As I was looking for a book recently in my study library, I realized that if some people could see my collection, they might consider me a “liturgy nerd.”
While I have the usual assortment of titles one might expect in a pastor’s library – theology, church history, biblical studies, pastoral ministry, biographies, and spirituality – I seem to have a disproportionate number of books on liturgy. There is everything from a collection of prayers for home worship to resources for the monastic setting. Beyond Presbyterian-related worship books, I have publications from a number of different Christian traditions.
But there is one part of my library that would probably stand out more than any other to the casual observer. It is my collection of Anglican prayer books. Approximately 25 years ago when my only familiarity with the Anglican liturgy was with the American prayer book, I happened to look at a copy of one from another country. This piqued my curiosity to see what was being used in other countries, so I began writing letters to churches throughout the Anglican communion asking for a copy of their own prayer book.
Over a period of several months, I received responses from around the globe. Ultimately, I have come to have prayer books from such diverse parts of the world as Australia, Korea, Kenya, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa.
The books in my collection reveal a wonderful mosaic of prayers and liturgies reflecting many different cultures, concerns and perspectives. The prayer book from New Zealand uses both English and Maori, the language of the indigenous people of that island. Because a number of the provinces still have political ties to the United Kingdom, their books typically include a prayer for the Queen of England. Ironically, the prayer book from Scotland predates the most recent efforts by that country to gain its independence from the United Kingdom, so among its prayers is one for the “Unity of the British Empire.”
A number of the books include prayers that address local concerns, such as one for fisheries in Canada, for rain in Australia, and for seafarers in Ireland. Because they are used as part of the Anglican liturgy, each prayer book contains its own variation of the different services in that tradition: the Eucharist, baptisms, weddings, funerals, and others. Yet while each one includes one or more prayers for the home country, every one also offers prayers for the church universal.
The beauty then of a collection of different liturgical resources like this is that it offers an important reminder of the rich diversity that makes up the Christian church on this planet and the need to be accepting of different perspectives. This is captured well in the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship by a prayer that asks, “Let us never be so sure of ourselves that we condemn the faith of others ... but make us ever ready to reach out for more truth, so that your church may be one in the Spirit.” And to that I would say, “Amen.”