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Monday, August 13, 2012

"At Home With God" (Gavin Long)

TITLE: At Home with God: A Complete Liturgical Guide for the Christian Home
AUTHOR: Gavin Long
PUBLISHER: Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2011, (258 pages).

Ever wanted to do family devotionals but don't know how? Can we do church at home? What if we are able to cultivate spiritual awareness through the family meal together? This book shows us that it is entirely possible. Through simple liturgies in the home, the family can experience God together in powerful and transformative ways. As a guide, this book is superb in terms of creativity, clarity, and comprehensiveness. There is a strong sense of Sabbath keeping in all of the liturgies. The major elements are Communion, Sabbath candle lighting, prayers, and remembrance of Christ. Most of all, the liturgy invites participation by all at home. Four seasons are used to frame the book. In Winter, the themes are advent to anticipate the coming of Christ; Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and Epiphany to enjoy the life of Christ in everyday life. Each liturgy has the following process:

  1. The lighting of the candle
  2. A blessing followed by a song
  3. Telling the redemptive story
  4. Reading and Prayers
  5. Blessing the Communion elements
  6. Singing and Peace giving

Spring focuses on Lent, Easter and from Easter to Pentecost. In Lent, one learns to reflect upon the sacrifice of Christ. In Easter, one celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. Pentecost anticipates the Holy Spirit.

Summer touches on the ordinary time of the Church and of the Kingdom. The former is from Pentecost to the end of June, while the latter is from July to August. The time of the Church celebrates the arrival of the Holy Spirit and how God builds the Church. The Kingdom reminds us of God's promise to set up His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. There are special activities like planting seeds, and practicing the liturgy according to the Church and Kingdom themes.

Autumn is likened to a journey. From the last weekend of August to the end of November, the liturgy helps focus on the theme of faith as a journey. It reminds us of our citizenship in heaven. It  helps us remember the saints of old. It is also a call for repentance.  There is a significant presence of greater silence and meditation in the liturgies.

There are at least three reasons why I like this book. Firstly, it is easy to follow. The liturgy does not need any major modifications. Just turn to the page anyday, according to the time you are in, and use them as is. Easy to used and follow, it does not contain complicated language. Secondly, it reminds us how closely related church and family is. The blending of Scriptures and prayers, with the daily meal is a good reminder to all that grace is not something just restricted to saying a one-sentence prayer before meals. It is throughout the whole meal, of celebration, of conversation, and of participation. Thirdly, with the liturgy in place, devotions can be enhanced. The invitation to participate as a family is strong. Long says that the liturgies will "awaken new possibilities for families and communities." Reading through the liturgies, I believe him.

I find this book a helpful guide to avoid letting Church becoming only a Sunday activity. In fact, what is done in churches on Sundays is mainly a highlight of the week, and not meant to be the only time we celebrate the presence and glory of God. We can do the same in the home through simple liturgies adapted from the larger church tradition. The liturgies in the book can be easily implemented straight out of the book. Adaptation is easy. Whether one comes from the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, evangelical or Protestant traditions, this book can be used easily. Perhaps, the biggest benefit when we practise the liturgy at home, is to inculcate a greater awareness of God not just on Sundays but on all days. Not just in churches but in the home. Perhaps, then, our families will be able to do what William Barclay has said about worship.

"Real worship is the offering of everyday life to him, not something transacted in a church, but something which sees the whole world as the temple of God." (William Barclay)

This book certainly helps to nudge one closer to being more worshipful of God in the home.


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