Book Review: Beyond the Lectionary A Year of Alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionary by the Rev. David Ackerman. C. 2013. Circle Books. ISBN-13: 978-1780998572. (Available in paper back or as an e-book.)
If you’re a church go-er, you may have noticed that friends from other Christian denominations often hear the same Biblical readings used in your church. This is likely to be true if you’re Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, a member of the United Church of Christ, or any of the other denominations considered “main-line Protestant.” The Biblical readings are often similar to those heard in a Roman Catholic Church. That’s because the denominations I named (and a few others) generally follow what’s called a lectionary: an appointed set of Bible readings arranged on a three year cycle. The lectionary serves several purposes: it enables people to become familiar with key parts of the Bible; prevents preachers from harping on one subject (well, some harp on one topic not matter what the Bible passage may be) and provides an opportunity for historically different denominations to share their common heritage.
But what if you’re the minister of one church for a long time? Or a member of a denomination for many years? What if the appointed readings just don’t make sense for your local church’s situation given a particular set of events in the community?
In his new book, Beyond the Lectionary: A Year of Alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionary, United Church of Christ minister David Ackerman, offers a fourth lectionary cycle. Drawing on the themes found currently found in the Revised Common Lectionary, the Rev. Ackerman provides an additional set of readings for use each Sunday that draws on Biblical texts not found in the Revised Common Lectionary. Ackerman’s skillful selection of texts is accompanied by essays that explain the selection of texts provided, how those Biblical pericopes follow the traditional theme for that Sunday, and serve as a foundation for the development of a sermon based on the new selections. Each section concludes with a prayer for illumination that draws the reader further into the spiritual depth of the selections.
Having served as minister of a congregation in a rural setting in Western Pennsylvania for twenty years, Ackerman had used the Revised Common Lectionary as the basis of his preaching. In time, he began to see a need to explore the Christian scripture more fully within the context of worship. In time, this need resulted in the book, Beyond the Lectionary. Based on his use of the selected readings with the congregation at St. Paul’s UCC in Mount Pleasant, PA, Ackerman refined the work so that the length of readings and the clarity of the context was clear.
Whether a pastor chooses to use the entire cycle found Beyond the Lectionary or select readings as different options for particular Sundays, Ackerman’s work invites preachers and worship leaders to prayerfully reflect on the themes of the Christian year while expanding their familiarity with the Bible. Reflecting Ackerman’s UCC background, the book is also written in an inclusive idiom, which is significant for lectionary resources today.
Having read Ackerman’s book and considered the selections in the light of the three year cycle found in the Revised Common Lectionary, it is without hesitation that I recommend Beyond the Lectionary for those who preach from or study the Biblical readings appointed for use among ecumenical denominations.
For further information about the Rev. David Ackerman’s work, visit: http://beyondthelectionary.com/
To order Beyond the Lectionary, visit: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Lectionary-Alternatives-Revised-Common/dp/1780998570/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1374715600&sr=1-1
© 2013, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.