Now on Kindle

Common Prayer: Reflections on Episcopal Worship is now available on Kindle.

You can get a look at the contents and read some samples on Amazon’s Paperback version page.

We hope this additional format will make these wonderful essays accessible to more people. Enjoy!

Happy St. Francis Day

Rachel Marie Stone, in her essay in Common Prayer, “God Bless Rocket and Bobo and Tigger,” names several reasons the Blessing of the Animals is a favorite worship service in many churches. One of those reasons is that the occasion helps us to know better and more about our human community members through gathering with the animal companions they love. She writes,

“I love watching the faces of the congregants on that day. As they carry small dogs and lead larger ones, as they lug crates with cats or rabbits or box turtles, I recognize a look of pride and amusement, of affection and something like satisfaction. It’s as if everyone has brought a part of themselves to church that’s usually left at home: the part that crochets on the couch whilst wearing pajamas and watching crime dramas; the part that reads middlebrow genre fiction in bed, hair askew; the part that fusses over animals in a high pitched voice that they’d never use at the office or at church. It’s as if our souls have come to church in their slippers and bathrobes. We’re less guarded, because how sophisticated and dignified can you be when you’re cradling a floppy-eared puppy, or toting a bunny in a box? I love that the service opens up—and shares—something in us that’s usually reserved for home.”

Stone is right.

I think of the parishioners I’ve known who seemed tough and even combative in church meetings, but now I’ve seen them cuddling their beloved rescue dog; the people who seem shy do the very vulnerable thing of introducing a pet and telling you all about them; the person who turns into an evangelist for her church by rounding up friends and neighbors to bring them to the blessing of the animals. How wonderful, and how in the spirit of St. Francis this seems. After all, the saint loved all creation and praised God for it, but wanted very much for us humans to learn how to love one another better. If it takes the help of our animal companions, here’s another reason to give thanks for them and bless them.

Reflection/Discussion Guide

We’ve put together questions and quotes for 8 topics addressed by the writers of Common Prayer: Reflections on Episcopal Worship as well as some general questions that can be used for reflection or discussion.  Feel free to use or adapt any of these that you find helpful or interesting. We would love to hear from you with other topics and questions that we can share with others.

Topic: Coming to the Episcopal Church

Several writers talk about coming, or coming back, to the Episcopal Church as adults.  (See essays by Rhonda Mawhood Lee, Melissa Deckman Fallon, Cameron Dezen Hammon, BJ Heyboer, Ian Markham, Kim Edwards, Amy Peterson, Rachel Marie Stone, Duane Miller, Luisa Bonillas).

Describe the role liturgy played in their journeys.

Describe your own journey in the church. Have you always been a part of the Episcopal Church or the church to which you now belong? Did you come from a different faith tradition? No particular tradition?  How did you come to be part of the church to which you now belong?  

Did the liturgy play a role in your becoming a church member? 

What keeps you in the church?

Some quotes from Common Prayer to consider:

I was baptized, but was I a Christian? What were the criteria?

Maybe the Book of Common Prayer could help. Flipping to page 299, “Holy Baptism,” my eye fell on the notes “Concerning the Service.” The first two lines settled my internal debate: “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble.” 

Indissoluble. It didn’t matter that my parents and godparents hadn’t brought me up in the church. It didn’t matter how long it had taken me to return to the Eucharist, or that Jesus had had to appear beside me on a Greek island to get my attention. God himself had made me a member of Christ’s Body, and no one could amputate me from it. 

                                                                          —Rhonda Mahwood Lee, “Indissoluble”

That night [Good Friday] I experienced a powerful sense of being re-membered in the drama of worship. With the exception of three people, I did not know anyone in that sacred space. But I felt like I belonged to God with them in a profound way. I participated in the liturgy with my whole being: hands, feet, legs, knees, ears, voice, lips, tears, body, mind, and spirit. In the silence of deep remembrance, I was recognized as a daughter of God and welcomed by others as a living member of Christ’s body. I had found my home in the Episcopal Church.

                                                       —BJ Heyboer, “Being Remembered in the Liturgy”

I learned the service inside out. It became a frame of reference where I could pray, cry, and think in the presence of God. The tradition was always front and center. I knew the Bible; and I loved the fact that Scripture was central. The sermon was not doing the heavy lifting of the service; for the Office, it was the canticles; for the Eucharist, it was The Great Thanksgiving. It became a perfectly fitting shoe. I also knew where I was in the liturgy, even if a word or phrase had triggered a “zoned out” moment where I offered some agony deep inside of me to God. The liturgy was providing God with some space to work on my fragile mind and life. God was bringing some healing to the vulnerable twenty-two-year-old.    

                      —Ian S. Markham, “How the Book of Common Prayer Kept Me in the Family of Faith”

Topic: Preparing for Worship

Several writers describe how they prepare for worship. (See the essays by Spencer Reece, Amy Peterson, Sophfronia Scott, Paul Fromberg, and Rodney Clapp).  

Are there any things their preparations have in common? Anything similar to how you prepare? What seems most helpful to them and to you as you prepare for worship? 

Some of them mention putting on particular garments. Is clothing part of your preparation? Is that helpful to you? If so, why? If not, why not? 

Imagine it’s your perfect day. There’s no rushing, no last minute scrambling, no distractions. What would your preparation for worship look like if you had time and energy to prepare the way you would like to?

Some quotes from Common Prayer to consider:

On this Sunday morning I’ve already changed shirts three times. I can’t figure out what would be comfortable in church on a hot summer day. At least one top I discard because I’ve remembered I’m serving as a chalice minister and the shirt’s collar would interfere with fastening the top button of the long black cassock I’ll wear underneath a white cotta. It takes me a few more minutes to figure out it doesn’t matter what I wear because I will be sweltering in the cassock and cotta. A t-shirt will suffice. 

Nothing about this morning is going well.                                     

  —Sophfronia Scott, “A Taste of Grace”

I enter the sacristy. I don my full-length cassock. I fasten the black buttons at the top. I cinch the black fabric belt around my waist with the fringe ends. I look quickly in the spotted mirror next to the cheap broken plastic clock where time is always stopped. I pull on my giant white surplice that billows like a parachute, then a tippet, a black scarf for morning prayer, which I kiss in the center as I was taught to do before it goes around my neck. Something about the idea of wearing a uniform appeals to me. A uniform for a profession that George Herbert said was characterized by love: he wrote in The Country Parson that “love was the business and the aim” for parsons. The uniform advertises that. What a magical thing to have a uniform that signals love.                         .           

  —Spencer Reece, “The Little Entrance”

Topic: Blessing

Four authors directly address the subject of blessing in their essays. (See the essays by Amy Peterson, C.K. Robertson, Duane A. Miller, and Rachel Marie Stone). 

Rachel Marie Stone writes, “What does the blessing mean? I find myself wondering, not just this blessing but every blessing.”  

How would you answer her question based on those essays? On your own experience?

Do other essays address the subject of blessing in some way? 

Some quotes from Common Prayer to consider:

We are called to be a blessing to others, but always because we are assured that God is already at work blessing us, strengthening us, helping us through the Spirit to put one foot in front of the other and, as the Apostle Paul put it, to “press on.”               

 —C. K. Robertson, “Blessed Heroes”

As we chanted the prayers, I wondered what the Christians from my childhood would think of this ritual. I grew up with low-church traditions: we popcorn-ed our prayers and we did not believe in symbols. We were gnostics, in many ways, and it wouldn’t have occurred to us to pray a blessing over rag rugs and faux-wooden floors and smudged windows; if we’d heard that people in some other church prayed such prayers, we’d have thought them silly and superstitious.                                                                               

—Amy Peterson, “A Beautiful Inheritance”

Topic: Eucharist

Several authors address the Eucharist. (See, for example, the essays by BJ Heyboer, Duane A. Miller, J. Neil Alexander, Fred Bahnson, Lauren Winner, Sophfronia Scott, Amy Richter, and Paul Fromberg). Lauren Winner, Sophfronia Scott, and J. Neil Alexander also address the eucharistic host/bread in particular.

Choose some essays to focus on. What is it they say is important about the Eucharist? What happens in the Eucharist? 

Of those who talk about the bread specifically, what is it they say about the particular form (e.g., wafer or bread)? Do you have a form you prefer? Why? What does it convey about the meaning of the Eucharist?

Is there something in one of the essays that opens something up for you about the Eucharist? Rings especially true or names something for you?

Some quotes from Common Prayer to consider:

If I went to a church that had holy communion only on rare occasions and did so only because they had not figured out a way around “do this,” I would starve to death. I require a regular diet of the Risen One, especially on Sundays.                         

—J. Neil Alexander “Of Sacraments and Sundays”

[T]his is when I realize: what feeds me best won’t always be simple and easy, like a pressed wafer. It will be messy and different. It will not be the same as it was months before because the Lord will have moved on to other things. I have to figure out how to follow. In this imperfection and brokenness I have to taste the Lord and trust.                        

—Sophfonia Scott, “A Taste of Grace”

If I want to understand that Jesus-in-the-Eucharist is real food, wouldn’t the better ritual object be a baguette or a stottie, rather than a wafer that feels and tastes like Kleenex stiffened with glue? At church, we sing “Bread of Heaven, on thee we feed, for thou art our food indeed,” and I find myself daydreaming about a parish bread guild; I imagine us baking ciabatta and Irish soda bread; I imagine Moravian love feasts.                                       

—Lauren Winner, “The Image Turns Back”

Topic: Childhood

Several writers reflect on childhood experiences in their essays. (See essays by Rhonda Mawhood Lee, J. Neil Alexander, C.K. Robertson, Cameron Dezen Hammon, Amy Peterson, Rachel Marie Stone, Ian Markham, Luisa Bonillas, Rodney Clapp, and Kathryn Greene-McCreight).  

Why do you think that is? Why does the subject of liturgy or worship lend itself to remembering childhood experiences?

Do any of these essays remind you of experiences, thoughts, or feelings from your own childhood?

Some quotes form Common Prayer to consider:

There are not many living creatures that are as helpless at the time of their birth as a human infant. As every parent knows all too well, a newborn requires everything, absolutely everything to be done for it! It has to be fed at the mother’s breast. It has to be changed by a loving father. It has to be entertained by an older sibling. Whatever the shape of the family that welcomes the child, and there are many, everyone is going to get into the act. Everything it needs must be provided by someone else. What’s more, the child has no capacity to earn any of this care and attention. 

The child also has to be carried to the font. What happens in the sacrament of baptism is something that this helpless hunk of flesh cannot ask for, prepare for, or earn in any way. It comes to the child as a totally free, unencumbered, unmerited, unfettered gift of love and grace.

                                                                                      —J. Neil Alexander, “Of Sacraments and Sundays”

Children play for no purpose. They simply have an abundance of energy and wonder, with which they engage one another and their world. They dance, skip rope, tussle with dogs, sing, build mud pies and dig holes, strut like their father or sashay like their mother, pretend in the garb of a parent or superhero, hide from and chase one another, bat and throw balls—all to no end and never as a means of production. If play produces anything, it is only more play. Children play to be, or, more precisely, simply as they be. They play without plans or rotas or to-do lists.

