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Patterned by Grace

Upper Room Books
Approx. $25

Daniel Benedict, until recently served as director of worship for the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church in the USA.

He is one of that church’s foremost liturgical scholars, writers and practitioners, with a strong interest in areas such as discipleship and the catechumenate; not to mention being an all round good guy!

“How liturgy shapes us” subtitles this excellent addition to the resourcing of the worship life of the church.

Early on, Benedict declares, “Though on the surface worship may appear to be our doing, at a deeper level … it (worship) is the work of the triune God in and through us … in worship our visions, desires, attitudes, yearnings, wills and lives are recast, moulded and shaped to conform to the dying and rising of Christ for the life of the world.”

Is this the view of worship across the Uniting Church? Often yes, but often far from it. To a church which easily falls into the trap of worship which is subjective, narcissistic and shallow – Benedict offers a much-needed corrective. “Is worship supposed to tilt toward commodification of the gospel?” he asks.

The writer describes worship as “God’s playground”. Patterned by Grace devoted helpful chapters to the Christian year, baptism and Eucharist – all of this in a style which is both engaging and full of depth.

In the chapter “The Rhythm of the Table: Eucharistic Living”, Benedict offers “take, bless, break and give” as the four “movements” of the sacrament.

Additional merits of “Patterned by Grace” are the “Questions for Reflection” after each chapter and the “Group Study and Exploration Guide” toward the end of the book.

I would recommend Benedict’s offering to all ministers, worship-leaders and worship committees. Though Benedict’s content is especially relevant to those who closely follow the Christian calendar and more-structured patterns of worship, there’s something in it for all of us.

When the writer describes worship as “God’s playground”, that’s surely enough to get us curious.

It worked for me!

Reviewed by Rev David MacGregor www.togethertocelebrate.com.au