (actually a "collect") for each service, plus seasonal variations of the Prayer of Confession, the Eucharistic Prayer, and an alternative non-Eucharis-tic Thanksgiving Prayer. Complete services are provided for the chief celebrations of the year.

The third section of the book is fifty pages of commentary on the preceding sections, and the final section consists of ninety pages of new service music.

This resource will be most useful to bigger churches who like a lot of variety and who have the facilities to publish detailed weekly bulletins for "congregational participation." The pages are not laid out for easy photocopying, and most items will have to be retyped. And it's too bad that no hymn suggestions are provided for ordinary Sundays. But the book does include handy models for such things as Christmas "Lessons and Carols" and the Easter Vigil. Unfortunately, the Vigil service is incomplete without material from Resource 1.

The Introduction to Resource 7 has some wise words on "Christian seders," foot-washing, and liturgical colors, and the Commentary offers wisdom on the Advent Wreath.

The weakness of the book is in the texts of its prayers. Liturgy that is Reformed requires not so much the quotation of Scripture verses as liturgical prayers that "breathe" the Bible and are full of scriptural phraseology, praying God's Word back to God after it has been processed by the congregation's experience. For example, the Prayer of Confession on Trinity Sunday has the congregation confessing things that I'm not sure God is accusing us of. Better to be scriptural and let the Spirit worry about relevance.

Some quibbles. What happened to pages 271-2? In the eucharistic prayers, drop "very" from "we offer our very selves," and return the familiar order of "a holy and living sacrifice." Why do so many modern liturgical prayers seem to be written in a special dialect? And are our congregations so stupid that they cannot pray through a relative or adverbial clause?

These notwithstanding, I'll be making use of this quite decent book.

Daniel Meeter is pastor of Old First Reformed Church, Brooklyn, New York.