                                                                                                      —Rodney Clapp, “The Play of the People”

Topic: Baptism

Rhonda Mawhood Lee, J. Neil Alexander, Cameron Dezen Hammon, and Paul Fromberg reflect on the meaning of baptism in their essays.

Read through the liturgy for Baptism (starting on page 299 in the Book of Common Prayer).

What aspects of the meaning of baptism stand out for you in light of reading through the liturgy and these essays? What questions, if any, are raised for you? If you are baptized, what do you know about your own baptism? If you are a parent or sponsor, is there anything you would like to make sure the child you parent or godparent knows about their baptism and its meaning?

Some quotes from Common Prayer to consider:

I was baptized on the beach at Coney Island. I’d finally found my community.  

                                                    —Cameron Dezen Hammon, “Let Light Perpetual Shine Upon Them”

I was baptized as an infant at a Lutheran church in Montana, but my parents rarely took me to church. I didn’t know anything about Christianity. Didn’t know who Jesus was, didn’t know that Christmas was about his birth or Easter about his resurrection. It wasn’t until I was a teen living in Mexico that I really started to learn about Christianity after a friend from school invited me to a Bible church where his father was pastor.  

—Duane A. Miller, “Spreading Blessing to Those Who Don’t Work for It: Reflections of a Cross-Cultural Missionary”

Topic: Music

Music or hymns play a role in several essays. (See those by BJ Heyboer, Lauren Winner, Amy Richter, Joseph Pagano, Steve Fowl, Cameron Dezen Hammon, Luisa Bonillas, Melissa Deckman Fallon, Paul Fromberg). 

Choose an essay that especially spoke to you or your own experience. What role does music play in the experience of the writer? What does music do within the liturgy? What does it accomplish in the person? 

How would you describe the role of music in your experience of worship?

Some quotes from common prayer to consider:

I realized as a young child that music, perhaps as much as anything else, carries the faith and shapes the soul.                                                              

—J. Neil Alexander, “Of Sacraments and Sundays”

What happens on Sunday is always an adventure in grace. Sometimes the music shines even when rehearsal has not gone well. Sometimes we bungle a piece nailed in rehearsal. Sometimes we are in over our heads and we simply survive to sing another day. God takes what we offer and uses it to touch someone. Of course, many times the hard work of rehearsal combines with hearts tuned to the Spirit and the result is a glorious offering to God. Even such successes, however, are the working out of grace.                                       

—Stephen Fowl, “Singing in the Choir”

I appreciate the inevitable howling of some of the dogs during the congregational singing. Yes, canine friends: some of us are more tuneless than a blender, and we are not deterred in making our joyful noise unto the Lord. . . it seems that much of the howling is rather an attempt at joining in song, and when one dog starts, others join in. I love the variety of their howls—some deep, some high, some resonant, others thin—and it is so like (human) congregational singing that I can hardly keep it together: the way one starts and the rest chime in, with varying degrees of musicality. I like the frankness with which the dogs howl and their utter lack of decorum. . . I wonder what congregational worship would be like if we were all a little less self-conscious. I like how dogs and children are unafraid to sing themselves, as Walt Whitman might have said, and I like to see the owners’ amused embarrassment at their dogs’ ‘singing.’ I wish we all sang as bravely as our dogs do.                             

—Rachel Marie Stone, “God Bless Rocket and Bobo and Tigger”

Topic: Non-human Creation

Two contributors talked about liturgies involving non-human creation.  (See “God Bless Rocket and Bobo and Tigger,” by Rachel Marie Stone and “The Priest in the Trees,” by Fred Bahnson.)

Why do you think the authors think liturgies of the blessing of the animals and celebrating the eucharist in an outdoor worship space is important? Do you agree? 

Both essays also address the topic of sacred space. What do you think makes space sacred?  How does it affect our view of a place if we believe it to be sacred, or not?

Some quotes from Common Prayer to consider:

Minimally, then, the Blessing of the Animals indulges my childish longing to bring a pet with me everywhere, even church. I feel relaxed and happier with my cat on my lap or my dog at my feet, and I suspect that’s how lots of pet owners feel, and if that partly explains the swelled attendance at the Blessing of the Animals. I wonder how many more people would attend morning worship regularly if they could bring their dog with them every time.       

                                                               —Rachel Marie Stone, “God Bless Rocket and Bobo and Tigger”

If Christianity is going to confront climate change, perhaps it needs to rewild itself, go feral. What the faith has to offer first is not protest or activism, people like Blackmer show us, though it may lead there. It is leitourgia. The work of the people. And the work of the people now is this: Keep the land holy.                                                                                 

—Fred Bahnson, “The Priest in the Trees”

General Questions:

Share a favorite quote from the book. Why did this quote stand out?

Describe the character of God as you see God being described in the essays of this book.

What feelings or memories did this book evoke for you?

What do you think of the book’s title? How does it relate to the book’s contents?

What other title might you choose?

What do you think the editors’ purpose was in putting this book together? 

If you were illustrating this book, what kinds of illustrations would you include?

What did you already know about worship in the Episcopal Church before you read this book?

What new things did you learn?

What questions did the book leave you with?

Which essay could you most relate to and why?

Do you think any of the essays could be expanded into a full-length book?

If you would like to receive a pdf or word doc version of these topics, send us an email and we will be happy to send you one. Don’t worry, we won’t share your email with anyone.

Students at the College of Transfiguration in Makhanda/Grahamstown, South Africa

On Baptism and primary loyalty

It was one of those conversations that started before Sunday worship, just as we were waiting for the bell to ring and the opening anthem to begin, and goes all unwieldy.

In fact, it didn’t start as a conversation, it was a simple declaration by the parishioner. He was just giving me information. There had been a funeral the day before and I guess seeing me brought the subject to mind and he thought he should take the opportunity to make his views known: “At my funeral, I’m going to have a casket, and the casket is going to be draped in the American flag.”

He was a dear parishioner, faithful in worship, an active usher, and proud of his military service to his country. Our country.

A wise priest would have kept her wits about her and said, “I’m so glad you are thinking about making plans ahead of time for your funeral. I would be happy to talk about your plans and get them recorded for the church for when the time comes. Why don’t you call the church office . . .”

But no, I thought I would address his statement right there and then. I thought I could quickly give him a little information about the funeral liturgy and the meaning of baptism on the spot. He would begin worship with a new understanding, and I would have dropped a pearl of Episcopal wisdom in time for the Venite.

So I told him that our practice is you may have your casket draped in a flag on the way into the church and on the way out, but in the narthex, the flag will be removed and replaced for the liturgy by a white funeral pall, a symbol of our baptism. We come before God and find our primary identity as children of God, claimed as belonging to Jesus Christ in our baptism, not as American citizens. Our earthly citizenship may be very important to us, but it’s not the most important thing about us. Our country is not the kingdom of our primary allegiance.

That response did not go over well. Then the bell rang. Then I remembered to invite him to visit and discuss his plans.

I would still say the same things, but not at the same moment. And I would, I hope, better understand how emotionally laden the topic is, not just because we were talking about funeral planning, but because we were talking about loyalty and identity.

There are Episcopal parishes where you are allowed to have a flag instead of a pall (I googled it. I didn’t learn about this in seminary). I don’t think this is good practice, for a bunch of reasons, including the fact that when I come before God after my death, my only hope is to be wrapped in is the robe of Christ’s righteousness, not the red, white, and blue, or maple leaf (the flags of the two countries in which I hold legal citizenship). I’m good with the pall. I’m good with belonging first and foremost to Jesus, who apparently has sheep of other folds as well as sheep who want to be draped in other flags.

I recently read a really good novel by Rodney Clapp, one of the contributors to Common Prayer. The novel is The Second Baptism of Albert Simmel. Set in the future, after petroleum supplies have run out, Albert is on a journey through what used to be called Old America. As he travels on his particular quest, he meets people and finds himself in predicaments that cause him to reflect on his faith.

At one point he finds himself listening to a very popular prophet and preacher who, according to Albert, is telling untruths to his audience, both historical untruths and the claims that “God’s most important institution on the face of the earth is the family,” and that “America is the country where fathers can most truly be fathers, mothers can most truly be mothers, and children can truly be children of God.”

Following the prophet’s address, a time for affirmations and rebuttals is offered and Albert goes to the microphone. He says in part,

“Now, please hear me. I am not saying Jesus meant to eliminate the family. It’s clear that Jesus adored children. He hated divorce. He loved and respected his mother. What I am saying is that Jesus rearranged our loyalties. We are to be loyal to our families, to our country, but we are to be loyal first and above all to the kingdom of God, the kingdom of God revealed in Israel and in Jesus Christ. In the short time I have to speak, let me ask you to think about one thing. Think about your baptism. You, we, have been baptized into the body of Jesus Christ. And our baptisms were declarations of loyalty, loyalty first and last to Jesus Christ and the kingdom he inaugurated and will one day bring to its fullness. Paul says nothing is more basic than baptism. He says being slave or free is not more basic. He’s says being male or female is not more basic. He says being Jewish or the member of any nation is not more basic. For those of us who have been baptized in Christ, and I know that includes many of you, our root, our true, our most fundamental identity and loyalty has been named. And that is an identity and loyalty rooted in Christ, Christ alone. . .

“If that is so, we cannot say that our family, our kinship is the most important thing about us. It is important, but it is not more important than our baptism. The water of baptism is thicker than the blood of kinship. And we cannot say that being American is the most important thing about us. It is important that we are Americans, but we belong first and foremost to another polity, the polity of the apostolic church. Our founding document is not the Constitution of the United States but the Bible.

“So I ask you, when you wonder who you are, to think on your baptism. When you sort out your deepest loyalties, think on your baptism And when you ask what social bodies, what polities, point first and foremost to the gospel and the kingdom of God, think on your baptism.”

The preacher disagrees strongly with Al and responds in part, “I ask you further, sir, are you an American? Are you a patriot? Or do you use my Jesus as the refuge of a scoundrel, a man disloyal to his country? If so, . . . I say again: UNHAND MY JESUS!”

Al replies, “It is not a matter of ‘your Jesus’ or ‘my Jesus.’ If Jesus is Lord, he is Lord of all and not just of you or me. If Jesus is Lord, he is not in my hands or your hands–rather, it is you or I or us who are in his hands.”

Al has more clarity about his beliefs and his need to express them, but the crowd is unconvinced. Al goes on his way, the crowd “giving him the wide berth of a contagious leper.”

Read the whole scene, the whole novel sometime. Lots of food for thought and conversation here.

“Like Jesus’ Stubborn Love for the Church”

Giving thanks today for the gift of marriage to Joe Pagano for 29 years and reflecting on this quote by the late Rachel Held Evans. We are definitely clumsy and imperfect, but even in our stumbling and mistakes, God is giving us great joy.

