Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book Review: The NEw Handbook of the Christian Year

Over the next six months or so I will be doing a series of book reviews in hopes that they provide good overviews for those of you whom may be interested. Here is the first book.

The New Handbook of the Christian Year has found important status on my bookshelf for it correctly offers a historical perspective of the Christian calendar and practical ways to celebrate these days. The four authors (Hickman, Saliers, Stookey, and White) explore the church calendar much like an encyclopedia, detailing the Christian year as it pertains to events and origins. The book continues the discussion by asking the reader to consider using the historical calendar despite the ups and downs of its popularity. Part I concludes with practical information on praxis, theory to doing. Maybe more beneficial for those traditions who loosely hold to the calendar is part II, which offers a gathered liturgy for each event found in the calendar. Here the reader is given pastoral and theological reasoning for the events. The detailed service is typed up, giving exact order and direction for the clergy and congregation. The concluding summery is most helpful, offering advice on the often-overlooked aspects of a service.

One thing I personally appreciated from this book was the authors’ honesty on how the traditions transpired and became a ritual for the Western Christian Church. The authors seemed to be dedicated in bringing forth truth for the readers on sensitive subjects such as redeemed Roman pagan holidays, popular symbols, and lesser holidays the Church has embraced (Mothers Day, Thanksgiving, etc.). By doing this, the authors allowed the readers to come up with their own conclusion on whether church practices should be seen as redemptive, needing further discussion, or simply changed. As the same time, the authors do not suggest that one should vary from the proposed Church calendar.

I do wish that there had been some dialogue from the authors on the challenges of following such a ridged liturgy as seen in part II. To be clear, what I mean by ridged does not mean that it is not helpful, useful, or untrue. What I am saying is that for many churches liturgies that are prepared in advance, with no room for movement, often seem dry, and worse, impenetrable by the Holy Spirit. Knowing this is not true, it would have been helpful if the authors would have addressed this issue in Part I of this book. By doing so, Evangelical traditions might be less callused when reading through the book, and more willing to practice the liturgies offered.

Practically speaking, this book has offered me with practical, theologically thought through orders of service for many days throughout the Christian year I personally have not experienced or proctored. The New Handbook of the Christian Year offers order of services that reach beyond my evangelical traditions, and give me guidelines for important rituals which may need to be celebrated. I was particularly grateful for the order of service and explanations for Holy Thursday Evening, Tenbrae, and Trinity Sunday. I am considering offering these “fringe” worship experiences for my students here at Central Christian College, and now, seeing how this book would be extremely beneficial, have a renewed confidence celebrating these important events found in the Christian year.

Hickman, Hoylt L., Don E. Saliers, Laurence Hull Stookey, James F. White. The New Hanbook of the Christian Year. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Charlie Sheen collides with Ash Wednesday

I guess I jumped on the YouTube bandwagon!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5aSa4tmVNM

I was curious to see if Mr. Sheen was really an idiot; he had to be on drugs – does he understand how stupid he sounds – how many girls did he really sleep with – did he really just say that he would stay sober because he can “Just Do It” like the Nike slogan? Come on! Thank God I am not as foolish as you Charlie Sheen - you are an idiot!

When Charlie Sheen makes a fool of himself I find myself feeling better about myself.

I then remembered another video my wife and I watched of Charlie about a year ago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OBlgSz8sSM) - only 289,433,014 views - cute little Charlie biting the finger of his older brother – how sweet, how precious, how darling, how innocent. Could this be the same Charlie? Could it possibly be true that Charlie Sheen was once a beautiful little child, someone’s little boy? What if one of my little girls decided to take the path Charlie Sheen has taken? Would I feel good about myself because of the destruction they are inflicting on their bodies?

Does this mean that Charlie Sheen is actually human, like my girls, like me?

