Here is a list of some of the books I’ve been reading this summer that might fall outside the bounds of stuff you’ve run across.
Explorations in a Christian Theology of Pilgrimage , Craig Bartholomew (Editor), Fred Hughes (Editor)
I’ve been reading this as part of continuing to wrestle with the Psalms of Ascents. Pilgrimage as religious experience isn’t a dynamic part of the American Christian landscape while pilgrimage as tourism is a regular part of our lives. Why is this? Is it the cultural baggage of pilgrimage associated with Roman Catholicism? Is it the uncomfortableness we feel with ideas of American Manifest Destiny and western imperialism? This book is a great collection of essays from a number of British theologians and pastors.
A Sociological History of Christian Worship, Martin D. Stringer
This book by Martin Stringer, Professor of Liturgical and Congregational Studies at the University of Birmingham, has been a fascinating look at the 2000 year history of Christian worship from a sociological and anthropological perspective. Much of it has been slogging because I don’t have a background in either field. But the cases studies in each chapter have been utterly fascinating. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the development of Christian Worship as part of the broader picture of history and culture in the Western world. It has been helpful in teasing out the more complex story of the evolution of worship practices than ‘church’ history often presents.
Sing A New Song: Choosing And Leading Praise In Today’s Church, David Montgomery
I’ve just started this one so I’ve not too much to say on it. I was attracted to this one because David offers a perspective on leading music in the church that is fresh because he’s English and not American. That alone makes the read a great exercise in cultural exegesis. I’ll steal what Kevin Twit has to say to elaborate…”If you can track this one down it is a very helpful book. He does a good job responding to elitist arguments and advocates singing hymns set to new music. He also critiques shallow praise choruses. But some of his examples are English ones that you may not relate to. Overall, very helpful, especially for a short little book.”
If you are leading worship in a presbyterian or general reformed context then this book is a must read. The Westminster Directory of Public Worship was a repository and condensation of wisdom concerning public worship from the great puritan ministers of the 17th century. Mark Dever and Sinclair Ferguson do an excellent and pastoral job of opening up the riches of this document which speaks to everything from the public reading of scripture, the solemnization of marriage, to the visitation of the sick, and the burial of dead.
Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Cultural Liturgies), by James K.A. Smith
This is the first book in a trilogy of works planned from Calvin Professor James K.A. Smith. It looks to be a daunting but rewarding read. It was interesting to be at City Church in San Francisco last week and to hear Rev. Chuck DeGroat mention it in his sermon. I’m one chapter in and starting to feel out the landscape -initially James Smith goes about the work of revealing how our desires have been shaped, often more significantly than by our Christian experience, through the liturgy of such modern cathedrals as the shopping mall. Through this the book reflects upon the power of “secular” liturgies that form and shape human desire and love revealing how our our love is often misdirected. [CICW online discussion] [Great behind-the-scenes Interview at Woodward Theol Society]