Bruce, the salesman in the friendly local Christian bookstore, recently handed me the slight Beyond Smells & Bells by Mark Galli – “you might be interested in this”.
It is an easy read (142 pages), and as I began it I thought it would make a helpful introduction for those newer to liturgy. But soon I found Mark Galli’s moving from candid personal stories into perceptive insights refreshing for anyone interested in liturgy – not just beginners.
Liturgy lures us through our senses, grounds us in a great tradition, and plants us in the midst of a diverse community, present and past.
Complex concepts have been simply presented in well-crafted images and paragraphs that I found myself reading repeatedly. I wish I had written that – was a not uncommon thought.
Mark Galli recognises our post-modern, individualistic context, but sees liturgy not as accommodating to this culture but as challenging it. Whilst many respond by attempting to make services more “relevant” and so thwart the dynamics of conversion, Galli presents the more authentic liturgical tradition in which we are immersed in something much bigger than ourselves and hence are encouraged on the journey to Christian maturity.
Its generalist nature, a strong point, is also one of its weaknesses. People with little to no liturgical experience may struggle to conceptualise what he is talking about specifically. Some may also need to be helped to see how the general concepts are playing out within their own liturgical tradition.
Mark Galli is senior managing editor of Christianity Today. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and the author of Francis of Assisi and His World, and Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God. He is married and has been worshiping in the Anglican tradition for nearly 20 years, most recently as a member of Church of the Resurrection in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.
I highly recommend this book.
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