Pocket Dictionary of Liturgy & Worship
by Brett Scott Provance.
InterVarsity Press, 2009. 140 pages.

What is a canticle, a rubric, or chrismation? Do I need these to worship? Why do they make the language for worship so hard?

My son, an HVAC technician, just showed me a description of a thermocouple (the internal doohickey that helps control the furnace) that left me scratching my head. Every discipline, even the most hands-on, has its own language. Worship and liturgy are very hands-on and full of body action, so it’s not surprising that folks have developed a vocabulary for it, too.

Brett Provance has done us all a favor by listing more than six hundred of the more commonly used terms associated with liturgy and worship, including many that are infrequently used (Aberkios Inscription, for instance) but necessary. The explanations are brief and to the point, but not simplistic. If a particular explanation needs a page (liturgical year), it gets one. If four lines will do (organum), that does the job.

If you need Tridentine Rite, or Triodion, or Trisagion, or tympanum, they’re all here to inform you. Also Lauds, lectio continua/selecta, Lima Liturgy, and Love Feast. At inculturation, we are told to see Our Modern Services (2002), the prayer book of the Anglican Church of Kenya, with its cross-reference to Grant LeMarquand’s article about the ACK. This is one of very few references to worship in the developing/multicultural world. Pentecostal worship could use an extra paragraph on worship in Latin America, and where is Anscar Chupungco (a Philippine writer on inculturation) in the bibliography? If fifty more such references were included, the book would still fit in your pocket.

Along with all the definitions, there are tables and charts: comparing Eastern and Western rites (111); the stations of the cross (121); a basilica floor-plan (132); comparing the numbering of the psalms in the Hebrew/Protestant and Septuagint (defined on 118)/Orthodox versions; Western Eucharistic Liturgy (80); components of worship (94); an outline for Morning and Evening Prayer (46); and the Scripture readings for the Paschal/Easter vigil (98).

The famous and not-so-famous-but-important people are here—Ambrose, Bach, Calvin, Cranmer, Gregory Dix, Edward VI, Gabrieli, Hildegard, Luther; Neander, St Nicholas; Palestrina, and Edward Sovik, among others. Ulrich Zwingli gets all the space for XYZ!

A four-page bibliography tops it off, enough to get you started into more serious study. Best of all, this book really does fit in your pocket, right next to your cell phone and change!
—reviewed by Larry Sibley

Further Reading and Resources

Choral Psalm Readings or Psalm-based Dramas
  • Michael Perry, The Dramatized Old Testament (Baker Books, 1995)
  • Stephen Breck Reid, Listening In: A Multicultural Reading of the Psalms (Abingdon, 1997)
  • Calvin Seerveld, Voicing God’s Psalms (Eerdmans, 2004)
  • Jeff Allan Wyatt and Paul M. Miller, The Psalms in Worship: Arrangements from the Psalter for Performance and Liturgy (Lillenas Drama)
Books for Learning and Reflection
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible (Augsburg Fortress, 1974)
  • Walter Brueggemann, Spirituality of the Psalms (Augsburg Fortress, 2001)
  • John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, 5 volumes, available through CCEL:
  • C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (Harvest Books, 1974)
  • Thomas Merton, Praying the Psalms (Liturgical Press, 1956)
  • John Witvliet, The Biblical Psalms in Christian Worship (Eerdmans, 2007)
Online Resources
Reformed Worship 96 © June 2010 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.