Reading, literacy, and reformed worship...

(Tim) The highest literacy rate the world has ever known was in Colonial America where every Christian father and mother knew the ability to read the Word of God was the greatest treasure they could pass on to their covenant children.

What about literacy in America today? Speaking to the New York Times' David Pogue and John Markoff, Apple's Steve Jobs said the Amazon Kindle book reader "would go nowhere."

"It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore."

Incidentally, while many reformed men are having hissy-fits today over the guitar replacing the organ in the accompanying of hymns in reformed worship services, I've been noticing the decline of what's included in reformed worship services--what we usually refer to as the liturgy. Specifically, I've noted how little Scripture is being read. For centuries books of the Bible were read aloud during (or prior to) worship services; books of the Bible, consecutively by chapter. This is what we do here at Church of the Good Shepherd: In addition to our sermon text read aloud as a part of the sermon (and usually not small), we read books of the Bible aloud as one of our Scripture lessons. Currently we're completing Hosea.

Comments

Tim,

I completely agree about the reading of large sections of Scripture in the worship service. You never know if that is the only Bible some are getting. God's people should hear more than the few verses of a sermon text (in those instances where the sermon is such).

We just finished Exodus, and are now currently reading through 1 Corinthians.

The original Westminster Directory called for one chapter from the Old Testament and one chapter from the New Testament each week.

Why don't we do that? I'm not asking to accuse; I'm suggesting. Now in our own building, we don't have constraints on the time we spend in worship. Let's have two Scripture readings.

In my Anglican days, one thing they got absolutely right was the practice of at least two Scripture readings (OT, NT, Gospels) in the worship service - generally, providing the context for the sermons, which followed a set series through the year. I cannot recommend this approach highly enough.

As I am still in my Anglican days, I heartily endorse Ross' comment. But, it's not really an Anglican thing -- more a Western catholic (note the small "c") thing, followed by others (e.g. Lutherans). It wouldn't do any harm to Presbyterian identity to follow the practice.

A pilot project I launched a couple of years ago and am still monitoring is called "Men at Worship." It trains men in a weekly service of worship for men only. It follows, in overall form, the order of service forged by the monastics 1600 years ago, itself a wonder of masculine precision, focus, and power. None of the men involved in the pilot come from liturgical backgrounds, but they took to the format like ducks to water. I was not surprised, as the forms are intrinsically "man-friendly."

In this order of service (which takes about 30 to 35 minutes to complete), a generous chunk of OT, NT, and a passage from the gospels is read out loud. Additionally, a psalm is sung (chanted, actually). The remainder of the service consists of both set prayers, and prayers the men offer audibly which they have crafted before the meeting.

One of the first "reactions" I gathered when the pilot group began its meetings was this: "I hear more Scripture read in four meetings of this group than I hear in 52 Sundays at my church."

One result of these meetings is that the men have, on their own initiative (spurred on by their own conclusions from meeting weekly with men to worship) begun to read Scripture out loud in their families, usually at supper time. At one supper where I was in attendance, this was the first thing that happened at the supper table: the father read "the next chapter" of whatever book was being read (in this case, it was Exodus). Then the meal proceeded.

Reading through the Bible routinely is NOT a difficult thing to do. All it requires is perseverance.

Could this type of service that Fr. Bill describes be used at the Wednesday evening prayer service at CGS? Or, is this what is being used currently? I guess this shows I haven't yet gone to one.

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