Marriage is not an inherently holy institution. And it cannot magically be made so by the government, by a priest, or even by the church. Rather, marriage is a relationship that is made holy, or sacramental, when it reflects the life-giving, self-sacrificing love of Jesus. All relationships and vocations—marriage, friendship, singleness, parenthood, partnership, ministry, monastic vows, adoption, neighborhoods, families, churches—give Christians the opportunity to reflect the grace and peace of the kingdom of God, however clumsily, however imperfectly. For two people to commit themselves not simply to marriage, but to a lifetime of mutual love and submission in imitation of Christ is so astounding, so mysterious, it comes close to looking like Jesus’ stubborn love for the church.
―Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church 

Dog Church

My husband’s first time leading worship and preaching at his new church in Baltimore was the same Sunday as their annual Blessing of the Animals. The congregation of Emmanuel Church was very welcoming of all, including animals, so, unlike in some churches that hold a service where animals are blessed, at Emmanuel, pets were present in worship, in church, for the entire Eucharist.

I thought this set a pretty high bar for their new priest. He had worked very hard on the sermon, his first that the whole congregation would hear, as he always does. He might be nervous about the usual stuff: would people be able to hear him? Would they understand what he was trying to say? Would they get his jokes?

But a congregation that also included dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters, cockatiels, and whatever other pets people had with them in the pews, offered the possibility of monumental chaos as well.

I’m happy to report that the sermon and whole service went well. No fights broke out between animals (or people). The pets were very well-behaved and pretty quiet throughout, except for a couple of dogs joining in on some hymns. Some animals were so still and quiet I didn’t really notice their presence. For instance, the woman I was seated directly behind with the unusually thick grey hair turned out to be a standard poodle with a cut that looked like a quirky triangular bob. It wasn’t until she turned her head part way through the sermon and I glimpsed her profile that I realized my mistake.

While many Episcopal Churches I’ve served and worshipped with offer a blessing of the animals, this is the only one I’ve attended where animals came into the nave and stayed for the whole time. What’s your experience?

Rachel Marie Stone writes in her beautiful essay “God Bless Rocket and Bobo and Tigger” about her love of the Blessing of the Animals liturgy (and that animals are invited into the church building where she worships). She writes

I love watching the faces of the congregants on that day. As they carry small dogs and lead larger ones, as they lug crates with cats or rabbits or box turtles, I recognize a look of pride and amusement, of affection and something like satisfaction. It’s as if everyone has brought a part of themselves to church that’s usually left at home: the part that crochets on the couch whilst wearing pajamas and watching crime dramas; the part that reads middlebrow genre fiction in bed, hair askew; the part that fusses over animals in a high pitched voice that they’d never use at the office or at church. It’s as if our souls have come to church in their slippers and bathrobes. We’re less guarded, because how sophisticated and dignified can you be when you’re cradling a floppy-eared puppy, or toting a bunny in a box? I love that the service opens up—and shares—something in us that’s usually reserved for home.

We were recently in Staunton, Virginia and saw this sign, welcoming dogs and their people to a worship service at Second Presbyterian Church.

You can find out more about worship for you and your dog http://secondstaunton.com/2019/06/dog-church-june-30th-4-p-m/here. Looks like fun!

It made us smile.

The Episcopal Church offers several prayers and liturgies for pets and other animals. Here are links to some of them:

Prayers Suitable for Use in Church or for Other Gatherings, at the Adoption, Illness, Loss, or Death of Companion, Service, or Other Beloved Animals

Service at the Loss of a Beloved Animal

St. Francis Day Resources

An Interview about Common Prayer

Here’s an interview we recently did with the publishers of Common Prayer.

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

Increasingly, people inside and outside the church wonder why they should worship. The pulls of family life, sports, and employment raise questions about why spend one’s valuable time in common prayer. We asked a group of talented writers to offer personal and provocative essays about their experience of worship. In a certain sense, we wanted a collection of testimony for why regular worship is essential, irreplaceable, transformative. 

How is this book different from other books about worship?

There are many fine books about the history and theology of worship. These tend to be abstract, objective, general. We wanted a collection of very strong and distinctive voices, personal essays, first-person accounts that provide entrees into the experience of common prayer through the particularities of flesh and blood lives. We call it theological memoir.

How did you select the contributors?

We wanted a collection that reflects the variety of people and experiences one finds in The Episcopal Church. The writers include academics, priests, lay people, fiction writers, non-fiction writers, musicians, acolytes, missionaries, vestry members, poets. The most important thing was that they be willing to be put themselves out there and share something personal.

You edited this book while teaching theology at an Anglican College in South Africa. How did that context shape your experience of working on this book?

It brought home the gift of common prayer, shared forms and patterns of worship. The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican tradition and our prayers and liturgies are similar all over the world. Our experiences of worship in South Africa were both familiar and unfamiliar. That’s similar to what we experienced as we read the essays for this book—people opened up the familiar and shed light on differences.

Is this book just for Episcopalians and Anglicans?

Not at all. One of the great gifts of excellent memoir is that through people’s sharing the particulars of their lives, and in this case, experiences of Episcopal worship, readers are drawn in to reflect on their own lives. That is, the particular opens a door to the universal. So people who worship in other denominations or are curious about Christian worship, as well as Episcopalians, can find inspiration for their own reflections on encounters with the divine.

There are pictures in this book. Why? 

Our great editor at Wipf and Stock, Robin Parry, suggested that since these are personal essays, it would be good to put the faces of the writers with the stories. We are so glad he did.

Students at the College of Transfiguration in Makhanda/Grahamstown

An Excerpt From Common Prayer

There are several wonderful books about the theology and development of liturgy. This isn’t one of them. In this book, we gather insights about worship by a number of people in the Episcopal Church who are bold enough to try to find language to describe how worship has formed them, surprised them, amazed them, comforted or confronted them; or rather, how God has done that through Episcopal liturgy. 

We are priests, people who get asked the questions priests get asked: Why worship? Why at that time? In that place? With those words? Sometimes the questions are asked as challenges, other times in wonderment or bafflement, particularly by people who aren’t as in the habit of showing up in church on Sundays as we are. These essays don’t so much answer these questions as they name some truths, some longing, some Love we know we can’t live without.

We originally envisioned this collection as focused on the experience of worship on Sundays, with the working title “Sunday Morning: Reflections on Episcopal Worship.” Some authors, appropriately, ventured beyond Sundays, and the book is all the richer for it. Hence the title Common Prayer.

In these pages, Spencer Reece dresses for his little entrance; Rhonda Mawhood Lee falls in love with Jesus by flashlight; J. Neil Alexander confesses that he is a Sunday-keeper; Sophfronia Scott gets a taste of grace; Lauren Winner wonders what the deal is with communion wafers; Rodney Clapp plays on Sundays; Melissa Deckman Fallon worries she is a bad Episcopalian; Steve Fowl provides a view from the choir; Amy Richter believes in demons; Cameron Dezen Hammon wants to belong to something; Duane Miller sweats in the calid Spanish summer; Paul Fromberg dances in friendship with God; Michael Battle ponders Zen-like riddles and bubble gum-blowing acolytes; BJ Heyboer finds a home at the foot of the cross; Ian Markham tries to be an atheist but fails; Kim Edwards realizes there is no such thing as ordinary time; Luisa E. Bonillas crosses the US-Mexico border every Sunday to go to church; worship saves Joe Pagano’s marriage; Kathryn Greene-McCreight smears ashes on her children’s foreheads; C. K. Robertson blesses heroes; Batman, Robin, and Supergirl show up for the blessing of Amy Peterson’s home; Rachel Stone longs to bring her pets with her everywhere, including church; and Fred Bahnson recounts the legendary chainsaw Eucharist.

We asked this group of writers to engage in an exercise of theological memoir, to write in their own strong, distinct voices about their experiences of Episcopal worship. We were both thrilled with and awed by the result: personal essays that are funny, vulnerable, faithful; people telling of loss, joy, play, belonging, love. This way of writing is risky. But so is engaging whole-heartedly in worship. These authors show us that this way of writing, this way of worshiping, this way of living is worth it. They share their flesh and blood lives with us and we meet the God who meets us in worship. This shouldn’t surprise us. In worship, Jesus shares his flesh and blood life with us; he pours himself out so we may have life and have life more abundantly.

Through the particularity of their reflections on life and worship, we don’t just get to know the authors. There are twenty-three authors in this collection, but the main character who emerges is the God we know in Jesus Christ, the God of, as Steve Fowl puts it, “unrelenting and eager openness.” This book is an invitation to risk offering the particularities of your own life in the worship of the same God.

Praise for Common Prayer

“This gracefully edited collection is a window into the transformative experience of shared liturgy in all its particularity, difficulty, and beauty. May these honest reflections open the eyes of our faith.”

—Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion  and City of God: Faith in the Streets

“If Anglicanism claims to be catholic and reformed, then this winsome volume has the best of both: catholic in liturgy, protestant in testimony. Open this volume and meanwhile open your heart to be strangely warmed by the quirky, the moving, the profound, and the playful.”

—Sam Wells, Vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London

“In these pages you will see the Way of Jesus—the Way of Love—in reflections and recollections that both move the heart and inspire the spirit.”

—The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church

 Find out more: www.wipfandstock.com http://www.common-prayer.net

Available at Wipf and Stock and on Amazon.


Great Words about Worship

What is worship? What happens when we worship?

Here are 10 great Quotes about Worship from contributors to Common Prayer.

It is too easy to think that the success of our worship depends on the choir, or the preacher, or the celebrant when it really depends on God’s unrelenting and eager openness to our offerings. Remember, this is the God to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid.

Stephen Fowl, “Singing in the Choir”

In worship, in holy play, we engage in a game with one another and most of all with God. There is no end or purpose to it. It is a glorious waste of time.

Rodney Clapp, “The Play of the People”

As I kneel and stand, sing and pray, my voice melds with a hundred other voices, and time falls away.

Kim Edwards, “Ordinary Time”

I participated in the liturgy with my whole being: hands, feet, legs, knees, ears, voice, lips, tears, body, mind, and spirit. In the silence of deep remembrance, I was recognized as a daughter of God and welcomed by others as a living member of Christ’s body.

BJ Heyboer, “Being Remembered in the Liturgy”

If worship is about participation in the self-giving love of the triune God that liberates and creates new life, then that means we must also share in God’s solidarity with the vulnerable and God’s hope for the whole creation.

Michael Battle, “The Sound of One Hand Clapping”

Episcopal worship is far from passive. It is engaging and physical: a workout for body, mind, and spirit.

Melissa Deckman Fallon, “Bad Episcopalian”

The Sunday liturgy ingrains in us the gracious, ineffable scheme of God to pour out God’s saving love for a world that has lamentably and with pronounced consistency turned its face away from God.

Duane A. Miller, “Spreading Blessing to Those Who Don’t Work for It: Liturgical Reflections of a Cross-Cultural Missionary”

[W]ithin the liturgy, God has space to heal, help, and illuminate.

Ian Markham, “How the Book of Common Prayer Kept Me in the Family of Faith”

The Risen One gives himself to me, not just theoretically, but sacramentally. I feed upon the fullness of his risen life and it nourishes both soul and body. It is not for me commemorative, but generative. It makes me me, in Christ.

