Worship Book: Book of Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993; 1107 pp., $30.00.

This new book, prepared for voluntary use in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, provides services and prayers in accord with the normative Directory of Worship of each of these two denominations. Similar to the UMBW, the BCWbe-gins by explaining the "basic movement of the service of the Lord's Day: Gathering, the Word, the Eucharist, and Sending" (pp. 33-47), and offers various "prayers of the people" and alternate versions of the "Great Thanksgiving."

The next sections of the BCW provide prayers for the main seasons and feasts of the church year, various services for "Baptism and Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant," and model orders and prayers for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. Then follow the texts of 127 Psalms that are pointed for singing and for which are provided psalm tones and psalm refrains composed by Hal Hopson. (The Presbyterians have also recently published a separate Psalter; see p 45.)

The concluding portions of the BCW consist of "prayers for various occasions," three rites for marriage, a funeral service with many variants, resources for ministries of healing, the three-year Revised Common Lectionary, and a two-year lec-tionary for daily Scripture readings. Because the Presbyterian Church (USA) is considering a study report on ordination, the BCW does not contain ordination or comrnissioning services; neither does it include resources for occasional services, such as dedications of church buildings or furnishings.

In modeling and vocalizing prayer, the language of prayerbooks always touches a sensitive "heartstring" in God's people. Both of these prayerbooks use inclusive language, modern syntax, and "you" language in reference to God. They both also include prayers that extend "god-language" beyond God as Father (e.g., the UMBW makes use of "Parent," which sounds to this reviewer like an impersonal sociological construct). And for those who prefer extemporaneous prayers, both books offer splendid models of ancient and modern structures for worship and prayers that may inspire personal and corporate worship and prayer. For example, the BCW presents a clear outline of the typical contents of the "Great Thanksgiving" for those who pray "in a free style" (p. 156), while the UMBW sets out the pattern of the collect "for those who [wish to] learn to pray in this form" (p. 447).

Most Reformed worship planners will discover that these hardbound volumes are useful resources for a whole range of services and prayers. These books should be on the shelf or desk of every worship leader and available as standard reference sources to worship committees.


Note: The following is an excerpt from the table of contents of the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship.


Prayers for Use Before Worship

The Law of God

Prayers for Worship Leaders


Basic Movement of the Service for the Lord's Day
The Service for the Lord's Day:
A Description of Its Movements and Elements
The Service for the Lord's Day: Order with Liturgical Texts
Additional Texts for the Service for the Lord's Day
Prayer of Confession
Prayer for Illumination
Ascription of Praise
Invitation to Discipleship
Affirmation of Faith
Prayers of the People: A-H
 Commemoration of Those Who have
 Died in the Faith
 Prayers of the People: Concluding Collects
Invitation to the Lords Table
Great Thanksgiving: B-J
Prayer After Communion
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Charge to the People


Epiphany—January 6

Bert Polman was a hymnologist, professor and chair of the music department at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He passed away in July 2013. 

Reformed Worship 33 © September 1994, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.