Archives For Worship



Today is the birthday of Marva Dawn, one of the theologians who has been most influential for our congregation at Englewood Christian Church.

To mark the occasion, we offer the following introductory reading guide to her most significant works.

We’ve ordered this list in the order that we think the books should be read, and offered a brief explanation of why each book was included. We’ve also included excerpts of most the books via Google Books.



1) Truly the Community: Romans 12 and How to Be the Church

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Experiencing  the Now-But-Not-Yet
of God’s Kingdom

A Brief Review of 

The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World
Sandra Maria Van Opstal

Paperback:  IVP Books, 2016.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]
Reviewed by Leslie Starasta

In her most recent book The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World, Sandra Maria Van Opstal presents a convincing case for why diverse or multicultural worship must become normal and expected in our churches rather than reserved for special events.  Van Opstal does so using biblical evidence, leadership resources, engaging metaphors and her own personal experiences as a worship leader and trainer.

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Tapping into the “Aesthetic Know-How” of the Worshiping Bodies

A Feature Review of

Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works.

James K.A. Smith

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2013.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]


Reviewed By Jasmine Smart


In 2010, Christianity Today awarded Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation a book award for the category of Theology/Ethics. Englewood Review of Books, similarly, awarded DTK as the “best theology book” of 2009. With these accolades, it is not surprising that the second volume of this three-part series of “cultural liturgies” has been highly anticipated.


Smith aims to be both accessible and scholarly in Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works, but recognizes doing so may get him critics from both camps: “Such is the fate of a hybrid book: too many footnotes and references to German philosophers to qualify as ‘popular’; not enough footnotes and too many creative asides to be properly ‘academic’” (Imagining the Kingdom, xi). Originally, ITK was supposed to be aimed at a more specialized audience of scholars, but thankfully for us non-specialized readers, he has changed his plans and will continue to go the hybrid route for volume two and three.


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“Single-minded Devotion to God’s Kingdom”

A review of
??Sanctuary of the Soul:
Journey into Meditative Prayer

by Richard J. Foster

Review by Craig D. Katzenmiller.

SANCTUARY OF THE SOUL - Richard FosterSanctuary of the Soul:
Journey into Meditative Prayer

Richard J. Foster
Hardback: IVP Books, 2011.
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[ ] [ Amazon – Kindle ]

“Sometimes I wish these stinking monks would get out in the world and do something!” My friend’s outburst caught me off guard. Kyle and I had visited the Abbey of Gethsemani together two times prior to this trip, and the experience had always been refreshing. On this day, Kyle, who has been accepted to work with a peace organization in Palestine, was trying to understand what good monks offered to the real world. “I don’t think I could live that way,” Kyle confided to me. The cloistered paradise of rural Kentucky just didn’t jive with his desire to “be the change.” I tried to defend the monks’ vocation by saying that they offered prayers for the world and offered the world a place to pray, but Kyle wasn’t buying it. He barked in frustration, “They’re just running away from real life.” Thus was the subject of conversation on our third pilgrimage to Gethsemani. But the vocation of prayer should not be considered as flight away from the things of this world, and many authors have affirmed this claim.

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“Easter Communion”
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Pure fasted faces draw unto this feast:
God comes all sweetness to your Lenten lips.
You striped in secret with breath-taking whips,
Those crooked rough-scored chequers may be pieced
To crosses meant for Jesu’s; you whom the East
With draught of thin and pursuant cold so nips
Breathe Easter now; you serged fellowships,
You vigil-keepers with low flames decreased,

God shall o’er-brim the measures you have spent
With oil of gladness, for sackcloth and frieze
And the ever-fretting shirt of punishment
Give myrrhy-threaded golden folds of ease.
Your scarce-sheathed bones are weary of being bent:
Lo, God shall strengthen all the feeble knees.


An excerpt from

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist:
Unlocking the Secrets of The Last Supper
Brant Pitre.
Hardback: Doubleday Religion, 2011.
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[ Read our review above…  ]


838400: The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus

A Review of

The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor:
Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus

By Mark Labberton
Hardback: Inter-varsity Press, 2010.