J. Neil Alexander, “Of Sacraments and Sundays”

We join in worship and service, creating a community that shares the unconditional welcome offered at Jesus’s table.

Paul Fromberg, “Dancing in Friendship with God”

Finding Home

Meet Luisa Bonillas, author of “Finding Home.”

Luisa Bonillas lives in Arizona with her family (pictured here). She received her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and her PhD from Arizona State University. Her focus was twentieth century American History and her dissertation topic was a History of Women of Color at Wellesley College, 1966-2001. Luisa joined The Episcopal Church in 1996 and has worked for a mission, parish, cathedral, diocese, and the wider church.

Q & A with Luisa Bonillas

Q: What are your two favorite hymns:

A: “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation”—the organ sounds amazing! It is what traditional Episcopal worship music sounds like to me. Listening to it for the first time at St Paul’s Cathedral back in 2007 in San Diego brought tears to my eyes. 

“Montaña” by Dr. Sandra Montes- In my eyes this song brings Latino Ministry to the Episcopal Church. Listened to it for the first time at my first General Convention (2006) and I felt such deep pride to be a Latina in the church.

Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?

A: My favorite worship service is the Great Vigil. It is the first service of Easter. It begins in darkness before a fire is ignited in the sanctuary. It is held the Saturday before Easter and allows us to welcome the Easter Season after a period of darkness. The service allows us to renew our Baptismal vows. 

Q: The Episcopal Church is in the process of developing a new translation of the Book of Common Prayer 1979 into Spanish. Is there anything you think the translators should keep in mind as they work on this?

A: I think we need to keep in mind that Spanish is varied depending on where your family is from. Ask for lots of opinions. It will not be perfect for anyone and that is okay. 

Q: In your essay, you reflect on the power of hearing familiar words from your childhood and sharing them with your own children. Are there particular hymns or prayers in addition to the Lord’s Prayer that hold a similar significance for you?

A: I have struggled with the reality that we do not currently attend a Spanish service. We made this difficult decision when our daughter was in high school and the amount of homework that she had on the weekends was so much that we really could not justify attending two church services at two different locations (one in English and one in Spanish) every Sunday. I love all of the songs that are sung during a Spanish service. “Alabaré” is very commonly sung in Spanish services and the song holds a special place in my heart. It is something I grew up singing in church services and it helps to bring me back to my childhood. 

Q: Are there any links you would like us to share, such as your Facebook page?

A: My Facebook page is really a tribute to my two amazing children. It is where I highlight all of their many amazing milestones. They are 18 and 22 and they have both been very involved in the Episcopal Church. I have about 2,000 Facebook friends, about half Episcopal Church-related and about half Wellesley College-related. 

The Way of Jesus in These Pages

Grateful to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry for his endorsement of Common Prayer: Reflections on Episcopal Worship:

“In these pages you will see the Way of Jesus—the Way of Love—in reflections and recollections that both move the heart and inspire the spirit.” 


The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
    Presiding Bishop & Primate of
    The Episcopal Church 

Thank you also to David Copley, Director of Global Partnerships and Mission Personnel for the Episcopal Church, for this photo, taken during the Presiding Bishop’s visit to Johannesburg, South Africa in February 2019.

Kathryn Greene-McCreight: Ashes

Meet Kathryn Greene-McCreight, author of “Ashes.”

Kathryn Greene-McCreight, PhD, is a Priest Affiliate at Christ Church Episcopal, New Haven where she also serves as a spiritual director to Saint Hilda’s House. She is a mentor with Berkeley Divinity School’s Annand Program at Yale Divinity School. Kathryn’s most recent books include Darkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness, Revised Edition (Brazos, 2015), and I Am With You: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book, 2016, (Bloomsbury, 2016). Kathryn is co-chair of the Patient and Family Advisory Council of Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital, and is on the board of the Elm City Affiliate of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).  She has two adult children, and lives in New Haven with her husband and goldendoodle.

Q and A with Kathryn Greene-McCreight

Q: What are your favorite hymns?

A: One of my favorites is “Love Divine All Loves Excelling” (Hymnal 1982 #657).  We sang it at our wedding 35 years ago, and I can never make it through singing it without tearing up. Among my other favorites are: “My Song is Love Unknown” (#458), especially verses 4 and 7. I also deeply identify with the lyrics of Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” (#112). Two converts to Catholicism have written hymns that move me deeply: “Lead Kindly Light Amidst the Grey and Gloom” (by John Henry Newman) and “I Shall Not Want” (by Audrey Assad). 

Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?

A: I am not a “cradle” Episcopalian.  Because my first experience of Episcopal worship was as an adult, I remember it distinctly. Technically speaking, I come to the Episcopal Church through the Anglican Church, more precisely, through the Church of England. 

Over the years, I have fallen in love with the BCP’s collects.  My favorite, maybe not surprisingly, is the Collect for Proper 28:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer that I find most profoundly preaches the Gospel is the Easter Vigil, and also Burial Rite I.  The Daily Office keeps me spiritually safe and sound.

Q: In your essay, “Ashes,” you reflect on some experiences you’ve had while traveling. Do you have favorite places you’ve visited? Places that have made the biggest impact on you?

Photo by Kathryn Greene-McCreight from the Camino de Santiago
Photo by Kathryn Greene-McCreight. Image referred to in “Ashes.”

A: I spent my junior year of college studying towards my major in Romance Languages and Literatures. The Fall semester I was in Madrid, and the Spring semester in Paris. During my time in Madrid I lived with Trinitarian nuns, and through them my Protestant caricature of Roman Catholicism was transformed. While I was in Paris, a friend invited me to her (ex-pat) Anglican church, and there I had my first taste of the Via Media.

Because the understanding of the sacraments in the church of my childhood was Reformed, communion was taken only quarterly. Deacons distributed cubes of Pepperidge Farm bread on silver trays lined with white linen to parishioners who sat quietly in their pews. The cup was not common: deacons served grape juice in individual cups.  

At St Michael’s, Paris, the differences were stunning. The bread that resembled a French franc more than it did my daily baguette and the heady aroma of wine in the common cup were alien to me. But the simple act of coming forward and kneeling to receive the Eucharist with that bodily posture of both penitence and thanksgiving profoundly moved me.   

Years later, after my doctoral work and ordination in the United Church of Christ (too complicated a narrative to recount here), my first priestly ministry was in an Episcopal Church that located itself in Anglican Evangelicalism. In more recent years, I have been drawn to Anglo-Catholicism. Ironically, maybe, I have found it to be more biblical than my childhood Reformed piety, even with its own appeal to sola scriptura

Q: You clearly love words and uncovering for your readers the striking word plays in the Bible. Are there words that you especially like to carry with you or to offer to others?

A: Psalm 27:1

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?

The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?

A parishioner said long ago that I “gave” him this psalm.  All I did was read it to him as he was about to go in for quadruple bypass surgery (he lived many healthy years beyond that, thanks be to God).  The Psalms are powerful.

Years later, I tried to recite this verse to myself as I was in an ambulance being transferred to the hospital after complications from a stroke (I have lived many healthy years beyond that, thanks be to God).  I could recall only the first clause: “The LORD is my light…” That was enough.  The Psalms are powerful.

Q: What projects are you working on now? 

A: I am presently working at a snail’s pace on a commentary on Galatians for the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible.  I think I would have finished the commentary by now had I been assigned a book from the Old Testament. The TANAK challenges and fascinates me with its vast narratives, its tangled legal codes, its eloquent poetry and wisdom, and even its humor. (Who says the Bible is not funny?). In contrast, the New Testament seems so obvious.

I am also now under contract to write a very short book on a huge topic: Forgiveness.

I participate in the Storytelling Project at Yale-New Haven Hospital for training staff, employees, and volunteers. I occasionally Skype into various academic and church audiences for lectures and presentations, and am open to invitations.

Find out more about Kathryn:

Brazos Authors’ Blog Interview

Academia.edu Personal Website

Amazon Personal Author’s page

Check out Kathryn’s books:

Cameron Dezen Hammon: Let Light Perpetual Shine Upon Them

Meet Cameron Dezen Hammon, author of “Let Light Perpetual Shine Upon Them.”

Cameron Dezen Hammon is a writer and musician whose work has appeared in EcotoneThe RumpusThe Literary ReviewThe ButterBrevity’s Nonfiction Blog, The Houston Chronicle, and elsewhere. Her essay “Infirmary Music” was named a notable in The Best American Essays 2017, and she is the host of The Ish podcast.

Q and A with Cameron Dezen Hammon

Q: What are your two favorite hymns or songs for worship?

A: My favorite hymns are usually not hymns but just regular songs that transport me. One is “Mary” by Patty Griffin. “Mary, you’re covered in roses, you’re covered in ashes, your covered in rain, your covered in babies . . . Jesus said ‘Mother, I couldn’t stay another day longer’ . . . Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place.” It’s about how Mary, the mother of God, was a mother like any. It’s also about the often invisible emotional and spiritual labor that mothers—that women—perform. That song destroys me every time I hear it. My favorite actual hymn is How Great Thou Art. We do it a bit differently at our jazzy Rite II service—uptempo, with a New Orleans Second-line style arrangement. I love it. 

Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?

A: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, 
and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our 
hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may 
perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; 
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Q: As a musician who leads worship, are there go-to principles or guidelines you use when choosing music for worship? 

A: I try to choose music that moves me first, because if I’m not connecting to it I don’t think the congregation will either. Sometimes I try to choose songs that reflect the readings but often they align whether I plan them like that or not. 

Q: Some worship leaders say it can be challenging to worship while leading worship. What’s helpful for you?

A: My job is to walk toward, and invite others to come with me, to walk with me. But whether or not I’m “feeling” it or “worshipping” in every moment, doesn’t matter, I don’t think. Or, I hope it doesn’t. A friend of mine once described leading worship as channeling affections, as reflecting the love of the congregation back to God. That’s what I try to do—to simultaneously get out of the way while leading the way. 

Q: What project are you working on now?

A: My first book, This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession, will be published by Lookout Books this year. 

Cameron is the host of The Ish podcast. You can find out more about Cameron on her website.

Cameron’s book is now available. Find out more:

Pre-order on Amazon

Find Cameron’s music on Amazon

Fred Bahnson: The Priest in the Trees

Meet Fred Bahnson, author of “The Priest in the Trees.”

Fred Bahnson lives with his wife and three sons in Transylvania County, North Carolina and teaches at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity where he directs the Food, Health, & Ecological Well-being Program. His awards include a Pilgrimage Essay Award, a William Raney scholarship in creative nonfiction at Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, a Kellogg Food & Community fellowship, and a North Carolina Artist fellowship in creative nonfiction from the NC Arts Council.

Q and A with Fred Bahnson

Q: What are your two favorite hymns or songs for worship?

A: “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” and “What Wondrous Love.” I like modal and minor keys, those somber dirges that remind me of Jesus’ self-emptying. 

Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?  

