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PC(USA) 2018 Book of Common Worship now available

Last revised in 1993, new edition focuses on God’s movement in the world

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Five years in the making, the 2018 Book of Common Worship(BCW) for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be in the hands of customers in the coming weeks. There are three new sections in the BCW — on creation and ecology, justice and reconciliation, and interreligious events. Included in these sections are services for:

  • Blessings of the Animals
  • Resources for prayer and worship after a violent event
  • Guidelines for gathering neighbors of other faiths or no faith for times of celebrations, or when there is conflict or crisis

In 2013, the Book of Common Worship editorial team — which included representatives from the PC(USA) office of Theology and Worship, Presbyterian Association of Musicians (PAM) and the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) — began working on this edition of the BCW, which was first published in 1906. Co-editors David Gambrell, associate for Theology and Worship, and Kimberly Long, former associate professor of worship at Columbia Theological Seminary, along with the editorial team surveyed church leaders digitally and conducted a half-dozen consultations around the country. They also worked with a diverse group of 150 editorial advisors.

For two years, the editorial team listened to as many voices in the church as possible — always reflecting together on what they had heard — before the writing process began.

“Our focus was on how God is moving in our church and world, ” said Long, who is now editor of Call to Worship: Liturgy, Music, Preaching and the Arts.

“We have sought to be good stewards of the mysteries of God,” added Gambrell. “And to respond to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our own time, particularly through the gifts and sights of new worshiping communities, multicultural congregations and ecumenical partners.”

The 2018 BCW includes theological and practical commentaries. Orders of worship are streamlined and simplified. Guidance is provided for those who pray extemporaneously or write their own prayers.

“People talked to us repeatedly about the changing nature of leadership in the church,” said editorial team member David Maxwell, with PPC. “They wanted the Book of Common Worship to be more flexible and accessible for lay leadership — less didactical and more poetic.”

There are now illustrated liturgical resources for worship leaders and Spanish and Korean resources in the 2018 BCW. Plus, all 150 Psalms have been arranged for responsive reading, singing or personal prayer.

The BCW also has a revised marriage liturgy section, which includes a marriage service that is inclusive of all couples — in response to the movement for marriage equality and changes to the constitution of the PC(USA).

As talks of revising the BCW began, Gambrell paid a visit to the editor of the 1993 BCW, Harold M. Daniels — who died in 2015.

With some trepidation, Gambrell had prepared a list of possible revisions to discuss with him. But before he could present his list, Daniels gave Gambrell his list, which covered most of what Gambrell had in mind — and ventured in a few new directions as well.

“It gave us an appreciation for the wisdom of those who have gone before us,” said Gambrell. “He understood, as our editorial team did, that worship is a living encounter with the living God. That a worship service book can lead us to the brink of that holy mystery but can never contain it.”

The 2018 Book of Common Worship Editorial Team includes:

  • David Gambrell
  • Kimberly Long
  • David Maxwell
  • William McConnell, former executive director of PAM

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