Book: Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland

Edinburgh, Saint Andrew Press, 1994. 700 pp.

Worship books, both denominational and "commercial," are becoming plentiful. This plenitude is reason for thanks; it appears that God's people are working hard on prayer, praise, and worship.

The latest denominational book to cross my desk is the Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland. A fine book it is.

It consists largely of complete orders of public worship, and a goodly number of prayers. The orders of worship include separate ones for the evening service—not a common feature in most worship books. In addition, it contains "A Daily Service" (reemphasizing a Reformation pattern), and the Revised Common Lectionary.

Common Order shows its Reformed tradition in various ways, especially in its emphasis on the glory of God as a major aspect in worship. That tradition also holds that the "regular" worship service does not include the Lord's Supper. Perhaps future Reformed worship books will consider the service with communion as the "regular" service.

With its full observance of the liturgical year, including All Saints Day, Common Order has stretched beyond the Reformed tradition. Occasional readings from the apocryphal books are also a departure from Reformed practice. (Interestingly, the Westminster Confession of Faith warns that the apocryphal books are mere human writing, while the Belgic Confession has guarded approval: "The church may certainly read these books and learn from them as far as they agree with the canonical books".)

Common Order uses the Revised English Bible for all quotations. The book is sensitive to gender-inclusive language, going lightly on terms such as "Father" and "Lord," but not avoiding them. The style and some content naturally reflect the book's origin in the United Kingdom, with its spelling of "Saviour," "Prayers for Parliament" (features that will be appreciated by our Canadian readers), several Celtic prayers, references to "Kirk session," and prayers for "our Queen and her family." (Of course, the latter should not be restricted to the British Isles; the Queen and her family need universal prayer.)

The book includes a short preface by John L. Bell, who will be remembered by many RW readers as a mesmerizing speaker at the 1995 COLAM worship conference. Thus—Common Order is an excellent contribution, packaging its seven hundred pages in an amazingly compact format.

Harry Boonstra (hboonstr@calvin.edu) is former theological editor of RW and emeritus theological librarian of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan.