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Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy

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Liturgy lures us through our senses, grounds us in a great tradition, and plants us in the midst of a diverse community, present and past. Are you attracted to liturgy but don’t know why? Are you considering changing to liturgical tradition? Are you already immersed in liturgical worship but want to grasp its deeper significance? Beyond Smells and Bells addresses the lure a Liturgy lures us through our senses, grounds us in a great tradition, and plants us in the midst of a diverse community, present and past. Are you attracted to liturgy but don’t know why? Are you considering changing to liturgical tradition? Are you already immersed in liturgical worship but want to grasp its deeper significance? Beyond Smells and Bells addresses the lure and relevance of liturgy for your life today. Thousands of Christians become interest in liturgy each year for the first time, as they turn to orthodoxy, tradition, and the lasting rituals of the Christian faith. In a culture that values spontaneity, liturgy grounds us in something enduring. In a culture that assumes truth is a product of the mind, liturgy helps us experience truth in mind, body, and spirit. In Mark Galli's able telling, liturgy is an intruguing story, full of mystery, that transforms us.


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Liturgy lures us through our senses, grounds us in a great tradition, and plants us in the midst of a diverse community, present and past. Are you attracted to liturgy but don’t know why? Are you considering changing to liturgical tradition? Are you already immersed in liturgical worship but want to grasp its deeper significance? Beyond Smells and Bells addresses the lure a Liturgy lures us through our senses, grounds us in a great tradition, and plants us in the midst of a diverse community, present and past. Are you attracted to liturgy but don’t know why? Are you considering changing to liturgical tradition? Are you already immersed in liturgical worship but want to grasp its deeper significance? Beyond Smells and Bells addresses the lure and relevance of liturgy for your life today. Thousands of Christians become interest in liturgy each year for the first time, as they turn to orthodoxy, tradition, and the lasting rituals of the Christian faith. In a culture that values spontaneity, liturgy grounds us in something enduring. In a culture that assumes truth is a product of the mind, liturgy helps us experience truth in mind, body, and spirit. In Mark Galli's able telling, liturgy is an intruguing story, full of mystery, that transforms us.

30 review for Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I grew up in a Dutch/Reformed/Presbyterian/Calvinist background, where anything in the liturgy that smacks of Romanism is highly suspect (except for paedobaptism, which is obviously biblical, *wink wink nudge nudge* to my readership). This delightful little book reminds us of the values of participating in a liturgy that has its roots not in Romanism, but instead in the earliest Christian worship. One gathers from this book a sense of the 'catholic' (universal) nature of the Body of Christ - not I grew up in a Dutch/Reformed/Presbyterian/Calvinist background, where anything in the liturgy that smacks of Romanism is highly suspect (except for paedobaptism, which is obviously biblical, *wink wink nudge nudge* to my readership). This delightful little book reminds us of the values of participating in a liturgy that has its roots not in Romanism, but instead in the earliest Christian worship. One gathers from this book a sense of the 'catholic' (universal) nature of the Body of Christ - not only being joined to believers worldwide but in a very real sense joined in worship with saints from generations past. Ultimately, this points us to a worship that is diametrically opposed to self-centred worship and brings us into worship that is bigger than ourselves, outside of ourselves, and fundamentally worship that is Christ-centred. And for those who are suspect of high liturgy itself because of lifeless and empty ritualism, this book is a keen reminder that the form of the worship itself, regardless of tradition, is empty and ritualistic if not flowing from a regenerated heart pointed away from self and towards community with Christ. Galli does not write apologetically here; rather he provides a simple primer of the liturgy, gently forming his arguments through the timeless words and prayers themselves, and through the rhythms and flow of the Christian calendar connecting his readers with the Body of Christ throughout the ages. Especially helpful are the appendices at the end with a simple glossary of liturgical terminology for anyone unfamiliar with the lingo, charts comparing the liturgy across traditions, and a basic understanding of the Church year and it's symbolism and importance.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Becky Pliego

