While liturgical worship received a boost from interdenominational exchanges during the late 20th century, another shift in worship culture occurred in the opposite direction. The modern “seeker-friendly”, “contemporary” movements downplay the former’s more formal structured style, prolong singing and ministry time, and give prominence to the congregation’s “felt needs”.
The Rev Dr Jeffrey A. Truscott is concerned that if done without sufficient thought, the proverbial valued baby could be thrown out with the bathwater. Remembering is important for the understanding, reception and practice of the Christian faith. Traditional worship rituals help us do these well.
Truscott’s book covers the various key components of liturgical worship from “The Call to Worship” to “The Benediction”. He fleshes out their purpose and significance, examines issues linked with each segment, and provides questions for reflection and action.
I deeply appreciate Truscott’s
- emphasis on God-centredness in worship. While “hospitality” (the welcoming of people) is important, it should not take away the priority of getting people to focus on God as they gather. Furthermore, singing is not merely for pandering to one’s intellect or emotions. Nor should it feed one’s narcissism.
- point about needing other people in relating to God. We do not worship in private cocoons. Truscott says: “While it is true that we can confess our sins to God in private and ask for God’s forgiveness, we cannot absolve ourselves; somebody else has to do that for us in God’s name… I trust the Word not just because it is spoken by another, but because the Word of absolution comes to me as God’s own promise of forgiveness through a fellow Christian.”
- reminder to honour Scripture by its reverential (and trained) reading. Too often in our Protestant church services, scriptures are read with a “let’s get over it” attitude as the “support” for the sermon—words are poorly pronounced, pauses are not observed, voice quality is disregarded.
- value placed on the public affirmation of the Creed. I wish Truscott had referred more to the concerted thrust to make the Church’s most universally accepted creed—the Nicene Creed—the key instrument for affirming the unity that all churches share in Christ.
- substantial discussion of the Lord’s Supper. Since different denominations have different emphases regarding Holy Communion, we should reflect on our denomination’s understanding and practice while reading this chapter. For instance, the Wesley’s held firm views about and had great experiences of Christ’s presence at this sacrament. Healings and supernatural encounters were known to take place.
Truscott’s book is an extremely rich and readable resource. I fully recommend it.
The Rev Dr Lorna Khoo is serving as a pastor with Holland Village Methodist Church.
Book cover visual courtesy of Armour Publishing