What a sinner I am that I have judged so harshly and enjoyed the hardships of others to elevate myself. God be merciful to me, a sinner – on Ash Wednesday.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Sociological History of Christian Worship - Martin Stringer

I have come to appreciate Stringer and his approach to historical Christian worship because of his unique perspective. Using the language of his field of study, sociology and anthropology, the author successfully addresses the history of worship in three specific ways that are unique. First, he is very intent on making sure popular discourses are addressed in different time periods. Focusing mostly on space and time, popular discourses sometimes involve Christianization (a slow infiltration of Christianity within a culture as it coverts its patterns of life and liturgy), a hegemony (situations where popular “winning” discourses exclude other discourses), or a de-Christianization of culture (deconstruction is applied to once popular discourses). Second, the author looked for major changes throughout history that bring about liturgical difference from period to period for the common life of the classes. Third, the author brings in case studies to clarify his major points. Finally, recapitulation is applied to reiterate the main points of his arguments.

This approach to Christian worship was very enlightening, teaching me, the reader, to look for different clues to liturgical life instead of simply looking at the monumental events and texted liturgy of the services themselves. It taught the reader to look outside the box. Further, it reminded me that major change takes time and, in an often-unorganized way, takes the cooperation of many people. Though there may be a handful of those who initiated the change (Apostle Paul, Luther, Charlemagne, etc.) power and approval must be behind the new ideology or liturgical practices. This approach to history breaks down the perspective that is often given in textbooks where the world changer is seen as a radical who voices his opinion and suddenly, at the snap of a finger, all is changed. Discourse in community allows for Christianization, hegemony, or de-Christianization to take place, whether a community is for new ideologies or against them.

In conclusion, as Stringer walks the reader throughout the history of Christian worship through the eyes of a sociologist, he opens the reader’s eyes to the popular discourses, changes and main case studies to support his claims. I found his approach surprisingly entertaining and applicable for my teaching context simply because society was emphasized instead of individuals. The discourses of society are what bring about change.

Stringer, Martin D. A Sociological History of Christian Worship.Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dyrness - A Primer on Christian Worship

Dyrness, William A. A Primer on Christian Worship: Where we’ve been, where we are, where we can go. Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009.

With great craft, Dyrness successfully braids historical worship, modern culture and theological discussion in his book A Primer on Christian Worship. His goal; to inform the reader that modern and historical worship differences, “style,” are more cultural, and subsequently the root of them all may very well be the beauty of the diverse members of Christ’s body, the Church, which will actually be reunited in the eschaton.

From the perspective of a Protestant Reformed tradition, Dyrness flies through the historical Medieval and Reformation church to modern worship styles, exploring the benefits of these streams of church history. This brings him to his definition of worship, “Christians believe that worship is (1) a set of culturally embedded and corporate practices (2) through which God forms them into the likeness of Christ, (3) in and through the story of Jesus Christ, (4) by the power of the Holy Spirit, in order that (5) they might live their lives to the glory of God”(45). Though lengthy, it is important since he frames the rest of his work around this definition.

Practical aspects follow for my teaching situation in three specific areas: First, the celebration of diversity in other cultural demographics. Since Dyrness suggests that the four fold patterns of worship should be at the heart of communal worship, any other cultural adaptations of worship actually enhance the larger community of saints. It is here we can start to taste the flavors, celebrating diversity, and further, worship knowing that we are celebrating the hospitality of God when we engage and worship together (125). Second, the praxis of Trinitarian worship individually and as a community is, “… a central means by which God forms us according to the story of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit” (73). Dyrness reminds the reader that worshiping is just as essential to our development as eating and sleeping. (114). Further, Trinitarian worship recognizes the “emanation” of God, his self giving desire manifested in various ways including Christ, the mediator of our faith, and through the Holy Spirit, the renewing person who allows the perichoresis (love) of God to be instilled in us. Finally, God will direct the theodramitic life in His great narrative. This breaks down the individualistic mindset of many Americans and shapes us as we dance, harmonizing our individual melodies with the melodies of God (107).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

First Blog

Thanks for stopping by! It is my hope to use this blog to address questions, talk about new music, and consider the Relational Church. It will be fun to explore the worship spectrum. Blessings! Jacob