Table Manners: Liturgical leadership for the mission
of the Church
SCM Press £19.99
Church Times Bookshop £18 (Use code CT343
"LITERACY" is a word that we are using increasingly to mean more
than simply the capacity to read. It is applied to how we handle
the varied aspects of other parts of our life as well, such as
finance, IT, emotions, social processes, and personal
The way we use words is fundamental to how we worship, and
Table Manners by Simon Reynolds is a timely exploration of
our liturgical literacy. He is not simply asking us to review the
texts; they are the raw material. He is challenging us to be better
informed, to be more imaginative and spatially, dramatically, and
theologically literate in how we use words, environment, and other
media that bring the liturgy to life.
This is, of course, a minefield. Obvious landmines are variation
of tradition within the C of E, and passionately held views about
local custom, costs, resources, and complaints. The case for not
setting out to explore this field is very strong, it would seem.
The danger of failing to do so with conviction and "literacy",
however, is in fact life-threatening for the people of God.
It is no accident that much of the material in Exodus,
Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy is taken up with instructions
on worship. This is the most important thing that the Israel of God
does, in its days of pilgrimage and in its settlement in the
And it has to be one of the things that we also take very
seriously indeed. There may only be one go at getting it right for
the person who has ventured into the very strange territory of
your, or any, church. If the quality of our worship is not good
enough to inspire in that one visitor a thirst for God, it may not
be the worthy offering of thanks and praise to our Creator which we
know we should be offering.
Reynolds writes from what is obviously a "broadly Catholic"
viewpoint. Although he is alert to those who do not share this
tradition, the book makes best sense for a priest and congregation
who value the rhythm of liturgical life as their resource for
evangelism and growth.
Chapter headings indicate the imaginative and informed approach
that constitutes liturgical literacy in Reynolds's view. He writes
intelligently, but not as an academic. Context, furniture, mood,
action, poetry, and the changing seasons of the year are what
define this very accessible, thoughtful, and thought-provoking
Dr Martin Warner is the Bishop of Chichester.