What Are You Reading and Why?

With glad and Generous Hearts: a Personal Look at Sunday Worship

William Willimon, Upper Room, 1966

Reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

Here is a helpful look at our worship time together, by Willimon, for many years Minister to Duke University and now bishop in the Methodist church.  From his knowledge and personal experience he stresses that the form and substance of worship if a whole, and sketches the biblical and pastoral components of the ordo:  Gathering, Confession, Praises, Scripture, Sermon, Creed, Intercession, the Lord’s Supper, Sending Forth.  A very useful adjunct to Willimon is "An Educational Gide," prepared by John Westerhoff, a resource for group study and discussion that implements Willimon’s material.

Of special interest to me were his comments about greeting, talking and silence in the time leading to the more ‘official’ worship.  Announcements should be made here in the pre-service, and be made by laypersons rather than by the pastor.

Willimon favours a time between necessary greetings and necessary silence and focusing.  People should be free to move around and create a family-like atmosphere.  The organ should not be played during this time—it is not used as background music for the congregation’s chatter (p 33).  (The other eight parts of worship receive similarly helpful attention.)

It is a book that helps focus what our time of worship can do and be.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.