Cares: An introduction to pastoral liturgy
SCM Press £19.99
Church Times Bookshop £18
HOW many of us can
understand, beyond our instinctive knowledge, what happens in
occasional offices? In Worship that Cares, Mark Earey
explores our deep human need for ritual, and how it connects with
the bigger perspective at moments of change, particularly at
baptisms, weddings, services of wholeness and healing, and
funerals. He suggests that if our human experience can be
appropriately connected to the bigger Christian story, and woven
within the liturgy of pastoral rites through word and symbol,
meaning is brought into people's lives.
Liturgy and ritual shape the
theology of those who, though on the edges of the Church, rely on
them to help them through the life-changes of birth, partnership,
and death. What happens if the rite and human experience contradict
one another? For Earey, maintaining the integrity of those
experiencing rites and of the minister is imperative. So, for
example, he helpfully draws out the tension between the theological
truth and psychological demands of a funeral liturgy.
He demonstrates how our
different denominations and traditions give liturgical resources
for the diverse emotional and spiritual needs of the gathered
community. Although the liturgical text may be carefully thought
through, it is in the sermon and in extempore prayer that
weaknesses in pastoral theology might reveal themselves. A series
of useful questions highlights potential stumbling-blocks and
confusions, and a range of doctrinal solutions are given for
further reflection on how funerals relate to the mission of the
Our society has come to
understand "health" to be our normal state of being, and sees
illness as an aberration; that runs counter to the experience of
many individuals for whom "dis-ease" is the norm. Earey examines
the growing practice of offering prayer for wholeness and healing
in church and on the streets, while asking how pastoral and
liturgical practice might need to change to encompass fully the
needs of individuals and communities. While some will disagree with
his theological stance, his thoughtful reflections on what the
Church still has to learn are pertinent to those offering prayer
for wholeness and healing.
Sunday worship may not often
be a place for individual pastoral care, but it is the place where
ministers hone the pastoral skills and principles for use in
contexts for which no formal rite exists. While offering Christian
liturgy to those who do not profess Christian faith is risky, he
suggests that it is a risk worth taking. By offering "apt liturgy"
for our communities, we may be making new and unexpected
connections with faith. The theme of the journey could have been
developed, particularly around baptism and the journey of faith.
There is obvious potential for further exploration of pastoral
liturgy relating to discipleship.
This is not a manual on how
to use liturgical texts well, or an exploration of what can be
found within the liturgical resources of our Christian
denominations, although it includes some of that. This book
introduces the principles and skills needed by an effective pastor
engaged in those moments when people are most open to hearing how
their stories make sense within the story of God's love.
Earey's background in
theological education and pastoral care has shaped an excellent
book that should be mandatory reading for all those training for
pastoral ministry, as well as those who want to refine and
understand better what happens in our pastoral services.
The Revd Dana Delap is Assistant Curate of St James and St
Basil, Fenham, in the diocese of Newcastle.