A: I like the Daily Office, which for a few months I was praying with my three young sons before school, but lately we’ve been eschewing words and have been sitting together in prayerful silence. I’m trying to help them listen for God beneath the words. Based on their fidgety movements I’m not sure how well that’s working. I also love the service of Evensong. 

Q: What projects are you working on now? 

A: At the moment I’m working on two long magazine pieces. One is an essay and film project for Emergence magazine about Ethiopia’s church forests. That piece will be out in their “Tree” issue in Fall, 2019. The second is a long piece I’m reporting for Harper’s about what I’m calling “the contemplative turn” taking place within American Christianity. And I’ve just published a long essay on Thomas Merton and pilgrimage. In May 1968 Merton took a 2-week road trip out West. This past May, 50 years later, I set out to follow in his steps. I took along my friend Jeremy Seifert, a documentary filmnmaker, who made a beautiful 11-minute film about our journey. Both appeared recently in the “Faith” issue of Emergence, which you can read here.

Q: Your essay includes reflection on worship out of doors. Do you have an experience of worship either inside a building or outside a building that has been especially meaningful for you–where the setting has contributed in some way to the worship in that place? 

A: As I’m writing this it’s Tuesday of Holy Week, which reminds me of a very powerful Holy Week I spent in 2001 in a tiny hillside village in Chiapas, Mexico. All the services were outside. When we knelt for prayer we knelt in the dirt. There was something elemental, painful, invigorating, and grounding about kneeling on the ground to pray. The hardened dirt, the tiny rocks digging into my bare knees. My hope with this essay is that it will ignite people’s ecological imaginations and make us fall in love again with the more-than-human world, and to do that we need physical contact. Long distance love affairs don’t work. At this time in the human story, rekindling that love affair with the world outside our door may be our only hope.

Q: The subject of your essay describes his love of the Psalms. Do you have a favorite biblical passage or one that especially informs the work that you do? 

A: I love the Psalms, I love Isaiah, the Gospels. Paul not so much, though I do love Colossians 1 for its vision of a cosmic salvation. I return often to that beautiful image in Revelation 21 where we see God descending to dwell among mortals. Rather than anemic souls getting raptured to heaven, we’re given an image of God getting raptured down to Earth, where God will dwell with us in a Garden City. And growing on either side of the River of Life is the Tree of Life with its twelve kinds of fruit, a tree “whose leaves shall be for the healing of the nations.” It’s a lovely ending to the scriptural narrative, this image of God’s healing coming through, not around, Creation. As New Testament scholar Barbara Rossing says, Creation is a conduit for divine healing. Especially now in the Anthropocene when we’ve realized that humans have fundamentally altered the bone structure of the Earth, we need to hang onto these scriptural images that show God’s healing flowing through the leaves of a tree.

Fred Bahnson is the author of Soil & Sacrament (Simon & Schuster) and co-author with Norman Wirzba of Making Peace with the Land (IVP).  His essays have appeared in HarpersOxford American, Image, Orion, The Sun, Christian Century, and Best American Spiritual Writing (Houghton Mifflin). 

Fred is on Twitter: @fredbahnson

Check out Fred’s books:

Find Soil and Sacrament at Indiebound


Find Making Peace with the Land at Indiebound.

About Common Prayer


Why worship? In this superb new collection of essays, lay people, clergy, poets, theologians, musicians, novelists, and scholars offer personal, profound, and provocative reflections on their experience of worship in The Episcopal Church. Through their flesh-and-blood stories of longing, loss, and love, we encounter the God who meets us in common prayer. 

“If Anglicanism claims to be catholic and reformed, then this winsome volume has the best of both: catholic in liturgy, protestant in testimony. Open this volume and meanwhile open your heart to be strangely warmed by the quirky, the moving, the profound, and the playful.”

Sam Wells, Vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London

“In these pages you will see the Way of Jesus—the Way of Love—in reflections and recollections that both move the heart and inspire the spirit.” 

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
    Presiding Bishop & Primate of
    The Episcopal Church 


“This gracefully edited collection is a window into the transformative experience of shared liturgy in all its particularity, difficulty, and beauty. May these honest reflections open the eyes of our faith.”
 

Sara Miles
author of Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion  and City of God: Faith in the Streets.


“In an age where the cacophony of uncertainty and despair seems to come from everywhere,  this collection of essays provides the assurance that when the many voices are lifted in praise together, hope is certain to emerge. Everyone who cares about the health and future of the church will be excited to turn to this resource, which so beautifully answers the question, ‘Why do we still need the church?'”

Pan Conrad, clergy-in-charge at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Glen Burnie, MD, and scientific co-investigator to the NASA Mars Science Laboratory and Mars 2020 missions.

Editors of this collection, Joseph S. Pagano and Amy E. Richter are Episcopal priests, appointed missionaries for The Episcopal Church, and serve as lecturers in theology at the College of Transfiguration in Makhanda/Grahamstown, South Africa. They are married to each other and keep a blog about their ministry as Episcopal Volunteers in Mission at joeandamygotoafrica.com

Meet the Authors of Common Prayer.

Rodney Clapp: The Play of the People

Meet Rodney Clapp, author of “The Play of the People.”

Rodney Clapp is an editor at Cascade Books. He and his wife pray at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

Q & A with Rodney Clapp

Q: What are your two favorite hymns or songs for worship?

A: There are so many. But what comes immediately to mind is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” with its inimitable lines, “Jesus sought me when a stranger / Wandering from the fold of God / He to rescue me from danger / Interposed his precious blood.” I am also moved every time when singing “Prone to wander / Lord I feel it / Prone to leave the God I love.” A second hymn I revel in is the eschatological “I Will Raise Them Up.” Always thrilling.

Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?

A: Eucharistic Prayer C especially resonates, in a time of climate change crisis, with its declaration, “At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.” I also need and appreciate Prayer C’s exhortation, “Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal.”

Q: What project are you working on now? 

A: My current project is heavier than recent ones. I am researching and writing a book I call Living Out of Control: A Postliberal Christian Manifesto. It is an engagement with the overwhelming reality and ideology of our day, neoliberalism. For pastors and thoughtful laity, I hope to show how neoliberalism reigns through nationalism, consumer capitalism, the construction of sexuality, the debilitation of the earth, and the fear of death. An apocalyptic gospel helps us to name neoliberalism and resist its destructive tendencies.

Q: In your essay, you mention a childhood desire to fly. Do you still wish you could fly? Or has some other super power taken the place of flying?

A: I would still love to fly. Occasionally, in dreams, I lift off and float to the treetops. But it’s usually unnerving, because I am never sure how I can get back down. This brings to mind Jesus’ temptation in the desert, where he refuses the devil’s offer of superpowers. The same is true when he faces the cross, and declines to call down a legion of angels for protection. So I suspect we as Christians are called to live in vulnerability, out of control, alongside the “least of these.” All this is why comic books and superhero movies are so poor at depicting themes of Christian victory through cross and resurrection: they always end with spectacular (if supposedly benign) displays of violence.

Q: Besides liturgy, how else do you play?

A: My dog, Ury, is a constant source of amusement and playfulness. I also love reading fiction, and listen to a lot of jazz and country music. My wife and I in recent years are less enamored with movies and more involved with TV series produced by the likes of HBO, Amazon Prime, and Netflix. There, free of commercials, we can watch long-form development of characters, fascinating plots unfolding, and the fruits of excellent writing. Streamed TV series are more like novels than short stories. The best among them (and of course there is lots of dross) give us something to look forward to every evening.

Q: In your essay, you reflection your experience as an acolyte. Is there anything you notice in worship from your vantage point as an acolyte that you wish others could see?

A: I love the tactile and kinetic involvement in all parts of the eucharistic celebration. Serving as an acolyte makes me more aware of how the body is enmeshed and intricated in our worship. 

Rodney is the author of several award-winning books, including A Peculiar People: Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society and Tortured Wonders: Christian Spirituality for People, Not Angels. His most recent book is New Creation: A Primer on Living in the Time Between the Times.

Check out some of his books below and also at Wipf & Stock.


Rodney Clapp, Tortured Wonders

Rodney Clapp, Peculiar People

Michael Battle: The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Michael Battle is the Herbert Thompson Professor of Church and Society and Director of the Desmond Tutu Center at General Theological Seminary in New York. He was ordained a priest by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1993. 

Q&A with Michael Battle

Q: What are your two favorite hymns or songs for worship?

A: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” and “Jesus Remember Me” (Taize)

Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?

A: Good Friday Service

Q: What project are you working on now? 

A: A book, Tutu, South African Confessor:  A Spiritual Biography of Desmond Tutu.

Q: You have spent and continue to spend significant time in South Africa. Are there things about the Prayer Book of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa that you particularly treasure?

A: The focus on the daily offices.  I was ordained by Tutu and took the vow in that ordination rite to say the daily office. 

Q: Any experiences of worship in South Africa from the trips you have taken with students that have been especially meaningful to you?

A: Worship in townships is spectacular!

See more about Michael Battle, his books, and projects on his website.

Check out some of Micheal’s books:

Stephen Fowl: Singing in the Choir

Meet Stephen Fowl, author of “Singing in the Choir.”

Stephen Fowl is Professor of Theology and Dean of Loyola College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, MD. Steve and his family worship at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore. An active lay person, Steve preaches and teaches in parishes around the country. He also serves on the House of Bishops Theology Committee.

Q & A with Stephen Fowl

Q: What are your two favorite hymns or songs for worship?

A: My two favorite hymns are “For All the Saints” because it is fun just to belt it out.  You can’t really sing it too loud.  Also, “What Wonderous Love is This?” You can do so many great harmonies with it and the bass line sometimes gets the melody.

Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?

A: I really love baptisms and the baptismal service.  Recently, though, we have had a number of funerals at the Cathedral and I have to say that the BCP funeral service is quite moving, turning a sad occasion into one of hope and joy.

Q: What projects are you working on now? 

A: I’ve just completed a book on idolatry that Baylor U. Press will publish this fall.  If we can find the time, Rob Wall and I are hoping to write a commentary on Acts.  That will be my next big project.  I’m also pondering writing a theology of universities.  Mike Higton has done some interesting work on this, but there is more to do.

Q: Many parishes don’t have professional church musicians. Especially thinking of places where a priest, deacon, a lay leader may be choosing the music, is there any advice you would give or principle you would offer to people making choices about hymns or other music?

A: This is a really great question. I’m not sure I have a lot of insight here.  The music from the Taize community is relatively easy to sing/play; it is repetitive so congregations can pick it up and the texts are almost all Scripture.  

Q: Are there any hymns that make you cringe as a New Testament scholar? 

A: Personally, I find many of the hymn texts from the 19th century (which probably extends to 1919) cringe worthy.  They are so optimistic about building the Kingdom through human efforts.

Check out some of Stephen Fowl’s books:

More by Stephen Fowl:

The Oxford Encyclopedia of The Bible and Ethics2 volumes, Robert Brawley editor in chief, Stephen Fowl (area editor) (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2014).

Engaging Scripture: An Essay in Theological Interpretation. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998; translated into Korean, 2018).