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Reviewed by Laretta Benjamin.

“What seems most pertinent, however, is the overriding confidence that even all of what is now so tragically and horribly wrong in the world, including all of the darkest and most pernicious forms of injustice, will in the providence and purpose of God come to their right end, namely, to be remade to mirror the reality, the glory, of God’s own life and character.  The greatest hope for the human heart is the heart of God” (216)

I had the wonderful privilege of meeting Mark Labberton at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley in Berkeley, California, where he was, at the time, senior pastor.  A friend and I attended a conference on AIDS the church was holding there and then the following year, I attended a conference on Human Trafficking that was also held there in Berkeley.  I have read his book The Dangerous Act of Worship (which I greatly appreciated) and was delighted for the opportunity to read and review this new writing.  From what I have seen, heard and read of Mark Labberton, his passion for justice, mercy, grace and for God’s people to live the reality of the kingdom of God is true and sincere.  I find him to be an encouragement and an inspiration.

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An excerpt from one of the books to be featured in our
first print edition…  (Have you subscribed? )

America’s Four Gods:
What We Say about God–and What That Says about Us.

Paul Froese and Christopher Bader.
Hardback: Oxford UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


“Humanizing Prayer

A Review of
Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer
By Ken Wilson

Reviewed by Joshua Neds-Fox.

Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer.
Ken Wilson
Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2010.
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MYSTICALLY WIRED - Ken WilsonKen Wilson’s Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer is either a practical manual for mystic prayer or a mystical manual for practicing prayer, depending on whether you emphasize the ‘Wired’ or the ‘Mystically.’  Wendell Berry might argue that applying language like ‘wired’ to our biology is a bad idea, since equating human beings with electrical systems is, at the very least, dehumanizing, and probably not the best theology. But Wilson is the pastor of the Ann Arbor Vineyard, a community squarely in University of Michigan territory. For strong left-brain thinkers, mystical prayer looks a lot like a neuro/genetic coping mechanism for anxiety and stress.  It could use a bit of demystifying, and Wilson, a good pastor, is willing and able to extend grace to his community and see things through their eyes.  His message to them (and us) is that a receptivity to what we commonly think of as mystical prayer is actually strongly supported by our neurobiology.  He’s humanizing prayer—and by extension, faith—for the scientific set.

Wilson takes the ‘wired’ metaphor seriously: he places prayer in the Trinitarian reality, which he characterizes as a network of love:

“God is a connected and connecting Being. When we are brought into relationship with God through Jesus, we are, as Jesus said, grafted into a vine as branches are—an early network metaphor to describe the kingdom of heaven (John 15:1-17)… Prayer is a powerful way to put us in touch with the reality that we are profoundly connected, that to be alive is to be embedded in a network of connections.” (70, 82)

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“A Renewed Appreciation
of God’s Love for his People

A Review of
Julian of Norwich:
A Contemplative Biography.

By Amy Frykholm

Reviewed by Mary Bowling.

Julian of Norwich:
A Contemplative Biography.

Amy Frykholm
Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2010.
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Julian of Norwich by Amy FrykhomWhy a “contemplative biography” instead of just a biography? Maybe just a biography of Julian of Norwich isn’t enough.  For one thing, so little of the actual person is known that to make a biography based only on the facts we have about Julian’s life would be a very short book indeed.  It would also, if it contained only facts about this woman‘s life, be somewhat of a lie in itself. Julian never intended her writing to be about herself or to point back to her in any way. She didn’t seek fame or recognition — quite the opposite. She spent the last many years of her life secluded in an anchorage essentially dead to the world.

So why then any biography at all, if she was an unknown, and such a recluse as to be dead to the world?  That we know almost nothing about her, is certainly as she wished, but we do know one thing. She received a series of revelations from God which she, despite many limitations, managed to write down in words and which became the first book written in the English language by a woman. It was a notable accomplishment, but not one that she sought.
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