While many members of the Ephesus Group in Wellington have shared in preparing and presenting the group’s liturgies, Ian Harris states that the prime energy and creative input came from his late wife, Jill, whose spirit lives on through this and her previous volume (reviewed April 2015).
These liturgies endeavour to bring alive the essential Christian story in ways that are credible for people in the 21st century. Anything less cannot be considered an authentic form of worship.
While drawing upon the literature, music and poetry that have come from Christian experience, an Ephesus liturgy takes into account insights emerging through scientific discoveries and advances in biblical scholarship.
This volume includes five liturgies
- Our Universe: Ourselves. These liturgies endeavour to create a sense of wonder at the formation of Earth and the evolution of human life. Readings conveying an understanding of modern cosmology find echoes in Jewish and Maori creation myths. Participants are invited to think about the moral consequences in the ways that human life impacts upon the world as, for example, in climate change and economic inequality.
- Midwinter liturgy. Winter is celebrated as the season when we prepare for new growth. A reflection on pruning encourages participants to think of the skeleton and structure of their life, what needs to be opened up for light and air, and how they want to reshape their life for new growth.
- For Deliverance from Illness. The emphasis is on thanksgiving. Medicines and ointments used in treatment are placed in a bowl and removed. The healed person’s hands are immersed in water as a symbol of healing.
- Three Days. A liturgy for Easter. This begins with the biblical account of the Passover supper and moves through the events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Participants endeavour to enter into the experience of those who were there and consider the human capacity for wickedness and cruelty. The story of the first Easter morning is read and the group consider biblical words pointing to a wholesome quality of life and how we offer salvation and redemption to each other.
- Christmas According to John. This is built around John’s gospel where there is no account of Jesus’ birth. It moves on to consider the ‘I am’ statements John attributes to Jesus and how these stir us to imagine how we may live the kingdom of God into reality. The miracle of Christmas is that those who share Jesus’ humanity can also share his vision and purpose. The lighting of candles one from the other expresses the action we must take in letting Christ’s light shine though us.
This volume includes orders that may be modified to suit local circumstances. There are also notes about setting up the space where a liturgy will occur, the practice of beginning with a light meal and of ensuring that room is made for silence, reflection and discussion.
The emphasis in these liturgies is to move Christian faith and theology away from a supernatural sphere into the real world where people live. This is a highly commendable objective and a challenge for all who have responsibility for shaping Christian worship.
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