In addition to hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs, Glory to God will include approximately thirty pages of liturgical material. This is a note-worthy compromise between the 200 printed pages in 1972's Worshipbook and the 5 pages in the current hymnal. Ronald P. Byars, liturgical scholar and author of The Sacraments in Biblical Perspective (published by Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), participated in a conversation last fall about the proposed material. Here is his brief reflection about the consultation and the new hymnal:
A group of Presbyterians who love worship and have experience studying, planning, leading, teaching, and writing about it gathered in Fort Worth for a three-day conference beginning on Reformation Day (October 31, 2011). The purpose of the consultation was three-fold: to examine our current practices around the Word and Table, to consider the liturgical renewal in the Presbyterian church, and to review the orders of worship to be published in Glory to God.
The current hymnal (1990) includes an outline of the Service for the Lord’s Day (p. 12). Glory to God will have full texts for that service and the Sacrament of Baptism, as well as Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Prayer at the Close of Day.
Why include full texts? There are both theological and practical reasons. One is that what we see, hear, and do in worship both shapes and communicates the church’s beliefs. Because worship has the power to form and shape people’s faith, care needs to be taken that what we do and say faithfully represents the faith of the church, as represented in our denomination’s Directory for Worship, which in turn is guided by our Book of Confessions. Scrutinizing the proposed liturgical contents of the hymnal is as important as screening the theology of the hymns and songs we’ll be singing.
Sadly, it’s not unusual for worship to unintentionally embody and project beliefs that either contradict or flat-out ignore the faith that’s being preached from the pulpit or taught in the church; thus, it is helpful for worshipers, as well as ministers, to have in their hands the structure and texts of services prepared specifically for Presbyterian worship. While we have a Book of Common Worship, with many liturgical resources, we will not often find it in the pews. The easy accessibility of these services will encourage congregations and their ministers to use them.