Creating Missional Worship: Fusing context and tradition
Church House Publishing £14.99
Church Times Bookshop £13.50
THIS is a very welcome book, and Tim Lomax neatly expresses his aim in the short concluding chapter, which is to propose “a coalition of context and tradition”.
There are eight chapters, and a series of appendices setting out a selection of fully worked examples of services. The format is rather like a workbook, with blocks of text giving practical examples, or suggesting questions and issues for the reader to explore further, either alone or with others from their worshipping community.
Occasionally, the reader may feel that the argument is a little laboured, but the author wants to persuade as well as to inform his readers. The whole book bristles with convictions: the worshipping community should not be a pious enclave, unconnected to the realities of the world that Christ came to save; everyday concerns and working lives should be brought into the prayer of the local church; and, finally, a mission-shaped church is a church that is shaped by its worship.
Lomax wants worship with pizzazz, and the practical suggestions, particularly those set out in Chapter 6, are imaginative. Undoubtedly, there is a place for creativity in both the planning and leading of worship, but we should be careful not to overload the actual service. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect worship to do everything in terms of teaching, learning, and sharing the faith.
The author is a convinced Charismatic Evangelical, but he is acutely aware of some of the dangers of contemporary styles of worship. He accepts that some churches appear to take a rather consumerist approach to worship, and recognises that some contemporary movements may sail a little too close to the spirit of the age. He gently navigates his readers through these dangers.
Noticing, for instance, how popular worship songs tend to focus on Jesus, he makes an eloquent plea for a more Trinitarian understanding of the One whom we worship. The challenges that Lomax poses for those of a more traditional style are equally stringent, not least in making us consider how our worship is staged, the arrangement of the worshipping space, and allowing our symbols and symbolic actions to speak.
He is evidently trying to be even-handed in what he writes, and the resulting book has something challenging to say to readers across the spectrum of church traditions and styles of worship. It will fuel missional energy in some, and convince others of the value of liturgical forms and patterns of prayer in both shaping worship and in informing Christian community.
The Revd Christopher Irvine is the Canon Librarian and Director of Education at Canterbury Cathedral.