AN EVERLASTING GIFT

by
02 November 2006

Tufton Books £9.99   (0-85191-052-1) Church Times Bookshop £9

   

 

Canterbury Press £16.99 (0-85311-585-1) Church Times Bookshop £15.30

 

AT the turn of the Millennium, liturgical training events were popular, and over-subscribed. Hundreds would gather to get sneak previews of the Common Worship texts, and there was an eagerness to discuss which forms of worship might be appropriate for today’s Church in today’s world.

 

Five years on, and similar events have attendances numbered in the tens rather than the hundreds, if they have enough to be viable at all. Having found out what Common Worship contained, and having made their choices from the variety of resources, clergy and worship leaders seem to have little energy left for further reflection and challenge.

 

Yet, as Common Worship generates its final texts, it is absolutely vital that churches and communities undertake the deeper task of working out the best ways to enact their acts of worship. They must decide how such services and events can be enriching for the faithful, and challenging for the fringe member and the newcomer. Having found out “what’s in it”, they should realise that “how to do it” is of greater importance. These two books approach this question from different angles

 

No book that encourages a worshipping community to reflect on how it celebrates the eucharist will be a waste of money. An Everlasting Gift, written from within the modern Catholic tradition, takes each part of the eucharist and suggests how it might be celebrated with simplicity, dignity and depth. There are teaching points, hints, and a few commandments.

 

A group that used this as a study guide would be repaid handsomely. But I hope they would get beyond the gently studied understatement and English restraint that characterise the text. Edward Dowler and Brendan Clover cover the same ground as Creating Uncommon Worship (Canterbury Press); and, though they might have the merit of not putting any sort of Richard Giles-like cat among the worshipping pigeons, there are some communities that need that very thing.

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Crafts for Creative Worship is a resource book for all-age activities through the Church’s year. It is huge fun, full of ideas, and has everything from prayers and readings for the seasons, craft ideas for children, and all-age learning workshops, to templates for banners, and instructions for making SimNel (sic) cake, and stoles.

 

Jan Brind and Tessa Wilkinson have clearly used these ideas in real communities; they are tried and tested. The beauty of the book is that it brings out the liturgical and theological themes of each season, and that the activities are by no means intended to relegate the children to doing something that will keep them quiet. The book is an encouragement to the whole community to think and pray together, and to bring this as an offering of worship.

 

In Common Worship we have a set of liturgical resources that can enable and deepen worship in all the varied contexts of our communities and gatherings. In their different ways, these two books will help churches work out how they might better celebrate the riches of the faith we proclaim. I just wish An Everlasting Gift was less polite about it.

 

Canon Jeremy Fletcher is Precentor of York Minster and a Member of the Liturgical Commission.  

 

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