The Presbyterian Church (USA) published a new version of our Book of Common Worship, an optional resource many pastors use to plan services for the life of the church. When our copies arrived in the office, my colleague, Melinda, and I ripped off the plastic and started thumbing through the 1,100+ page book checking out our favorite services and looking for new additions. The marriage liturgy has been updated to take into account the couples may be of the same sex. Several liturgies are now available in both English and Spanish. New services were added to provide guidance for special occasions like services for justice and peace, ecumenical gatherings, or dedications of new buildings. Some of the language has been updated so that it can be spoken more fluidly. Overall, I love the new book because it has maintained the core of our traditions and theology while being open to the newness of the Spirit.
As I went to put the new copy on my desk near my computer, I noticed my original Book of Common Worship. The original book was published in 1993, but I bought mine in 1999 when I started seminary. The hard cover started to rip away from the binding a couple of months ago. The ribbon bookmarks are all crinkled because someone tied them in knots when the book spent a couple of months out of my possession after I left it behind at my brother-in-law’s wedding. When I thumbed through those pages I saw the penciled in names of couples I have married, saints I have buried, youth I have confirmed, and babies I have baptized. There are juice stains on the communion pages and crumbs in the crack. The baptism pages are wrinkled from the overflowing drops of grace that have been sprinkled on the pages. I had no idea this one book was carrying so many memories of so many people who have been dear to me for the past nineteen years, three years of seminary and internships, and sixteen years of ministry.
I’ll move the old book to a shelf in the office; I won’t let go of it just yet. Who am I kidding? I probably won’t get rid of it ever. The new one will make its debut in worship in the coming weeks, something people probably never would have noticed if I hadn’t just announced it here. And throughout this summer and into the fall I’ll probably start staining the pages with grape juice, scribbling names in the margins, and dousing the pages with water from the font. I’m looking forward to that, praying new prayers and offering ancient blessings, making new memories as I worship with the people of God.