Words for Worship: compiled by The Liturgical Commission of the Church of England Church House Publishing

There’s a steeple of praying hands on the cover of this book – looks like the hands of a family with the baby’s hands at the bottom and the father’s hands covering them all. As they touch each other, they’re held together, linked in worship, by the father at the top.

Rowan Williams says ‘Words for Worship’ will ‘enrich the discipleship of all who use these words’ and oh – it so does! I speak as one who can rattle off the Apostles’ Creed and have tonight’s supper planned by the end of it; I can work out a week’s menus during the General Thanksgiving because we had to learn in by heart when I was a kid. But if someone tells me that I’m repeating words used by candidates for baptism since the earliest years of the Christian Church and it’s been said since 1662 – I feel more connected somehow and concentrate more. And if someone draws my attention to the ‘eloquent human response in gratitude, praise, self-offering and commitment to walk in holiness of life’ of the Thanksgiving – that makes a difference. I recollect what I’m saying.

The prayers and creeds and stuff that make up common worship are written out here and then there’s an exactly-the-right-length account of how this bit of liturgy got to be the way it is.

I read this book backwards: the last chapters first. The ‘Afterword’ by Stephen Platten gives a terrific incentive to keep going. Then you come to a brief history about where our words of worship come from and that really helped me at the ministry meeting where people are always chucking out expressions like ‘the Sarum rite’ and the ‘sacramentary’ and I hadn’t a clue what they were talking about; but now I do!

When we recite words that we know really well it can seem automatic but what goes on inside a person’s head during the recitation makes it different every time. Somehow you’re saying something that’s true even though you can’t rationally know it. ‘Words for Worship’ links me in Canterbury in 2013 in a long line of worshippers reaching back to 1549 and forward into forever.

Usually when someone gives me a book and asks me to read it and give an opinion, I do it and then give the book away. This one is staying on my desk so – buy your own! Last time I looked there were some in the Cathedral Shop.

Tessa Taylor