The Art of Tentmaking: Making Space for Worship

The Art of Tentmaking: Making Space for Worship

Stephen Burns (ed.), Canterbury Press

My favourite line in this book, “we built a temple when we were supposed to pitch a tent”, is emblematic both of what I like and what I found wanting about this compilation of essays.

The Art of Tentmaking is edited by Stephen Burns from the United Theological College in Sydney and seeks to honour the work of Richard Giles, who is one of the most influential Anglican liturgical pioneers of recent times.

The title is in fact a deliberate echo of Giles’ own bestseller Re-pitching the Tent.

A distinguished international group of theologians and liturgists from many different traditions share their reflections on essential aspects of liturgical practice and liturgical renewal, as well as the layout and use of traditional liturgical space.

Contributors include Richard Vosko on church architecture, Martyn Percy on openness and inclusivity, Stephen Cottrell on sacramental spirituality, Rosalind Brown on participation and the priesthood of all believers, Rod Pattenden on the use of visual arts in worship and mission, Carol Doran on the renewal of church music, and Steven Croft on simplicity in the liturgy.

For me, coming from a long Anglican tradition, perhaps the most interesting essay was the contribution of Richard Fabian entitled “The Scandalous Table”, which explores the inclusiveness of practices of sacramental celebration.

This is a stimulating volume that will be of interest to anyone with responsibility for Christian worship, including not only members of the clergy but also lay ministers, musicians, artists and architects with an interest in the development and re-ordering of church buildings.

Although I greatly valued the way many of the contributors pushed the boundaries of the tradition, it was missing any exploration of worship beyond the congregation gathered in some sacred space.

Working with the tentmaking image could have so easily lent itself to reflection on a much more fluid understanding of worship and the spaces in which (or outside of which) worship can occur. A missed opportunity.

Karyl Davison

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