on 4 April 2010
This book has, admittedly, a niche market, namely those whose job it is to organise liturgy in Anglican Churches, most particularly the Church of England.
So, nine times out of ten, this means priests.
Of these, of course, evangelicals will largely bypass the type of ceremonial described, so can ignore it, but this book could be read with profit by everyone else, from middle of the road all the way up the candle to super-spikes.
Anyway, if you've passed this entry level test, you'll find this a really useful guide to all the Church's services from the start of Lent through the rest of the year. The bulk of it is focussed on Holy Week and the section on the Easter Vigil stands out for its clarity, but it also covers much more widely: for example, there is a little chapter for Agricultural services: and typically, they even suggest with confidence when the president should have his/her hands in 'orans' position during the blessing of seed on Plough Sunday!
Gordon-Taylor and Jones have partnered up before and they have kept their usual style here: direct instruction, clear delineation of options, and reasons given for their preferences. This makes them incredibly helpful as a guide, as even if you disagree with them, you can see why. For example, on p76, they specify exactly whose candles get lit from the Paschal Candle at which moment during the three "The light of Christ" proclamations at the beginning of the Easter Vigil: at the first, the President's, at the second, the other clergy and servers, and at the third, everybody else. Now I think I would disagree with this: I rather like the semi-chaotic sharing by the congregation during these moments, as I like the image of the congregation sharing Christ with each other, however it comes, but equally because of Gordon-Taylor and Jones, I can now know exactly when I would be breaking from formal practice, to what extent this is within canonical rubric and to what extent it's just breaking with a custom. (They also for example note a further difference within current Roman Catholic practice.)
Moreover, they are utterly up to date: in a way, their book is really a practical commentary to "Times and Seasons" the 2006 book of Common Worship that gives the Church's official liturgies for these dates. But they are also well-read, so they can compare it with, say, recent Roman catholic instruction on similar services, as well as key liturgical thinkers from the past (Percy Dearmer etc.) and present (e.g. Richard Giles).
Occasionally, their lack of parish experience tells: for example, surely no priest who had been in a parish for any significant time would limit the giving of daffodils on Mothering Sunday just to mothers, as they suggest on p16, given the painful exposure this would bring to non-mothers, whether that lifestyle has been chosen or otherwise.
But this is a minor quibble. They have done the Church a great service in bringing such knowledge to bear in such a concise and user-friendly manner.
For too many of us, preparing Easter liturgies can leave us scratching our heads as to why we do what when...: many of these questions are answered here.