    Very good and well balanced overview of the importance and wonder of the Christian liturgy. "And yet we balk, especially the more Protestant among us." "God speaks, therefore we are." "The liturgy is a story we participate in. Part of that story is the story of community -created, broken, and restored." Very good and well balanced overview of the importance and wonder of the Christian liturgy. "And yet we balk, especially the more Protestant among us." "God speaks, therefore we are." "The liturgy is a story we participate in. Part of that story is the story of community -created, broken, and restored."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    I grew up in an evangelical environment, so liturgy is largely unfamiliar to me. Yet lately I am craving a little more structure to my spiritual pursuits, a desire for greater understanding of the Christmas holidays in an effort to teach my daughter the meaning behind our traditions. We don't celebrate Advent. (In fact, though I grew up Pentecostal, I've never attended a church that celebrated the Day of Pentecost. Figure that one out!) I'm coming to see that when we look beyond our fear of idol I grew up in an evangelical environment, so liturgy is largely unfamiliar to me. Yet lately I am craving a little more structure to my spiritual pursuits, a desire for greater understanding of the Christmas holidays in an effort to teach my daughter the meaning behind our traditions. We don't celebrate Advent. (In fact, though I grew up Pentecostal, I've never attended a church that celebrated the Day of Pentecost. Figure that one out!) I'm coming to see that when we look beyond our fear of idolatry (that many Protestants carry), there is a great richness to some of the traditions of the Church. Every church has a liturgy. Beyond baptism and communion, beyond smells and bells, there are many things that can make my understanding of Jesus and his sacrifice more tangible--and often they involve a greater use of the five senses. This book challenged me to find greater ways of connecting with the Jesus I love through the "visible, material signs that lead us to things invisible and spiritual." It was a powerful read that I will likely re-read because I suspect there's a lot I didn't pick up the first time around.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    Well-written book about the why’s and how’s of liturgy and the pivotal, beautiful, and meaningful role it plays in the church. Highly recommend for anyone who’s ever wondered ‘why do they do that?’ about a liturgical practice, even if you do not attend a typical ‘liturgical’ church. (I put that in quotes because even the most non-denominational church has it’s own liturgy, it is just not usually written down and explicitly acknowledged) Also recommend for those who already attend a church that i Well-written book about the why’s and how’s of liturgy and the pivotal, beautiful, and meaningful role it plays in the church. Highly recommend for anyone who’s ever wondered ‘why do they do that?’ about a liturgical practice, even if you do not attend a typical ‘liturgical’ church. (I put that in quotes because even the most non-denominational church has it’s own liturgy, it is just not usually written down and explicitly acknowledged) Also recommend for those who already attend a church that includes these practices and wants to know more.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Mark Galli's short book begins with a comprehensive overview of the intentions behind the practice of liturgical Christian worship. Then he moves through a series of eleven chapters of the effects liturgy can have upon our spiritual lives. Chapter titles include "The Intimate Other: How the Liturgy Helps Us Meet a Holy and Loving God", "Learning by Laughing: How the Liturgy Teaches Us the Faith", and "Drunken Sobriety: How the Liturgy Helps Us to Know God with Imagination". Galli focuses on the Mark Galli's short book begins with a comprehensive overview of the intentions behind the practice of liturgical Christian worship. Then he moves through a series of eleven chapters of the effects liturgy can have upon our spiritual lives. Chapter titles include "The Intimate Other: How the Liturgy Helps Us Meet a Holy and Loving God", "Learning by Laughing: How the Liturgy Teaches Us the Faith", and "Drunken Sobriety: How the Liturgy Helps Us to Know God with Imagination". Galli focuses on the intellectual side of understanding an age-old practice, but keeps the mystery behind its effect on the heart and the spirit alive. The liturgical service will shape all parts of our being if we let it because God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are present. The repeated reminders of the Trinitarian nature of God present in liturgy are frequently missing in non-liturgical settings. Without this repetition, Galli warns that we will lost sight of the truth that "we can be united with the Trinity and the Trinity with us, that we can partake of the divine nature to such a degree that the original image and likeness of God in us shines forth in us" (104). Liturgical worship is new to me, and this book fills in some of my gaps in understanding the church calendar as a whole and helps me recognize the intentional placement of each portion of a liturgical order of worship. I wish Galli had introduced the topic of liturgical theology and writing before quoting experts in this study specialty to create a context for their comments. I want to know what issues liturgical thinkers wrestle with and how do they contribute now when liturgy has been practiced for centuries? As an introductory tome, a bibliography of recommended resources would be helpful. If you're new to liturgy and trying to put the liturgical puzzle pieces together, Galli's book is the place to start. You will see the communal recitation--"The Lord be with you. And also with you"--with new eyes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    For what is written, I would give it four stars. Galli is a winsome and wise writer. But for what is omitted, I would have to give it two. I will be writing a full review elsewhere to explain myself more fully.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gareth Evans

