A Review of
Words for Spring
Erin Feldman, Managing Editor
Hardback: The Austin Stone Institute, 2022
Buy Now: [ Austin Stone ]
Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
Here in the northern hemisphere, the season of spring has dawned again, and I was reminded of the lovely book Words for Spring that one of our ERB contributors (Erin Feldman, also the editor of this book) sent me last year. Somehow, this volume got lost in the deluge of new books that we receive, and never got covered. As we turn again to spring, it seemed to me a fitting time to recommend this book.
Words for Spring is a collection of 75 liturgies – “worshipful prayers and poems” – that follow the calendars of the church and nature from mid-February to mid-May. These liturgies are divided into three sections: Liturgies of Spring that “voices the everyday moments of spring.” This section includes prayers for such familiar experiences as “On failing to keep a New Year’s resolution,” “Apathy at Eastertime” or “The End of the School Year.” This section reminded me, in its tone and content, of one of my favorite books of liturgies: Douglas McKelvey’s Every Moment Holy.
The book’s second section offers liturgies for Holy Week, which of course, is the most significant portion of spring in the church calendar. The arc of this section follows the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s week in Jerusalem, leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection. I especially appreciated the poems related to the early parts of the week, as those stories are often less embedded in our minds than those of Good Friday and the Easter weekend. Most of the liturgies in this section are presented as poetic engagements with the Gospel stories of Holy Week, but the section does conclude with congregational liturgies for Easter Sunday, including “Peace Be You,” a poignant meditation on the peace that has been made available to us in the resurrection.
Words for Spring concludes with a third section that compiles liturgies on various Gospel stories from the life and experience of Jesus, with a particular focus on persons Jesus encountered during his ministry. These vignettes “reveal that the events and people found in the Bible were real. Life began and continued after an event, and each person had a story that began before and continued after their appearance in the first four books of the New Testament.”
This collection of liturgies is an elegant one; one worth immersing yourself into in these spring months. Its words will undoubtedly guide and shape us as we traverse the days of this verdant season of new life in the church, in humanity, and in nature. One facet of this work that I found striking (and that might get overlooked by some readers), is that this book was not only written for the church, it was written as an effort of common work by a particular local church (Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas). “The work of thirty-three writers, and team of editors, designers, and project managers,” writes Feldman, “this book of liturgies … showcases the joy of ‘brothers and sisters dwelling in unity’ (Psalm 133:1).” Granted Austin Stone is a larger church that undoubtedly has abundant resources to produce an attractive volume like this one, but I hope that a work of this sort is inspiring to churches of all sizes and means, to work together to produce works (in many sorts of media, as they are gifted) that reflect the rich goodness of sharing life together as a community of Jesus’s disciples.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior
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