I can warmly recommend this guide to worship leaders.
The back cover blurb describes the book as providing “worship resources for public occasions and major celebrations”, but this does not fairly reflect the contents as it covers the liturgies for addressing individuals or small groups to provide pastoral care as well as larger church and civic events.
The 60 page booklet can be divided into five sections:
- Two funeral liturgies, one in ‘religious’ language, the second in ‘nonreligious’.
- Features of contemporary liturgy, including the structure or order, style or choice of language, tone or mood.
- Creating liturgy together. This section discusses the role of the worship committee within the parish, and you will be rightly challenged if your church doesn’t have one. I like the realism of the conclusion: “My experience is that having a Worship Committee can be very helpful and means that a group in the congregation is more deeply engaged with what happens each Sunday. This happens, even if the Worship Committee only helps prepare one service a month.”
- The Power of Ritual Life. This section covers the pastoral needs of individuals and congregations. Topics include healing guilt, farewells to loved ones, sharing and naming hurts and pains. The author defines ‘personal rituals’ as rituals that mark an ordinary person’s journey. They tell them that that journey is significant – not something to be glossed over as though it does not matter. “Having someone to take you through a caring journey of reflection matters, when much of the rest of the world does not seem to have noticed the significance of a particular moment in your life, or it is a very private situation.”
- Public liturgies. Here the author includes two recent liturgies that have been widely used and appreciated in Australian churches: Service of Lament for Refugees and Prayers of Lament and Support for All who Have Been Abused.
These liturgies hold together both the personal and the political. They address issues of contemporary public debate and concern in the Australian community.
Where are similar liturgies in New Zealand churches?
They could address the same issues, or others such as: The Bicultural Journey, TPPA, rich and poor, a new flag, water – gift for us all.
This book is designed to help worship leaders, it is not a collection of liturgies to use. The author’s own liturgies can be found in several prayer collections, all of which are highly recommended. Echoes of Our Journey (1993) are liturgies that came from her time as minister at Pitt Street Uniting Church in Sydney.
Also recommended is the author’s autobiography Moving On: In the Life of Dorothy McRae-McMahon, an extraordinary story. It may be available in your local library.