    I bought this in the hope it would update my understanding of the liturgy by exploring its structure and history. To be honest, there is little that really addresses my main goal. However, there are good discussions about the importance and power of the liturgy. It’s a short, readable and quite helpful book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Conor

    Succinct and beautiful introduction to Episcopal/Anglican liturgy, what it means, how it preserves God's mystery, and why it's oddness is a good thing. Succinct and beautiful introduction to Episcopal/Anglican liturgy, what it means, how it preserves God's mystery, and why it's oddness is a good thing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kelley Goewey

    It would have been five stars if there weren't so many sports metaphors, although I am aware that could be an attraction for another reader. Otherwise I really appreciated Galli's view of the liturgy. It would have been five stars if there weren't so many sports metaphors, although I am aware that could be an attraction for another reader. Otherwise I really appreciated Galli's view of the liturgy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    A slim, engaging, and readable discussion of the value of liturgical worship.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Briana Grenert

    Insightful and tender

  12. 4 out of 5

    Steve Bradley

    If you've ever wondered what all the ceremony is about in a liturgical church this helps you understand. If you've ever wondered what all the ceremony is about in a liturgical church this helps you understand.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dottie Parish

    This is a excellent book explaining the value of Christian liturgy and the fact that true believers encounter the mystery of our living God through the liturgy. Mark Galli's chapters include How the Liturgy is More Relevant Than We Can Imagine, Teaches Us The Faith,Changes Us at the Very Core of Our Being and more. I particularly liked Galli's explanation of the emphasis on the church calendar.He writes: "The church calendar aims at nothing less than to change the way we experience time and perc This is a excellent book explaining the value of Christian liturgy and the fact that true believers encounter the mystery of our living God through the liturgy. Mark Galli's chapters include How the Liturgy is More Relevant Than We Can Imagine, Teaches Us The Faith,Changes Us at the Very Core of Our Being and more. I particularly liked Galli's explanation of the emphasis on the church calendar.He writes: "The church calendar aims at nothing less than to change the way we experience time and perceive reality. . . . Advent signals the new year. For the church, the annual rhythm is not winter, spring, summer and fall, but Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. . . . 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. We celebrate the past events of history not merely to remember them, but note how they infuse the present with meaning and power, and point us to our future hope." This is a profound book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    A great intro to liturgy and its relevance to our faith. This book reminds us that liturgy does not have to be dead, stale routine, but an engagement of our minds, souls, hearts, and bodies in worship, which transcends place, time, and even our own flaws and failings. The poetry of the liturgy is something I will continue to meditate on for days to come. I confess that at first I wasn't sold on this book. The chapter titles were convoluted. Each chapter was quite short (the entire book is just ov A great intro to liturgy and its relevance to our faith. This book reminds us that liturgy does not have to be dead, stale routine, but an engagement of our minds, souls, hearts, and bodies in worship, which transcends place, time, and even our own flaws and failings. The poetry of the liturgy is something I will continue to meditate on for days to come. I confess that at first I wasn't sold on this book. The chapter titles were convoluted. Each chapter was quite short (the entire book is just over 100 pages). But by mid-read, I found myself struck more often on each page at something said, or a way of re-framing my understanding of worship and liturgy. This book challenged my faith and how I understand my relationship with God, without making me feel like a loser or alone about getting distracted at church or failing to feel any emotive response (at times) to Sunday worship. This book reminded me that the focus of worship is God and not myself, and yes, I am prone to forget that by thinking about my own feelings and responses at church!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Klasko

