In 1962, during my first year as a neophyte professor at Christian Theological Seminary, Dean Ronald E. Osborn, who also edited the seminary’s quarterly journal Encounter, suggested that I consider drafting an order for celebrating Holy Communion every Sunday. He was thinking of most of the historic Protestant Churches, which celebrated this sacrament only monthly or quarterly. He thought that the experience of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with their tradition of the “every Lord’s Day Lord’s Supper” could provide encouragement to these other churches.
I drafted a brief essay of principles and a draft liturgy. It was my first effort to do this kind of work, and as I review it half a century later I see many evidences of my inexperience in this kind of writing. (But don’t expect me to point them out. You’ll have to find them on your own.)
After he had reviewed my essay and liturgy, my dean suggested that we send them out to people in several Protestant churches to ask for comments, which we would publish along with what I had written. With considerable trepidation, I agreed and together we developed the list. Only one person, as I recall, declined our invitation. When their comments came in, I read them with a growing sense of appreciation for the scholarly habits of respect to one’s comrades in the academy, especially those who were in the early stages of learning their craft.
In 1963, when these materials were first published, the movement to reform worship in historic Protestant and Catholic Churches was still in an early stage. Important preparatory literature had been published and several churches had begun the process of developing new worship books and hymnals. Scholars, writers, and editors were finding ways to collaborate, with the result that they were learning from one another in new ways.
Still to come, however, were some of the opportunities for sustained personal contact, such as the Commission on Worship of the Consultation on Church Union, the North American Academy of Liturgy, and the Consultation on Common Texts. Discussion was just emerging with respect to revisions in English usage, especially in matters related to gender-biased language and the continued use of Elizabethan styles in the language of prayer. Only later in the decade of the 1960s did new eucharistic liturgies begin the process of incorporating new patterns of English usage.
Not until 1978, fifteen years after my liturgy was published, did the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship publish The Lutheran Book of Worship, the first in a series of American books that was climaxed in 1993 (thirty years after my liturgy) by the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship.
Although later work would show significant advances in theology, liturgical forms, and the use of language in worship, this 1963 paper, with its symposium, provides a basis for understanding the mindset of representative scholars at a time when liturgical renewal was entering into a highly creative period.
To read the essay, liturgy, and symposium, click An Order of Holy Communion. . . .
Note: This online republication is with the permission of Encounter. Thank you.