With many people no longer growing up in the church, it can no longer be assumed that newcomers will know the Lord’s Prayer or how to respond when a celebrant says “The Lord be with you”.
It is partly with newcomers in mind that Church House has published a new book exploring the rich worship in the Church of England today.
“Words for Worship” is a succinct handbook offering easy-to-understand explanations of the prayers, responses, creeds and canticles that have been passed down by centuries of believers, many going back to medieval or early Christian times.
It includes a helpful glossary of terms and a brief history of the origin of the words for worship frequently used in the Church of England.
In the preface, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams notes that “where people are” is “most often quite a long way away from the world in which the language of the Church’s public worship is familiar”.
And yet that language continues to be a cherished part of the Church of England today, looked upon with fondness even within more informal Anglican churches that may not necessarily use them.
There is, the Archbishop notes, “certainly room for new material” but that does not mean the Church should cut itself off from its heritage.
He writes: “Acknowledging that many who are coming to our churches – especially to ‘fresh expressions’ of church life – have little or no background in the old forms of worship doesn’t mean that we have to patronise them or deny them the wealth that is there, out of a well-meaning but mistaken wish not to make things difficult.
“As men and women grow in love and understanding for God, they will need more and more resources to carry their thoughts and feelings and to feed their imaginations.
“This book offers material that has stood the test of time in Christian experience, and promises to enrich the discipleship of all who use these words.”
In addition to newcomers, it is hoped that the book will prove just as useful a resource for regular churchgoing Anglicans who would simply like to know more about the origin and backgrounds of the words that are so familiar.
There are explanations to some of the prayers from the Book of Common Prayer and another chapter offering a selection of classic collects for different seasons.
Writing in the Afterword, the Bishop of Wakefield and Chairman of the Liturgical Commission, the Rt Rev Stephen Platten said: “This book brings together just some of these prayers as well as giving us background to their origins and reflections as to their use.
“These landmarks belong to us all. They are there for us to pray, to absorb and to inhabit. We may already know some by heart.
“If not then we might decide we want to learn them to ‘carry around with us in our hearts.
“In this way, these prayers may help fashion our lives and the lives of those whom we encounter.”
On the web: www.chpublishing.co.uk/product.asp?id=2397986