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Beyond, Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy

Publisher: Paraclete Press, Massachusetts, 2008
RRP: $26.95

Reviewed by Rev Dr Marian Zaunbrecher, Associate General Secretary of the Queensland Synod

I was privileged to have perhaps one of best teachers of liturgy around, the Rev Dr Robert Gribben.

Yet I struggle with liturgy.

It is so often badly done, even cringe worthy.

On those rare occasions when it is magnificent my soul soars and my heart expands.

So this book came as quite a challenge to me.

I picked it up because I loved the title but it drew me into the mystery that is worship.

The author explores liturgy; the calendar, how the liturgy draws us into community, its relevance, its reshaping of ourselves and our communities, its engagement with our whole bodies, its challenge to transformation, imagination and reality.

In the appendices there is a primer of liturgy and a comparison of liturgies across different traditions.

Liturgy is not about education or the self any more than a family meal is about food (see p.95).

It may often feel meaningless but when we engage in liturgical worship we look to the Spirit, and in faith we look to God.

“We do not look for a particular religious experience. We do not look to be edified. We do not look to be instructed. We look to God. We worship.” P. 110

If you attend worship you will be enriched by reading this book. If you are a liturgist, be it a lay preacher or ordained minister you may well benefit from it. You may not agree but it will make you think.

As for me, I shall be eternally grateful to Robert Gribben for inducting me to the mystery of worship.

I can hardly wait till next Sunday!