Crowning the Year:
Liturgy, Theology, and Ecclesiology for the Rural Church
By Tom Clammer, OC
Who’s it for? Those involved in pastoral and liturgical ministry in rural and/or clustered parishes.
What is this book? From the author’s introduction, it is clear that this book is hard to define in traditional theological genres. I was reminded of George Guiver’s writing style. Clammer, like Guiver might do, weaves sociology, local history and geography, ecclesiology, and liturgical praxis into something akin to a pastoral memoir. This is not a “priest’s manual” for rural parishes, nor does it pretend to be. Rather, it successfully blends reflections on the lived-out practice of the rural church with the liturgical expression that flows from this daily life.
What difference will this book make? On the surface, the situation of clustered Church of England parishes and American clustered parishes is not similar. However, the challenges they face are very similar. Different worshiping styles and implicit theologies are paired up next to one another, resources are stretched thin, and worshipping assemblies are small. These realities make pastoral and liturgical ministry difficult. An American clustered parish, one where different ethnic groups are present in different churches, will have the same diversity of theology and liturgy as Clammer’s cluster containing different expressions of Anglicanism.
So the situation is not directly translatable. Yet, and this is vital, the results of the reflection on his situation and his showing the process of reflection present an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to engage the liturgical life a rural parish for all its worth, rather than repeating the same liturgy from parish to parish.
Before proceeding: This is a very English book. As it should be; the context it was written in and audience it is intended for is rural pastoral situations in England. As an US-American not well-versed in C of E vocabulary, I had to look up a few terms initially to fully understand the situation where Clammer ministered.
To get the most out of this book: Although I am not familiar the Church of England’s polity and administrative vocabulary, I am familiar with the Book of Common Prayer and the multi-volume series of liturgical resources known as Common Worship. This was a huge help, as Clammer includes texts within his book where he describes liturgies and refers to broader liturgical patterns. In what may be pleasant surprise to US-American Roman Catholics who are used to the labyrinthine USCCB copyright regulations, Common Worship and the other liturgical materials for the C of E are fully available online here.
Being able to see the liturgies Clammer cites can help the reader appreciate more fully the breadth of liturgical expression that Common Worship makes possible. A little bit of pastoral imagination can help someone who serves in a pastoral situation that does not use Common Worship see how its resources might be adapted, or its patterns of liturgy may be used to shape liturgies drawn from other resources, such as the Book of Blessings and Roman Missal.
Clammer, Tom. Crowning the Year: Liturgy, Theology, and Ecclesiology for the Rural Church. Norwich: Canterbury Press Norwich, 2021. 308 pages. $21.79. ISBN: 9781786223395.
REVIEWER: David Wesson
David Wesson is a graduate of St. John’s University School of Theology,
with degrees in scripture and liturgical studies.
He is actively involved in Adult Christian Formation at his parish in Atlanta, GA.