A Manual for Worship and Service. [Mississauga:] Canadian Baptist Ministries, 1998. Pp. xii + 160. CA$20.00.
It has been twenty-two years since the Baptist Federation of Canada (now Canadian Baptist Ministries) first published A Manual for Worship and Service. In 1976, responding to a growing interest in worship renewal sparked by the Free Churches' involvement with the Liturgical Renewal Movement of the 1960s, Canadian Baptists produced a fresh manual of contemporary liturgies and worship resources to replace its predecessor, the Canadian Baptist Ministers' Handbook (1955). Eight years later, in 1984, the Manual was revised and shortened from its original 291 pages to a mere 189 by eliminating three alternative communion liturgies and replacing several quoted Scripture passages with textual references.
And now, fourteen years later, yet another long-awaited revision of the Manual for Worship and Service (1998) has been released. To its credit, this new revision features a number of noteworthy improvements that serve to make the manual a more practical resource for both pastors and lay leaders. Most apparent is the manual's change in format from a hardcover pocketbook (10.5 by 17.7 cm) to a slightly larger loose-leaf six-ring binder (13.5 by 18.5 cm). I love this new loose-leaf binder format! The manual stays open to the right page when set down and new material can be inserted into the binder without the use of tape, glue, paperclips or "post it" notes.
Also evident is the manual's commitment to the use of gender-inclusive language, exemplified in its move away from the Revised Standard Version, cited in the first two editions, to the more inclusive New Revised Standard Version. Furthermore, while not shying away from referring to God as "He," "Him," or "Father," the manual does seek to provide other more inclusive liturgical options. For example, the alternative prayer in "An Order for a Home Service of Thanksgiving for a New Baby" begins with the words: "Merciful God, father and mother to all your children, we thank you that we all find welcome, shelter and nurture" (p. 6).
This revised manual is also to be commended for its inclusion of a new pastoral care section (Part II - Resources for Pastoral Care and Visitation). Rather than relegate funeral services to a catch-all section containing resources for "special occasions" (as was the case in the first and second editions), this third edition incorporates funerals and committal services within the larger context of pastoral care, along with helpful guidelines for pastoral visitation, and a healing service (including the laying on of hands and anointing with oil).
Yet despite these noteworthy improvements, I expected much more. What disappointed me most was the manual's poor handling of the rich diversity of worship that currently exists within Canadian Baptist churches. Rather than reflect the eclectic nature of Canadian Baptist worship through the inclusion of various liturgies--traditional, contemporary, blended, Afri-Canadian--the editors of the manual have apparently chosen to avoid such issues altogether. While the Canadian Baptist Minister's Handbook (1955) offered no fewer than six alternative orders of worship for Sunday services, and the 1976 and 1984 editions of A Manual for Worship and Service offered one, this newly revised addition offers none. In fact, if one were to compare the 1976 edition with this current 1998 revision, one might conclude that nothing of much significance had happened on the Canadian Baptist worship front over the past two decades.
I was likewise disappointed with the way the editors of the manual renamed two significant Baptist rites (inappropriately so, in my opinion). In the first instance, "The Induction of a Pastor" service was re-titled "The Commissioning of a Pastor" (p.129). While I agree that the "induction" of a pastor also includes (in the case of an ordained minister) the commissioning of that pastor into a new ministry, the rite of induction is intended to be much more than a commissioning. Included in the Baptist rite of induction for a ordained minister is the recognition and reaffirmation of a prior rite of ordination. Rather than re-ordaining pastors each time they change pastorates, Canadian Baptists use the rite of induction, not only to commission them into their new ministries, but also to reaffirm their ordination. Using the same term--commissioning--to describe both the commissioning of a non-ordained Christian leader and the induction of an ordained pastor simply fails to recognize adequately the significant difference that exists between the two.
In the second instance, the editors of the manual needlessly drop the term "Right Hand of Fellowship" in favour of an unspecified "Symbol of Fellowship" (p. 124). This seems strange to me, given that the Baptist tradition of extending the right hand of fellowship to new members finds its scriptural basis in Galatians 2:9: "and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised" (NRSV). Furthermore, to this day, extending the right hand of fellowship to new members continues to be the norm among American, Southern, British, and Canadian Baptists.
However, while disappointed that this new revision of A Manual for Worship and Service has not been more pro-active in introducing Baptists to the rich diversity of worship styles that currently exist, I believe in the end that its practical binder format and its thoughtful pastoral care section makes it well worth the $20.00 price tag.
Copies of this manual are available for purchase through R.E.A.D. On Bookstore by email at email@example.com or by phone at (416) 622-0655 ext 308.
Michel R. Belzile
Michel Belzile is a graduate of the McMaster University Doctor of Ministry Programme (1998) and an ordained pastor within the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec (BCOQ). Dr. Belzile has served BCOQ churches in Mountsberg, Westover, and Hagersville.