 The Theological Interpretation of Scripture:  Classic and Contemporary Readings. (Editor) (Oxford:  Blackwell, 1997).

Reading in Communion:  Scripture and Ethics in Christian Life with L.G. Jones (London:  SPCK/Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1991). Reprinted by Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998.

The Story of Christ in the Ethics of Paul.JSNT Supp. 36 (Sheffield:  JSOT Press, 1990). Reprinted in Bloomsbury Academic Collections (London: Bloomsbury Press, 2015).

Sophfronia Scott: A Taste of Grace

Meet Sophfronia Scott, author of “A Taste of Grace.”

Sophfronia Scott is author of an essay collection, Love’s Long Line (Mad Creek Books/Ohio State University Press), a memoir, This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World (Paraclete Press), and two novels, Unforgivable Love (William Morrow/HarperCollins) and All I Need to Get By (St. Martin’s Press). Sophfronia teaches at Regis University’s Mile-High MFA and Bay Path University’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Her family attends Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown, Connecticut.

Q & A with Sophfronia Scott

Q: What are your two favorite hymns or songs for worship?

A: My favorite is actually a piece of service music: S-280 Canticle 20, Glory to God: Gloria in excelsis. It feels bright and joyous and I like having this immediate reminder that we’ve gathered to praise and worship God. I also really love—and this may sound strange—the triplets in the music. There are four sets. It’s a rhythm where three notes are played in the space of two. I’m not really a musician but I played clarinet between the ages of 9 and 22 and for some reason this music reminds me of when I learned to play triplets and how I always enjoyed them.

My second favorite? It’s solemn and has brought me to tears, but I love Hymn #172: Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? It’s soulful and reminds me of something my mother might sing. My son did sing it when he was in the children’s choir at our church. I have this lovely memory of him at home playing with his toys and singing this hymn to himself. 

Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?

A: I’m a big fan of morning prayer. I’ve practiced it on my own and these days I attend the service at Christ Church in New Haven, Connecticut. Morning Prayer is my favorite service in the BCP and I especially love Canticles 9, 10, and 11, which are the first, second, and third songs of Isaiah. I find them hopeful and inspirational. My heart just wants to burst with love whenever I read the opening words of Canticle 11, Surge, illuminare: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.” Such wonderful, glorious words. And in Canticle 10 I consider this an important reminder of how small our human thinking can be: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Because of these words I try to think with a more open mind and to always reach for my better angels.

Q: What projects are you working on now? 

A: I write both fiction and nonfiction so I tend to have two books in process at once. Right now I’m writing a novel of historical fiction, set in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Ohio during the Civil War era, about a young orphaned biracial woman making her way in the world. In the nonfiction realm I’m writing about my personal spiritual engagement with the work of Thomas Merton. He’s someone who has felt like a kind of mentor to me despite the fact that he died over fifty years ago. I’m excited about both books so it’s a challenge to split my time between the two, but I’m managing.

Q: One thing you reflect on in your essay is about getting very involved in a variety of ministries in your church. Any words of wisdom about discerning when to say yes and when to say no to a request to serve?

A: It helps to know your spiritual gifts. You can find assessments online to help you, but you might already have a sense of what activities draw you. For example, I’ve never felt a calling to mission and outreach. My gifts focus on teaching, writing, and hospitality. It’s easier to say yes if you know the ministry will make use of your gifts. And the “yes” has to feel like an opening, like the start of an adventure—you don’t know how it will turn out, but you have a sense that you have something to bring to the table and you will be changed by whatever comes of the ministry. That might sound selfish, but if you say yes to something because you feel you should, it will feel like a burden, not service. And if you struggle because the ministry isn’t suited to your talents you won’t be able to bring your best self to it. When you pray about it, you’re seeking clarity on these issues. 

Q: Is there a Biblical figure you feel particularly connected to?

A: I’ve long admired and connected with Mary Magdalene because of her fierce love and faith. She was always willing to make the extra effort to show her love. The disciples must have given her a hard time when she showed up and told them Christ had risen. But she knew what she’d seen and stood firm. Like her, I continue to reach for Christ and hope to recognize him when he calls my name.

Read more about Sophfronia, her publications, and find her blog at www.Sophfronia.com

She also has a website for the spiritual memoir she wrote with her son, This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World

Follow Sophfronia on Twitter: @Sophronia.

Check out some of Sophfronia’s books:

Rhonda Mawhood Lee: Indissoluble

Meet Rhonda Mawhood Lee, author of “Indissoluble.”

Rhonda Mawhood Lee is a priest, writer, and spiritual director. She currently serves as a canon to the bishop of North Carolina.

Q & A with Rhonda Mawhood Lee

Q: What are your two favorite hymns?

A: Many hymns move me to tears. I’m just that way; my emotions sit very close to the surface in liturgy, and they most often emerge in tears. That being said, my two favorites are “Be Thou My Vision” and “Humbly I Adore Thee.” I want both of these to be sung at my funeral (many years from now, I hope). Both have, I think, beautiful, simple melodies, and both speak to the reality that Christian discipleship is a journey of trust and hope. “Be Thou My Vision” expresses my hope to live each day with the vision of God and the divine Kingdom before me. When I inevitably fail miserably, the hymn’s words are once again my prayer: “All else be nought to me, save that Thou art.” “Humbly I Adore Thee” expresses, for me, that Jesus Christ is the source of any true hope I have, and that I encounter that living hope in the Eucharist: “what the Truth has spoken, that for truth I hold.” And it expresses my ultimate hope, to live in the pure presence of God: “face to face thy splendor, I at last shall see, in the glorious vision, blessed Lord, of thee.” Sadly, in my experience “Humbly I Adore Thee” isn’t sung very often in church. Now that I rarely choose hymns (as a diocesan staff member rather than a parish priest), I count myself lucky if I get to sing it on Maundy Thursday. 

Q: You speak English, French, and Spanish. Can you share an experience of grace or beauty you’ve had in a multilingual worship service?

A: I love multilingual worship when it reflects the cultural backgrounds and languages of the people gathered. One of the wonderful things about a liturgical church is that, once someone knows the structure of the liturgy, even if they don’t understand every word of the service, they can easily keep track of where they are. And sometimes members of the congregation help each other out in a pinch. One of my favorite moments in a Eucharist came at the ordination of the current bishop of North Carolina, Sam Rodman. The fraction anthem was in Spanish, which the American Sign Language interpreter didn’t understand. So from my place in the second row, I whispered an English translation to my fellow canon, who signed it to the interpreter, who relayed it to the congregation. It was a lovely little Pentecost moment.  

Q: You write about baptism in your essay. As a priest, when you prepare someone for baptism, is there anything in particular you tell people or ask them to think about?

A: I don’t often prepare people for baptism in my current role as a canon on a diocesan staff. That’s one of just a couple of things I regret about this work (my other big regret is that I rarely get to work with children anymore). But I do preach often about baptism, and I talk about the same things I emphasized when I did baptismal preparation in parishes. First, that through baptism we become members of Jesus Christ’s body in communion with everyone else who has ever been, and will ever be, baptized. The second follows from that: being a Christian is a team sport, a community practice. So participate in the community of the baptized, praying and worshipping together, giving and accepting encouragement, supporting others and letting the community support you. 

Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?

A: My favorite service is the Great Vigil of Easter—when it is done well. If the service is held too early in the evening, so that the church isn’t really dark, the liturgy loses some of its mystery (not to mention, scriptural and theological resonance); and if only the minimum number of readings are included, we lose the sense of how mysterious, and sometimes boring, it can be to sit and wait for God to do something new. And the church has missed a great opportunity to move and form long-standing members and newcomers alike. But done with care, preparation, and simplicity, following the Prayer Book’s instructions, the Vigil is just gorgeous. Kindling the new fire, processing the paschal candle through the dark church, the Exsultet, the readings that tell the long and ancient story of God’s care for us, the alleluias: this service fills me with awe, joy and hope, every time. 

Q: What writing project are you working on now?

A: I am currently working on a memoir-family history that places my own life experiences in conversation with ancestors whom I knew, and those whose lives I have researched. How did they create and care for—and sometimes, abandon—families in the midst of extreme poverty? How did the white supremacist policies of the British Empire benefit them? How was mental illness and a propensity to suicide passed on, in part, through experiences of loss and the lack of time and space to grieve those losses? These are all questions I explore in this book in progress. 

Read more of Rhonda’s writing in the online magazine, Faith & Leadership

and America.

Check out her book, Through with Kings and Armies: The Marriage of George and Jean Edwards.

Spencer Reece: The Little Entrance

Meet Spencer Reece, author of “The Little Entrance.”

Spencer Reece is the author of The Clerk´s Tale (2004) and The Road to Emmaus (2014). In 2017 he edited an anthology of poems by abandoned girls in a home called Our Little Roses in San Pedro Sula, Honduras: Counting Time Like People Count Stars. In 2012 he founded the Unamuno Author Series in Madrid, Spain. 

(photo: Spencer Reece, center, with poet Ilya Kaminsky and Graywolf Press editor Fiona McCrae)

Q & A with Spencer Reece

Q: What is your favorite kind of worship service?

A: Vespers or Taize . . . the more contemplative the better for me.

Q: Have you found any particular gifts or challenges in preaching in Spanish, which isn’t your first language?

A: Working in Spanish for 8 years has been a lesson in humility and tossing out perfectionism.

Q: What other projects are you working on?

A: A book of prose, sixteen years in the making, The Secret Gospel of Mark: A Poet’s Memoir, mixing autobiography with literary appreciation of poets, will be out by 2020. 

The Unamuno Author Series in Madrid Spain is another big thing at work. You can learn more about it here. Every month the series brings acclaimed authors to Madrid.

I am also involved in the important effort to make the pilgrim centre in Santiago.  The goal is to open a centre for all, including ordained female clergy who cannot celebrate at the altar currently in Santiago. The site has now been selected. I and the rest of the board are in the process of raising 5 million dollars. The link is here.  

Check out Spencer’s books:

Amy Peterson: A Beautiful Inheritance

Meet Amy Peterson, author of “A Beautiful Inheritance.”

Amy Peterson is the author of Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World (Discovery House, 2017). (Here she is with her family and the book). Amy has taught college courses since 2003; she has an M.A. in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University. Amy and her family are members of Gethsemane Episcopal Church in Marion, Indiana.

Q & A with Amy Peterson

Q: What are your two favorite hymns for worship? 

A: My favorite hymns are “Be Thou My Vision” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” I particularly love the lines 

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

 Seal it for Thy courts above.

Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer

A: I love Ash Wednesday’s reminder that we are dust. One of the first times I brought my kids to this service — when they were about 1 and 3 years old — I left them in the pew as I went forward for ashes. When I returned to the pew, my three year-old daughter said, “Mom, I want that,” and pointed to my forehead. Watching my firstborn request and receive the sign of her death in the shape of our hope is something I’ll never forget.

Q: What projects are you working on now?

