Pastors regularly clamor after books intended to help with the formation of liturgy. The weekly grind of writing sermons, calls to worship, invocations, prayers, benedictions, calls to confessions, and words of assurance is never-ending. On a week with a funeral, a wedding, and numerous pastoral crises to deal with the task of composing all these words for worship can be a bit daunting. And so the occasion arises, for some quite often, that outside help is sought. However, it seems that when we pick up those books or go to those websites and scan through the liturgical elements offered for the day they fit within our contexts of worship as well as square pegs fit in round holes.
Slemmons’ latest release is not just another book of pre-written prayers and worship resources. It is much more. For in these pages Slemmons has penned the best of many years of pastoral practice with faithful attention given to the scriptures. What’s more, should you choose to use all of the elements for a particular Sunday, you’ll find that careful consideration has been given to ALL of the lectionary texts for each week, rather than just the one that is most convenient for the writer. Additionally, Slemmons has carefully chosen his words. The prayers are lyrical, yet substantive. The communal resources are easily read aloud by a congregation yet have a certain depth of Christian spiritual reflection.
My only critique of When Heaven Stands Open: Liturgical Elements for Reformed Worship, Year B, is that pesky word in the subtitle - Reformed. Should the title be interpreted so as to mean this text is only intended for, or only of value to, pastors and faith communities within the “Reformed” tradition, then use of the word is a egregious limitation. However, should it be interpreted more broadly to imply that it is intended for pastors and faith communities that are in process of being reformed (as all who faithfully seek to be obedient to Christ will continually be) then the term has been appropriately ascribed. Truly, Slemmons has composed a symphony of liturgical resources that provoke deep, meaningful, scriptural, transformative, soul-reforming worship of God.
It’s too bad that we are not yet at our transition to Year B, because I am looking forward eagerly to incorporating these elements into my own faith community’s worship. Here’s looking forward to the release of other years, too!