Book: Worship Vessels: Resources for Renewal
F. Russell Mitman. Cambridge: Harper and Row, 1987, 213 pp. $17.95
Mitman, a UCC pastor, provides us with a combination mini-textbook and worship resource. Although most of Worship Vessels consists of resources, the author also gives us fine introductions to various aspects of worship. For example, he offers succinct but insightful comments about the Lord's Supper, weddings and funerals, and written versus extemporary prayers. Thus, when trying to minimize both the legal and bride-book images of the wedding ceremony, he writes, "the marriage service will begin with the families gathering to worship God and to celebrate the marriage of two of their number in the context of worship" (p. 176). In seeking to renew funeral services, he suggests that the service take place in a worship context, preferably in the church sanctuary, and that it emphasize the resurrection.
The book is organized to follow the worship service from "Gathering Act" to "Dismissal Act." Each section has a brief introduction followed by extensive resources. The resources, which are a fine combination of the traditional and contemporary (but not trendy), include calls to worship, prayers, litanies, occasional hymn responses, and some complete orders of worship. The author relies heavily on Scripture, as well as on The Book of Common Prayer and other traditional sources, but also includes his own prayers and litanies.
Mitman moves in the Reformed tradition, but he occasionally flirts with "sacramentalizing" rites such as marriage and the funeral. Also, his prayers and litanies, although fresh and meaningful, sometimes include sentences that are too lengthy for unison response.
The copyright statement in Worship Vessels allows "any Christian congregation to reproduce for use in worship the resources contained in this book, provided that no part of such production is sold or is distributed beyond services held in that congregation." However, congregations who wish to use material from this book (and there will be many) should plan on using a copier that enlarges the distressingly small text.
Worship Vessels is a good source for pastors, worship committees, and others planning worship services.