A: I’m discerning a possible call to the priesthood, and about to begin a Masters of Divinity at Duke University, so most of my time is taken with preparing to leave my lovely Indiana home and trying to figure out how the next season of life will look. But I’m also in the final stages of edits on my second book Where Goodness Still Grows: Reclaiming Virtue in an Age of Hypocrisy (January 2020, W Publishing).

Q: Your essay is, in part, about being home and making home, even where and when you didn’t expect to. Christians are both not at home in this world and completely at home wherever we are, if we think of God as home and our call to be present with others as Jesus was present with us. Can you offer some thoughts about this dual reality (not at home and at home everywhere) from your perspective as someone who has lived all over the world and who has made a home where you are?

The view from Amy’s kitchen window.

A: When I was younger, I gravitated towards certain metaphors for the Christian life: I liked to think of myself as a “stranger” and “sojourner” and “pilgrim,” for example, much more than I liked thinking of myself as a “bondservant.” I loved stories about God calling people to leave their homes, and when I moved to Southeast Asia to be a missionary after college, I thought of myself as one of those called-out ones. 

But while living in Southeast Asia, I read the desert monks for the first time. St. Antony said that to please God, we should do three things:

“Whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.”

In my first book, I describe how my understanding of the “pilgrim” metaphor began then to change: 

As I read about these monks who stayed quietly in the same places, doing the same tasks and praying the same prayers for years and years, I began to wonder if my own definition of sojourner was missing something. Had I misunderstood this metaphor? Or worse, had I been using a false idea to excuse my own wanderlust, my desire for independence, and my fear of commitment?

When Peter wrote to the elect resident aliens scattered throughout the Roman provinces of Asia Minor, he was writing to Christians facing persecution: his description of them as sojourners and exiles, whether literal or metaphorical, was intended to help them understand how to live with patience and holiness as an oppressed minority in the empire. It was a reminder that Christians ought to live with “reverent fear” wherever we are, aware that our truest identity is as citizens of a different Kingdom. 

But I’d been using the title sojourner to justify my rootlessness. I wasn’t persecuted or oppressed. I hadn’t been forced into exile. I was simply exercising my privilege and freedom to leave my home, safe with a passport to bring me back when I was ready. I was at the top, not the bottom, of the day’s empire economies. To claim that metaphor for my own was to discredit the very real persecution that originally undergirded it.

Here’s the thing I began to realize about my wanderlust: I was not an exile. I was not a mythic hero out to conquer a new frontier, finding freedom in the wild blue yonder. To put it plainly, I was discovering that restlessness is not always a virtue. For anyone to have a meaningful presence in the world, at some point the desire to go must transform into a desire to stay.

So I took the small steps that were the only things I knew to do to practice staying put. I named my kitten Éponine, after a tragic Victor Hugo character who lived on her own, and I figured out how to find food for her. I met the Thai exchange students who lived on the floor beneath me. I had a regular photocopy shop, where the owners made fun of me for using the wrong personal pronouns to address them, and a bakery I visited every day for loaves of French bread. I left my apartment door open so students would know they could come visit.

For the time being, I tried to remind myself that I wasn’t there to save the world or to indulge my independent spirit. I temporarily shelved any grand ideas about fixing structural injustices and instead practiced the small, daily, rooted tasks that are, after all, also a part of doing justice and loving mercy, those simple things the monks also practiced. I made it my ambition to lead a quiet life, and to lead that quiet life where I was, while trying to learn from the people around me. I aimed to become a student of their language and their culture, to find out what love looked like to them.

I was no longer a backpacker. I wasn’t an expat—at least, I was trying not to be. Instead, I was beginning to figure out what it means to be a neighbor.

I think sometimes God asks us to go, and sometimes God asks us to stay; and in either situation, I can find my home in Christ, and continue with the work of loving God and loving my neighbor.

Follow Amy on Twitter https://twitter.com/amylpeterson 

Check out Amy’s first book:


Duane A. Miller: Reflections of a Cross-Cultural Missionary

Meet Duane Alexander Miller, author of “Spreading Blessing to Those Who Don’t Work for It: Liturgical Reflections of a Cross-Cultural Missionary.”

Duane A. Miller is a native of Montana but has lived and ministered in many paces, including Mexico, Jordan, Israel and Spain. He is married to Sharon and they have three young children. They live in Madrid where Duane serves as priest at the Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer and is associate professor at the Protestant Faculty of Theology (UEBE). Duane holds a PhD in Divinity from the University of Edinburgh and has published broadly on the topics of ex-Muslim Christians and the history of Anglicanism in the Middle East. 

Q & A with Duane Miller

Q: What are your 3 favorite hymns?

A: “All Creatures of our God and King,” “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” and “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”

Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?

A: Can I go with the Book of Occasional Services? The blessing of a home. Absolutely love it and have used it several times, both in English and Spanish. I love the readings for each room and the blessings done there, and I love getting a bowl of water and making it holy water by a blessing, and finding a random sprig from the street for the aspersion. A commodious and graceful rite.

Q: What projects are you working on now?

A: A book on pastoral care for Christians who converted from Islam. This is a quickly growing group and almost completely ignored by the mainstream church. Chapters are being published as we go through the New Wineskins blog and in Spanish at Escritorio Anglicano.

In addition to being priest at the cathedral, I’m serving as founding co-pastor of Kanisa, an Arabic-language non-denominational Christian fellowship in Madrid. Many of our members are converts from Islam. We’re only half a year old and planning for growth.

Q: You’re multilingual and have worshipped and led worship in a wide variety of places. Are there any phrases in any languages that you particularly like or enjoy using or that are meaningful to you that speakers of English alone may not be familiar with that you can share with us? 

A: I love the Arabic phrase for “the heavens and the earth are full of your glory” because Arabic has a singular and a plural, like English, but it also has a dual, which to my knowledge is unique. So in the Trisagion we get to use the dual for ‘full’ of your glory. It’s beautiful.

In the Mozarabic liturgy the standard amen goes like this—and it is used multiple times during any service: “By thy mercy, O God, who art blessed and livest and governest all things, world without end, amen.” It sort of burrows into your marrow after a while. 

Q: Your essay, in part, reflects on how worship forms us and teaches us while we worship.  If you could share some piece of information or wisdom with people to help them prepare before they came into a church worship service, what would it be? 

A: We’re Anglicans, but our liturgy is Iberian, or Spanish, if you prefer. Indeed, the Book of Common Prayer and the Latin Rite are closer to each other than either of them are to the Mozarabic rite. So yeah, just be ready for something different. Also, If you come for Communion contemplate the fact that the table is set before most of the service takes place. What does that mean? 

Q: Do you have a question related to liturgy that you would like to ask?

A: A lot of the churches in the West that are growing are in fact not liturgical. Why is that? What is drawing people to those churches? What can we Anglicans learn from them and incorporate into our church life that will help us attract new members?

Do you have a response you would like to share with Duane? Respond via the Contact Us link or contact Duane directly on one of his social media links.

Learn more about Duane Miller through his Blog:  duanemiller.wordpress.com

On YouTube: Duane Miller

On Academia: Duane A Miller | Facultad Protestante de Teología UEBE – Academia.edu

On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dr_duane_miller/

On Twitter: Duane Miller (@DrDuaneMiller) on Twitter

Check out Duane’s books:

Amy Richter: The Great Celestial-Terrestrial Choir

Meet Amy Richter, author of “The Great Celestial-Terrestrial Choir” and co-editor of Common Prayer.

Amy E. Richter currently serves as an appointed missionary of The Episcopal Church. She is a visiting lecturer in biblical studies at The College of the Transfiguration in Makhanda/Grahamstown, South Africa. She is married to Joseph Pagano.

Q & A with Amy

Q: What are your 2 favorite hymns?

A: “A Mighty Fortress” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?

A: It’s the part in the Easter Vigil when we’re listening to the reading of Scripture, the “record of God’s saving deeds in history,” from creation up to the gathering of God’s people in Zephaniah. When read well, these lessons can knock your socks off and feel like we’re hearing precious family stories that help explain who we are and how we got here. Add to this the candlelight and anticipation of the first Alleluias of Easter, and it’s a fantastic experience.

Q: If you’re not presiding or officiating, where is your favorite place to sit, stand, or kneel in worship?

A: I guess it’s because I am sometimes a celebrant that I like sitting near the front. Not the very front row in an unfamiliar place, but close. As a celebrant, I don’t like when there’s a lot of space between me and the first people in the pews, so I want to close that gap and I know lots of Episcopalians are shy about sitting up front. (So, sorry if you’re a celebrant and like the distance, and I come to worship with your congregation.)

Q: What do you like most about this collection?

A: I love that the writers take us into moments in worship others have felt but not necessarily had words for, like the comfort of being in worship when a loved one has died or when God meets us in ways we didn’t know we need. I also like that several of the essays have an element of humor.

Q: What’s your next project?

A: My novel, Antimony, has been accepted for publication so I’m getting that ready. It’s a story of a young woman who finds herself caught up in a world where an ancient myth about good and evil is treated as reality. But if it’s real, she’ll have to choose sides and either save her own skin or risk her life for the good of others.

Amy is the author of Enoch and the Gospel of Matthew (2012) and co-author of A Man, A Woman, A Word of Love (2012) and Love in Flesh and Bone: Exploring the Christmas Mystery (2014). Together with Joseph Pagano, she writes a blog about their experiences as Episcopal Volunteers in Mission at www.amyandjoegotoafrica.com

Check out Amy’s other books:

Joseph Pagano: Worship Saved My Marriage

Meet Joe Pagano, author of “Worship and Marriage” and co-editor of Common Prayer: Reflections on Episcopal Worship.

Joseph S. Pagano currently serves as an appointed missionary of The Episcopal Church. He is a visiting lecturer in theology at The College of the Transfiguration in Makhanda/Grahamstown, South Africa. He is married to Amy Richter.

Q & A with Joe

Q: What are your two favorite hymns?

A: “Lift High the Cross” and “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” “Lift High the Cross” is a great hymn about Christian proclamation and “Let All Mortal Flesh” is a great Eucharistic hymn.

Q: Do you have a favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?

A: The Easter Vigil.

Q: The working title for this book was Sunday Morning. It’s published as Common Prayer. Why the change?

A: Some of our contributors appropriately ventured outside of Sunday worship and spoke about some other experiences of our liturgical tradition, e.g., the Blessings of a Home and the Blessing of the Animals. Because of this, we thought it would be best to change the name to Common Prayer.

Q: What do you like most about this collection?

A: I like the strong, distinctive voices of each of our contributors that comes through in the essays. I find it’s through the concrete particularity of their experiences that I’m able to connect with our tradition of common prayer.

Q: What’s your next project?

A: A book on Anglican approaches to religious pluralism.

Joe is also the author of The Origins and Development of the Triadic Structure of Faith in H. Richard Niebuhr: A Study of the Kantian and Pragmatic Background of Niebuhr’s Thought (2005), and co-author of A Man, A Woman, A Word of Love (2012) and Love in Flesh and Bone (2014). He keeps a blog at www.amyandjoegotoafrica.com.

Read an excerpt from Joe’s essay.

