Reviewed by Emily Lo Gibson
Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (InterVarsity Press, 2016) is a meditation on life and a gem of a find. I enjoyed the simultaneous simplicity and depth of the book, and plan to revisit it during Lent this year.
The book is especially worth pondering and savoring during Lent as we strive to turn inward. Through anecdote, Scripture, researched references, and more, Tish Harrison Warren shows how seemingly mundane activities—brushing your teeth or sitting in traffic—are, in fact, sacred places where we can meet God.
Other books examine this same topic, but Liturgy of the Ordinary itself through its personal nature, its ties to the liturgical life, and the appendix. Each chapter, focused on a different aspect of daily living, begins with an episode from Warren’s own life. This gives the reader a little window into Warren’s daily routine and the struggles that come with it. I enjoyed this memoir touch, which gives a gritty grounding to what could otherwise seem like abstract spiritual clichés. The author, an Anglican priest, then connects these small habits and their spiritual significances to Anglican liturgy and the yearly church calendar.
As a Protestant who grew up in a non-denominational church, I considered liturgy a negative term, one burdened with monotonous services, clouds of pungent incense, and white-haired congregations. But as I familiarized myself with different churches and forms of worship, I came to better understand and appreciate liturgical practices. One of Warren's main points is that our daily routines are a kind of daily liturgy—repeated actions that are imbued with meaning, whether we are conscious of it or not. She then ties these moments back to what we routinely do and say during a church service. What we do on Sundays is directly lived out in the bedroom, the bathroom, and beyond.
While this book is full of historical, theological, and cultural considerations, it isn't a book with its head in the clouds. I appreciate that. There are plenty of calls to action, and the Appendix, in particular, contains reflection questions and suggested tasks for each chapter topic. Although I haven't read through them all, the ones I did really made me consider what I mindlessly do on a regular basis.
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