Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"Worship Without Words" by Patricia S. Klein

      I picked up this little manual, "Worship Without Words" by Patricia S. Klein from a library resale table. It is a little book that explains the visual elements of traditional Christian liturgy. In fact, I found it's contents describing Christian symbolic language to be quite helpful to me while developing the Chrismon ornaments for this website. I recommend this little book for those of you who are either in training for membership in an Orthodox church or for teachers who like to keep similar information at hand. 
      The description of the book's contents on the back cover is a bit misleading. I suspect that this was written apart from the author's knowledge or input. There are many quotes in the book that enhance it's readability, however, these are not what most Christian publishers call "devotional reading." Devotional reading is a very specific genre of writing that is not intended by Klein. The volume does not include any scriptural references nor contemplative observations about it's readers connections with God on a daily basis. 
      The book is primarily an introduction to a highly complex subject. It does not cover the vast history of symbol in Christianity, it simplifies and describes the presentation of it during congregational services. Klein describes how symbols are the byproduct of inspiration and how these can lead one to remember and contemplate, but she does not evoke the literal contemplation itself. Klein is a teacher, not a preacher. This does not mean she is less effective, this simply means she has a specific purpose and her writing teaches that which she has been led to inform others about. You do not need to dress an author in alternative robes in order to justify the value of what they impart, if they teach what is valuable. Klein is a very readable author, her flow is excellent and she explains content clearly. She is an educational author.
      Although much of what Klein writes about in the book can be found on the internet, the organization of the information plus the readability of it, makes the resource valuable to teachers and students. If you need to write a course outline for presenting symbolic content, that specifically addresses liturgy in Christian churches, the book is worthy of purchase.  If I were teaching religion in high school, I would acquire the book for the classroom library and file it under the subject of vocabulary and/or symbolism. ( It's reading level is fifth grade but it's content is for k-12th grade.)
      The book is also informative and entertaining enough for a new adult members of Orthodox churches to read and keep for future reference. I specifically say it is for new members because the content of the book is very likely taught to the young throughout their lives by parents and clergy on a daily basis. (And in some cases, taken for granted as is all visual imagery that one is familiar with.)
      A pocket sized version of the book would be a nice to include with a new members packet. I do not think that this has ever been printed; perhaps it could be suggested to the publisher at Paraclete Press. My edition is from 2000.
      
* The content is adaptable for any old Orthodox church that uses ancient symbols in their liturgy: Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Anglican. It is not "out of bounds" to use it in newer Christian denominations: Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians etc., if they still use the imagery to communicate ideas, theology and history through their culture or services. Christian symbolism is a form of visual language. Visual text or image is as meaningful as those beliefs associated with it by the people who practice it.

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