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Bible ‘a vital tool in shaping an enduring liturgy’


THE Bible is the narrative of God’s dealing with the world past, present and the future.

So saying, Wesleyan scholar Rev Dr Geoffrey Wainwright emphasised the importance of a comprehensive reading of Scripture and the use of lectionaries in worship.

“This one book gives rise to several other books that we use in worship and controls our use and understanding of them,” he said.

After the all-important Bible come the hymnbooks and the prayer books. Then, there are other material to look at which he classified as the “Bible of the “Poor”, the “Reading Pastor”, The Book of Nature, and The Book of the Soul.

The Rev Dr Wainwright, Professor of Christian Theology at Duke University, was addressing 172 participants on the second day of the two-day seminar on “Methodist Worship in Context” at Methodist Centre on May 28.

Sharing the principles for shaping an enduring liturgy, he titled his talk “Worship by the Book”.

He said John Wesley called himself a “man of one book” – The Good Book, the Bible: “God has given us a book full of stories / that he gave to his people of old. / It begins with a tale of garden / and ends in the city of gold.”

As for the hymnbooks, he said they were important because they were meaningful and covered doctrine and theology, and reflected the perception of our faith. The hymns had been written according to “the experience of real Christians”.

“There is great value in the hymns.” Among the prayer books he singled out were the Book of Common Prayer, and Sunday Service of the Methodists, 1784.

Earlier, the other seminar leader, the Rev Dr Karen Westerfield Tucker, addressed the issue of “Worship in Culture and Context”.

“Worship is a gift of God to us. Human beings, in obedience to the One in whose image they are made, are to ‘worship and bow down’ and ‘make a joyful noise’ (Psalm 95).

“The benefits of worship are ‘enjoyment’ of God, creation of ‘heavenly tempers’, and empowerment for ‘good words and work’.”

The Rev Dr Tucker, Professor of Worship at Boston University’s School of Theology, said Christian worship had never existed without cultural elements.

In fact, Christian worship sometimes reacted against culture.

She said that liturgical diversity had always existed, but the Church had also distinguished between what was essential and what was not.

She said cross-cultural worship should be a sharing of cultural forms across Christian communities.

On the first day of the seminar, the Rev Dr Tucker underlined four main points about worship: It is granted by and given to the three-one God; it is an obligation and an opportunity; it is offered in spirit and in truth; and it is on the Lord’s Day.

Later the Rev Dr Wainwright talked about theology and practices in light of church unity and Gospel mission.

He mentioned two principal concerns of the modern ecumenical movement – unity and mission; unity for the sake of mission, credibility of the witness to a Gospel of reconciliation.

Turning to the structures for liturgy, he said there must be a Gathering – “out of the world”, but “in the world” and into the world; Truth – “Word”: Scriptures and sermon, leading to faith, holiness, kiss of peace; Unity – Eucharistic communion; and Dismissal – mission.

After each talk, the participants broke up into groups for their various workshops on a host of topics such as “The Word of God in Worship”, “Music in Worship”, and “Worship as Spiritual Formation”.