FEASTING ON THE WORD WORSHIP COMPANION: Liturgies for Year A, Volume 1. Edited by Kimberly Bracken Long. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013. Xiii + 204 pages.
Many lectionary preachers will know of the Feasting on the Word lectionary commentary series. If you are like me, you have found this series quite helpful. Now, Westminster John Knox Press is in the process of offering a set of worship companions that follow the lectionary and are deeply rooted in the biblical narrative. Edited by Kimberly Bracken Long, the present volume prepared for use in the first half of Year A (Advent through Pentecost Sunday) is now available in a hard back book with CD -- I'm not sure if one has the same access to such materials if one purchases the kindle version. The latter allows for copy and pasting liturgies and prayers into bulletins or into projectable media. For those who follow the lectionary with some diligence, we will enter year A on December 1, 2013.
The editor is Associate Professor of Worship at Columbia Theological Seminary, and author of the book The Worshiping Body: The Art of Leading Worship, which I found to be very thought provoking and helpful. She has been aided in producing this book by six other liturgical writers who represent Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal, and the United Church of Christ. This is, therefore, a distinctly ecumenical/Mainline Protestant venture. We are not told who wrote each of the liturgical pieces, but we are told in the introduction that the writers were free to write from their own faith traditions. Therefore, as one moves through the materials, one will find different theologies expressed. In addition, although they provided liturgical materials that all might use in common; they also included elements that might be unique to one or more traditions. As one who seeks to hear and experience a bit of theological diversity, I find this to be a wise decision. My only point of disappointment is that there isn’t a representative of the Disciples or Baptist traditions.
This is, as noted above, a lectionary based resource. The book provides liturgical materials for each Sunday moving from Advent through Pentecost Sunday, along with other important liturgical moments such as Christmas Eve/Day, Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday. More specifically, the book provides the user with opening words/call to worship, call to confession, prayer of confession, declaration of forgiveness, prayer of the day, prayer for illumination, prayers of intercession, invitation to the offering, prayer of thanksgiving/dedication, charge, and blessing. Beyond these liturgical materials that can be used as is or modified as needed, the book provides questions for reflection and household prayers for morning and evening. Permission is given for recopying, as long as credit is given (of course).
In addition to these service resources, the book provides a set of additional resources. There are greetings (all biblical in origin), two forms of thanksgiving for baptism (as one who comes from a believer’s baptism tradition, I can say that both are usable without modification for the Disciples and Baptist traditions). Finally, they provide a set of Great Prayers of Thanksgiving/Eucharistic Prayers. One is general, and the remainder are season specific – Advent, Christmas Day, Epiphany, Lent, Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday, Holy Thursday, Easter, and Pentecost. The editor notes that the Eucharistic prayers are kept separate from the other liturgical materials in recognition that not all Christian traditions celebrate weekly communion. I appreciate that some materials are provided, but as a Disciple I would have liked a greater selection (perhaps recognizing the importance of weekly communion to my tradition). I would have especially liked to have had a post-communion prayer for each Sunday. The book also includes a scripture index, which might be useful for those who deviate from the lectionary but would like materials that relate to the texts that are guiding the sermon and worship theme.
I will admit to not reading every piece in the book, but as I dipped in here and there I found these materials, including the prayers of great thanksgiving, biblically rooted and spiritually enlightening. I know that I will be using the materials found in this collection. If you are looking for thoughtful, theologically sensitive, spiritually inspiring liturgical materials, I think you will find this to be most useful. The editor notes that these are offered as supplements to official worship books. For those of us who lack an official book, this collection will become a prime resource. I am especially impressed by the prayers of intercession, which I will make use of in my own pastoral prayers. Although as a Disciple I would have enjoyed having a few more Eucharistic elements available, I can heartily recommend this collection to all involved in planning for worship services that lift praise to God and provide for spiritually enlivening worship. As noted above, on December 1, we will enter Year A. So now is the time to order.