A Review of Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy by Mark Galli

This book was absolutely a delight to read. Not only the content was captivating but also the writing style and the general tone were alluring as well. This is not a “Why you have to worship this way or else” kind of books that I unfortunately wasted so much of my time reading over the years.

Mark Galli is a fellow Anglican and his perspective in this book is laden with examples from what one can encounter in an Anglican worship service. Most of the examples are taken from the Book of Common Prayer which is the liturgical prayer that Anglicans from all over the world use.

The first chapter is about Christianity itself and how its story is absolutely needed in our story deprived world. Galli points out that the liturgy takes us out of this chaotic world and its somehow misshaped stories and puts us into the biblical story. What I really like about the Lectionary in particular is that the one who is preaching on a given Sunday is forced to go through the biblical story week by week instead of his own personal preferences, theologians and political views. The liturgy helps us in grounding the sermon, not on the morning news or the book of the month, but on the biblical story.

The second chapter deals with the subject of church calendar. This is a subject that I am trying to pay more attention to. The beauty of church calendar is that our view of time and life is determined by the biblical story of redemption instead of the popular events that are happening in the world. Galli says: The church calendar is not about the cycle of life—school or sports or harvest time—but about the movement of history toward a glorious goal.

The third chapter is concerned with the Otherness and majesty of God and yet how the liturgy brings intimacy between us and this God we adore.

The rest of the chapters deal with how the liturgy creates community with both present, past and future : The gift of the liturgy—and it is precisely why I need the liturgy—is that it helps me hear not so much “my little voice” but instead the still, small voice (Psalm 46). It leads away from the self and points me toward the community of God.

And another quote I absolutely love about the liturgy:

The paradox of these daily liturgies is that we never pray alone despite praying by ourselves. In saying the prayers of the Book of Common Prayer’s service of Morning Prayer, I’m praying with all who that morning are also praying it. And I’m praying prayers crafted not by my lonely piety, but by the church. I’m praying prayers that have their origin in another time and place—going all the way back to the early church—and thus I find myself mysteriously connected with believers that have gone before me.

Galli also talks about the mystery of worship which I almost never hear of in evangelical circles. Everything is quite white and black and in the Reformed world, sadly, everything is either right or wrong. This may sound odd but I said a heartily amen after reading these words:

A liturgical corollary of this truth is this: authentic worship of this God must, at some level, remain incomprehensible. Worship that enables us to encounter the living God should leave worshipers a bit stupefied; they should leave their pews, pump the minister’s hand, and enthusiastically blurt out, “I didn’t understand large portions of the service. Thank you.”

There are so many points and illustrations that I would like to share from this book but it’s supposed to be a review not a paper on it 🙂 So I highly encourage you to purchase this book and read it. It’s a very well written and one of the best books I’ve ever read on worship and the liturgy. If you’re skeptical about the liturgy and the first thing that it reminds you of is deadness or dullness or the Catholic superstitions, Mark Galli can change your mind. I would give this book a five star.



A Review of Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy by Mark Galli” üzerine 3 yorum

  1. oh man. I had this on my wish list for a while and then took it off after the buzz passed, thinking that while I’d probably like the book it wasn’t a must-read. Now I have to add it again. 🙂

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