Listen to an interview with Joe about Common Prayer.https://amyandjoegotoafrica.com/2018/03/26/worship-an-interview-with-joe-pagano/

Check out Joe’s other books:


More info available from Amazon

Meet the Authors


One of my teachers used to say that life in Christ is mostly about surviving your baptism.

J. Neil Alexander in “Of Sacraments and Sundays”

J. Neil Alexander is a Bishop of The Episcopal Church and presently serves as Dean, Professor of Liturgy, and Charles Todd Quintard Professor of Theology in the School of Theology of the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee. 


If Christianity is going to confront climate change, perhaps it needs to rewild itself, go feral.

Fred Bahnson in “The Priest in the Trees”

Fred Bahnson is the author of Soil & Sacrament (Simon & Schuster, 2013) and co-author with Norman Wirzba of Making Peace With the Land (InterVarsity, 2012)His essays have appeared in Harper’sOxford AmericanImageOrionThe SunWashington Post, and Best American Spiritual Writing.

Learn more about Fred


The acolyte blowing bubble gum bubbles in church matters to God. 

Michael Battle in “The Sound of One Hand Clapping”

Michael Battle is the Herbert Thompson Professor of Church and Society and Director of the Desmond Tutu Center at General Theological Seminary in New York. He was ordained a priest by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1993. Battle has published nine books, including Reconciliation: the Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu, and the book for The Episcopal Church’s General Convention, Ubuntu: I in You and You in Me.

Learn more about Michael


I am flooded with emotion every time I hear the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish.

Luisa Bonillas in “Finding Home”

Luisa Bonillas lives in Arizona with her family. She received her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and her PhD from Arizona State University. Her focus was twentieth century American History and her dissertation topic was a History of Women of Color at Wellesley College, 1966-2001. Luisa joined The Episcopal Church in 1996 and has worked for a mission, parish, cathedral, diocese, and the wider church.

Learn more about Luisa.


Now I dress up not a as a Superman but, on many Sunday mornings, as a humble acolyte. I wear not a blue suit and red cape but a white alb and a colored scapular.

Rodney Clapp in “The Play of the People”

Rodney Clapp is an editor at Cascade Books. He is the author of several award-winning books, including A Peculiar People: Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society and Tortured Wonders: Christian Spirituality for People, Not Angels. His most recent book is New Creation: A Primer on Living in the Time Between the Times. He and his wife pray at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

Learn more about Rodney


A quietness, and in that silence, beyond that silence, a mystery. 

Kim Edwards in “Ordinary Time”

Kim Edwards is the author of two novels, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and The Lake of Dreams, as well as the story collection The Secrets of a Fire King.  She and her husband have two grown daughters.  Kim divides her time between Lexington, Kentucky and Seneca Falls, New York; she is finishing a new novel, Lionfish.


I may not be a good Episcopalian yet, but I’m working on it.Melissa Deckman Fallon, in “Bad Episcopalian”

Melissa Deckman Fallon in “Bad Episcopalian”

Melissa Deckman Fallon is the Louis L. Goldstein Professor of Public Affairs at Washington College. She also chairs the board and is an Affiliated Scholar of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Prof. Deckman’s areas of specialty include gender, religion and political behavior. The author of more than a dozen scholarly articles and several books, her latest book is Tea Party Women: Mama Grizzlies, Grassroots Leaders, and the Changing Face of the American Right (NYU Press, 2016).


It is too easy a thing to think the success of our worship depends on the choir, or the preacher, or the celebrant when it really depends on God’s unrelenting and eager openness to our offerings.

Stephen Fowl in “Singing in the Choir”

Stephen Fowl is Professor of Theology and Dean of Loyola College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, MD. Steve and his family worship at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore. An active lay person, Steve preaches and teaches in parishes around the country. He also serves on the House of Bishop’s Theology Committee.

Learn more about Stephen


What we have discovered at St. Gregory’s is that the core value of liturgical leadership—among the ordained and the non-ordained—is the giveaway. 

Paul Fromberg in “Dancing in Friendship with God”

Paul Fromberg is the rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. He teaches at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and for The Episcopal Church in Minnesota. Paul is also a consultant, retreat leader and mentor. He is The Episcopal Church’s representative for the Consultation on Common Texts and a member of the Standing Commission on Music and Liturgy. He is the author of The Art of Transformation (Church Publishing, 2017).


The most spiritually and emotionally difficult act for me as a priest was the first time I imposed ashes on my children’s foreheads.

Kathryn Greene-McCreight in “Ashes”

Kathryn Greene-McCreight is a Priest Affiliate at Christ Church Episcopal, New Haven where she also serves as a spiritual director to Saint Hilda’s House. She is a mentor with Berkeley Divinity School’s Annand Program at Yale Divinity School. Kathryn’s most recent books include Darkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness, Revised Edition (Brazos, 2015), and I Am With You: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book, 2016, (Bloomsbury, 2016). Kathryn is co-chair of the Patient and Family Advisory Council of Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital, and is on the board of the Elm City Affiliate of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).  She has two adult children, and lives in New Haven with her husband and goldendoodle.

Learn more about Kathryn.


“Jesus loves you,” I’d say.
“What for?”
“He just . . . does.”

Cameron Dezen Hammon in “Let Light Perpetual Shine Upon Them”

Cameron Dezen Hammon is a writer and musician whose work has appeared in EcotoneThe RumpusThe Literary ReviewThe ButterBrevity’s Nonfiction Blog,The Houston Chronicle, and elsewhere. Her essay “Infirmary Music” was named a notable in The Best American Essays 2017, and she is the host of The Ishpodcast. Her first book, This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession, will be published by Lookout Books in 2019. 

Learn more about Cameron


Liturgy is not just something else Christians do. Liturgy makes us Christians.

Stanley Hauerwas in the Foreword

Stanley Hauerwas is Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity at Duke University. He was named “America’s Best Theologian” by Timemagazine in 2001, the same year that he delivered the Gifford Lectureship at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. His book, A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic,was selected as one of the 100 most important books on religion of the twentieth century


Little did I realize then that the deep remembrance of our Lord’s death that evening would be what, liturgically speaking, brought me back to life.

BJ Heyboer in “Being Remembered in the Liturgy”

BJ Heyboer is priest of two rural parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan. Prior to ordination, BJ worked for more than twenty years in religious book publishing, most recently as cofounder of Brazos Press and senior marketing director for books published by Brazos and Baker Academic. 


Faith wasn’t private. But it was deeply personal, as personal as a lover pursuing me halfway around the world.

Rhonda Mawhood Lee in “Indissoluble”

Rhonda Mawhood Lee is a priest, writer, and spiritual director. She currently serves as a canon to the bishop of North Carolina.

Learn more about Rhonda.


I tried desperately to be an atheist, but within weeks realized that was impossible because I was still praying.

Ian S. Markham in “How the Book of Common Prayer Kept Me in the Family of Faith”

Ian S. Markham is the dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary and professor of theology and ethics. He is the author of many books including Liturgical Life Principles (Church Publishing) and Understanding Christian Doctrine (Wiley Blackwell). He is a priest associate at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Old Town Alexandria, VA. He is married to Lesley and has one son, Luke.


Now before we eat, let’s remember who we really are. Let’s remember where this food comes from.

Duane Miller in “Spreading Blessing to Those Who Don’t Work for It: Liturgical Reflections of a Cross-Cultural Missionary”

Duane Miller is a native of Montana but has lived and ministered in many paces, including Mexico, Jordan, Israel and Spain. He is married to Sharon and they have three young children. They live in Madrid where Duane serves as priest at the Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer and is associate professor at the Protestant Faculty of Theology (UEBE).

Learn more about Duane.


Worship saved my marriage.

Joseph S. Pagano in “Marriage and Worship”

Joseph S. Pagano currently serves as an appointed missionary of The Episcopal Church. He is a visiting lecturer in theology at The College of the Transfiguration in Makhanda/Grahamstown, South Africa. He is married to Amy Richter.

Learn more about Joe.


As we chanted the prayers, I wondered what the Christians from my childhood would think of this ritual.

Amy Peterson in “A Beautiful Inheritance”

Amy Peterson is the author of Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World (Discovery House, 2017). She’s at work on a book reimagining virtues for our current political moment (W Publishing, 2020). Amy and her family are members of Gethsemane Episcopal Church in Marion, Indiana.

Learn more about Amy.


What a magical thing to have a uniform that signals love.

Spencer Reece in “The Little Entrance”

Spencer Reece is the author of The Clerk´s Tale(2004) and The Road to Emmaus(2014). In 2017 he edited an anthology of poems by abandoned girls in a home called Our Little Roses in San Pedro Sula, Honduras: Counting Time Like People Count Stars. A book of prose, sixteen years in the making,The Little Entrance: Devotions, mixing autobiography with literary appreciation of poets, will be out by 2020. In 2012 he founded the Unamuno Author Series in Madrid, Spain. 

Learn more about Spencer.


It’s probably a bad thing in a priest, but sometimes I find it easier to believe in demons than angels.

Amy E. Richter in “The Great Celestial-Terrestrial Choir”

Amy E. Richter currently serves as an appointed missionary of The Episcopal Church. She is a visiting lecturer in biblical studies at The College of the Transfiguration in Makhanda/Grahamstown, South Africa. She is married to Joseph Pagano.

Learn more about Amy.


I grew up on heroes and the heroic.

C. K. Robertson in “Blessed Heroes”

C. K. Robertson is Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry Beyond The Episcopal Church and Distinguished Visiting Professor at General Theological Seminary. He serves as General Editor of the “Studies in Episcopal and Anglican Theology” series through Peter Lang Publishing, and has written over a dozen books including Barnabas vs. Paul and A Dangerous Dozen.


Are these inklings of the divine—a hug I didn’t know I needed, the eyes of this little girl on me?

Sophfronia Scott in “A Taste of Grace”

Sophfronia Scott is author of an essay collection, Love’s Long Line (Mad Creek Books/Ohio State University Press), a memoir, This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World (Paraclete Press), and two novels, Unforgivable Love (William Morrow/HarperCollins) and All I Need to Get By (St. Martin’s Press). 

Learn more about Sophfronia


I love the particularity: the priest is not blessing allcreatures, but rather Micky, Misty, Socks, Tweety, Molly, Percy. 

Rachel Marie Stone in “God Bless Rocket and Bobo and Tigger”

Rachel Marie Stone teaches English and helps run a girls’ dorm at a boarding school on Long Island, NY. She is the author of four books, including the award-winning Eat With Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food, and, most recently, Birthing Hope, a memoir on motherhood and anxiety.


[B]ecause the cosmos bears the image of its creator, traces of Jesus really are there in the moon.

Lauren F. Winner in “The Image Turns Back”

Lauren F. Winner is the vicar of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Louisburg, North Carolina, and a professor at Duke Divinity School. Her books include Girl Meets GodMudhouse SabbathA Cheerful and Comfortable FaithStill: Notes on a Mid-Faith CrisisWearing God, and most recently The Dangers of Christian Practice.