Book Review: Reformation Anglican Worship

Reformation Anglican Worship: Experiencing Grace, Expressing Gratitude (The Reformation Anglicanism Essential Library, Volume 4)

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Short, mostly easy read (occasional Latin thrown in).

Summary

The book is generally what the title says. For those confused from the ‘Reformation’ part, I was, too. I’m not sure why the author(s, it is a series) didn’t use Reformed, as this seems to be what they are discussing. Canmer (who wrote the Book of Common Prayer, and was the main influence on Anglicanism) was heavily influenced by the Reformation and it’s new focus on Biblical reading in the vernacular and Justification by faith. 

Jensen focuses mostly on the Reformed, as opposed to Anglo-Catholic, side of Anglicanism. He makes a strong argument for it being the way Anglicanism started, but does a good job of putting things into a historical context as well as modern impacts. 

This is a short book broken into six chapters – The Heart of Christian Worship, Worship in the English Reformation, Reading and Preaching the Scriptures, The Gospel Signs: The Sacraments, Prayers of Grace, and Music: The Word in Song. There is also a brief introduction where he lays out his goal for the book. Chapter one, lays a basic theological groundwork on worship, based on the Trinity. The remaining five chapters are pretty clear by the title. 

My Thoughts

This was an interesting book to me. I am not an Anglican, but am in the Reformed tradition (though I understand there is a good bit of difference between the two). I’ve recently gained some interested in the Anglican tradition, mostly due to my recent discovery of the use of the Book of Common prayer. Jensen does a great job of weaving thoughts/writing from Cranmer and portions of the Book through each chapter (for those wondering why the BCP didn’t warrant its own chapter).

He doesn’t rely solely on Cranmer, but points to other Bishops at the time and even some writings from the royalty. I thought chapter three (Read & Preaching Scripture) was the most interesting. Knowing a good bit about the Reformation and continuing in the tradition, I was familiar with the focus on the Word Preached. Much less focused on, but apparently quite important in Anglicanism (especially as exhibited in the previous version of the BCP) is the direct reading of scriptures. This includes multiple readings from throughout the Bible at each service, as well as a reading plan that takes you through the OT once and NT three times a year; and the Psalms once a month. 

Sacramentalism is one of the divergent points between Anglicanism and Reformed traditions, but the chapter was interesting and informative. The Music chapter was the shortest, but was quite powerful. This is especially true if you are a member of church that freely uses ‘modern worship’. His critique is harsh, but completely accurate. He points out the irony of the fact (which I was unaware) that Reformation era churches were heavily focused on the performance of music, specifically coral music which can be hard to sing. Now, we’ve moved back to performance. The irony being, we fought to have the congregation be able to sing, to now, being focused on entertainment, with many songs that are not made for congregational singing (or are often hard to sign, but hey, guitar solo). 

The interest on this book would be fairly narrow, btu I do think everyone who cares about proper worship would benefit from this book. If you are interested in worship, you should certainly buy this book.  If you are Anglican, or Reformed, or have an interest in church history or the various aspects of the Reformation, put this on your list. 

*I received a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review. 

Bible Reading Plans

A while ago I wrote about the need for a Study Bible. Now, I want to point out briefly the value in a reading plan for your Bible study. Have you ever tried to read the Bible? As in, all of it. Goodness it is long. Most people crack open Genesis and probably quit before you even get to Abraham. My parents’ church is encouraging them to read the whole Bible this year. It is a good goal, but it is pursued wrongly.

My dad was telling me about trying to power through. When we were at the beach in August, he was even trying to ‘get ahead’. Couple things about that – first and foremost, that is not meditation on the scripture. Second, it becomes rote and pointless. Especially if you do not enjoy it. He would say things like, it’s just so hard to get through all the genealogies, and measure, and rules; no one is going to remember, and they don’t matter anyway.

So, I would never recommend someone read it through from beginning to end; you really do get bogged down. The furthest I ever completed was using the Chronological Bible. It tries to mix things up when stories overlap (like the Gospels) and just seemed like a neat idea, and something a little different. It starts off with Job (the idea being that it was probably written before Genesis was written), then goes into the Pentateuch. I believe I made it a few chapters into Exodus.

You have to be honest with yourself about the difficulty of reading some of the OT books. Three to five chapters(20-30 minutes) a day for almost two weeks in Leviticus is tough. The solution is to use a plan that takes chapters from different parts of Scripture. There are a few ways to do this:

ESV Daily Reading Bible: Through the Bible in 365 Days, based on the popular M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan  – This is the plan I have been using for about two months. I have this Bible, because I don’t like looking up the different verses, because I’m lazy. I want to be able to open it to the day and just read. Also, I was able to get it in patent leather, that nice smooth Bible you see that is usually cheap (mine was $12). I’m a sucker for it, I’ll by any book if I can get it in patent leather.

Anyway, this plan gives you chapters (usually one a day, but can be two-three, if they are short enough) from two books of the OT, one from the NT and one from Psalms. Following this plan, you’ll read the OT once a year, and the NT & Psalms twice a year. I really, really like this plan, I like reading from four difference sections; it really helps to keep it interesting and not feeling like you are bogged down. For those whom don’t want to by it, you can find it pretty much anywhere online, such as here.

Related to M’Cheyne plan is this – The One Year Bible: The entire English Standard Version arranged in 365 daily readings. It gives you one OT, NT, Proverbs, and Psalms everyday. It is a bit shorter, as you will not read the NT twice in a year. This is a good alternative, and I might have bought it, but when I originally looked, I think I missed that you get a verse from Proverbs and Psalms everyday and instead thought you just went through two parallel sections, OT and NT. Also, it only comes in paper or hardcover, not patent leather.

Another great option that mixes things up, but is a little slower (whole Bible in two years) is the The Book of Common Prayer (if you want this cool hipster version) daily office (readings). Now, with these you have the plans listed and then you have to search through and find the verses. I haven’t found any Bible options that are set up like this to be a daily read based on the calendar. It can also be found online.

It’s kind of cool that the BCP and the M’Cheyne have been used for hundreds of years. Not sure how popular the latter is, but the former is used by Anglicans all around the world. So, you will be reading the same verses ever days as thousands of others.

There are many other plans out there, but I think ones that hit multiple selections will make it much more likely you will follow-through. I suppose I will let you know ad the end of 2017. I personally like the Bible plans, like the One Year Bible, that break the Bibles into days, with the verses for that day. Maybe you are thriftyer and can just order a card, or book-mark, or pamphlet, or maybe a little too thrifty and print one out a work. Alternatively, if you bought a good Study Bible like I told you to, there will be reading plans in the back. Finally, for you tech savvy kids out there, it’s all online. You can follow the links above, and you’ll get the verses of the day right there.

Good luck if you try it. It really is important to try to read as much as possible in the Word and I think these plans are the best way to do it. Americans are illiterate when it comes to the Bible, though we supposedly hold it in high regard, calling it the inspired word of God (about 60% according to the most recent Pew poll). I’m part of the problem. Here I am, a Pretend Theologian and I haven’t read the whole Bible. There are probably books of the Bible from which haven’t even read a verse. Start looking around now, find a plan you like and in 2017, read the whole Bible.