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

“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”