The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945)   12 comments

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Above:  Methodist Church, Streator, Illinois, Circa 1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-D4-13897

In 2013 the congregation bears the name “First United Methodist Church of Streator” and has a different yet still graceful structure.

(http://www.igrc.org/churches/detail/755)

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Last Summer I began to write reviews of current worship books for denominations.  Among those reviews was one of The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992). Now, with this post, I commence a series of reviews of superceded worship books.

Cyclopedia of Methodism (Fifth Revised Edition), edited by Bishop Matthew Simpson and published in 1882, contains an article on John Wesley’s Sunday Service, an abridgment of The Book of Common Prayer (1662) of The Church of England.   The article (on page 842) concludes:

The general feeling of the American people was averse to these forms and ceremonies which were being used in the English Church, and especially to the wearing of gowns and bands, and the liturgical services.  In addition to this, many of the congregations were gathered in sparsely-settled sections of the country, where the people had no books, and where the long travels of the minister prevented his being able to supply them.

Yet much of U.S. Methodism became more formal–genteel even–in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Thus a widespread acceptance of more structured worship emerged.  The Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939) and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (1845-1939), each having reprinted Wesley’s Sunday Service and increasingly elaborate orders of worship, produced jointly The Methodist Hymnal (1905), the first U.S. Methodist hymnal to feature a psalter structured for responsive readings.

Enough support for even more formal worship existed in 1940, when the General Conference of the reunited Methodist Church (1939-1968) approved the creation of the Commission on Ritual and Orders of Worship, mandated to provide liturgies which would

draw upon richer and wider sources than those that have been available up to the present time.

Four years later the General Conference approved the first Book of Worship for Church and Home (BOW), published in 1945.

The focus of the 1945 BOW is daily devotion, for much opposition to any Prayer Book remained widespread, hence the redundant disclaimer on the title page:

FOR VOLUNTARY AND OPTIONAL USE.

Nevertheless, the book provides orders of worship for the Morning (three of them), the Evening (three of them), and the Morning or the Evening (four of them), as well as major festivals and seasons in the Church Year:  Advent, Christmas Sunday, Lent, Good Friday, Easter Day, Pentecost, et cetera.  There are also services for other occasions, such as Kingdomtide (since absorbed into Ordinary Time), agricultural observances, Thanksgiving Day, and an ecumenical service.

The 1945 BOW includes many other features, such as the extant Methodist Ritual, hence rites baptism, confirmation, marriage, and burial services, plus a variety of truly occasional rites, such as the dedication of a home or a cornerstone.  The extensive collection of prayers and graces draws upon a variety of sources, including the 1906 and 1932 editions of the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship and the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (1928).  There is also a section of Daily Readings and Prayers for a Month (pages 286-323).

The 1945 BOW was a good start, but I find it uncomfortable to use.  The volume was not meant for me, an Episcopalian accustomed to more elaborate rites, so the 1945 BOW seems deficient according to my sensibilities.  And I, as one born late in the twentieth century and used to contemporary language in worship, dislike using the archaic language in which the book is written.

In 2013 The United Methodist Church is on the third book (The United Methodist Book of Worship, 1992).  That volume, like its 1945 predecessor, seems to have made no great impact on United Methodism, for most United Methodists do not even know that it exists.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA, HISTORIAN AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, ANGLICAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, WORKER AMONG WOMEN

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