    This book is a nice little primer on liturgical worship. Well worth the read for for those familiar and unfamiliar with liturgical worship. For those unfamiliar, it is written in layman's terms and understandably introduces the concept. There is rich meaning to be found plumbing the depths of the most ancient of Christian worship rituals. For those who are familiar, especially if you haven't been to catechism lately, it can breathe new life into your worship as you are reminded just why you do it This book is a nice little primer on liturgical worship. Well worth the read for for those familiar and unfamiliar with liturgical worship. For those unfamiliar, it is written in layman's terms and understandably introduces the concept. There is rich meaning to be found plumbing the depths of the most ancient of Christian worship rituals. For those who are familiar, especially if you haven't been to catechism lately, it can breathe new life into your worship as you are reminded just why you do it this way. At its heart, liturgical worship is God, (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) centered worship. Gali has given us a nice reference book comparing various liturgies by denomination and it is a useful place to start in a devotional journey through the liturgy and the church year. Well worth the time.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Galli is your modern, sensitive Anglican who wrote a seemingly randomly organized book (which I note with dismay makes it harder to argue with him) chock full of challenging and pointed material. I was amazed at how he would sometimes take assumptions I had about worship and devotions--and turn them on their head. I had objections to some of his points, but he generally anticipated them well. Galli uses a weird medium of expression, but the content is rock solid and should definitely be required Galli is your modern, sensitive Anglican who wrote a seemingly randomly organized book (which I note with dismay makes it harder to argue with him) chock full of challenging and pointed material. I was amazed at how he would sometimes take assumptions I had about worship and devotions--and turn them on their head. I had objections to some of his points, but he generally anticipated them well. Galli uses a weird medium of expression, but the content is rock solid and should definitely be required reading for Pastors and laymen alike.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ben De Bono

    I really loved this one. It's a bit more basic than what I usually prefer to read, but when it comes to liturgy that's exactly what I need. Having not grown up in or attended a liturgical church, I'm very much a beginner here. For anyone in the same boat as me who wants to know more about liturgy, this is highly recommended. For those more knowledgeable in this area, it might prove to be a bit too basic. I really loved this one. It's a bit more basic than what I usually prefer to read, but when it comes to liturgy that's exactly what I need. Having not grown up in or attended a liturgical church, I'm very much a beginner here. For anyone in the same boat as me who wants to know more about liturgy, this is highly recommended. For those more knowledgeable in this area, it might prove to be a bit too basic.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alan Davis

    Although I liked the book, is was disappointed to learn the author is somewhat misleading, in that he implies that he is an Episcopalian. He names his church in the book, so I searched for it online. Upon finding it, I learned that, in fact, he is not an Episcopalian; he is in a church that has left the Episcopal Church USA, only to affiliate with an Anglican archbishop that fits his social and political views.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Denise Kettering

    This is a quick read that serves as an introduction to some Anglican attitudes regarding worship and the Christian life. For those who come from traditions outside of the Anglican tradition, there is still some things to learn here about the ways that Christian liturgy can function and influence people. His thoughts on liturgical time, I think, are particularly helpful. This book is a quick read that will initiate persons to some of the key aspects of worship and liturgy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tamara Murphy

    Our associate priest recommended this book to me for friends and family asking about my confirmation in the Anglican church. In my previous life directing a worship and arts ministry without much direction to go by I've read several good books commending the practices of the historical church. I'd add this book to the list. Mark Galli writes in accessible, winsome language with an occasional poetic insight. I'm looking forward to sharing this book. Our associate priest recommended this book to me for friends and family asking about my confirmation in the Anglican church. In my previous life directing a worship and arts ministry without much direction to go by I've read several good books commending the practices of the historical church. I'd add this book to the list. Mark Galli writes in accessible, winsome language with an occasional poetic insight. I'm looking forward to sharing this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Wendy C

    I am new on the "Canterbury Trail" and loved his simple yet deep explanation of the depth the liturgy plays in one's spiritual life. Love his discussion of how the Christian calendar can change the way we view the year. ALSO, there is a great liturgy compare/contrast chart for several denoms liturgy. Great for anyone new to the "canterbury trail". I am new on the "Canterbury Trail" and loved his simple yet deep explanation of the depth the liturgy plays in one's spiritual life. Love his discussion of how the Christian calendar can change the way we view the year. ALSO, there is a great liturgy compare/contrast chart for several denoms liturgy. Great for anyone new to the "canterbury trail".

  22. 4 out of 5

    David

    I was expecting more from this one. It wasn't entirely disappointing - Galli is a good writer and knows how to turn a phrase and work a metaphor. But I felt like it was (a) not persuasive to someone who is new to exploring liturgy and (b) not all that helpful to someone who really wanted to learn more about Christian liturgy. I was expecting more from this one. It wasn't entirely disappointing - Galli is a good writer and knows how to turn a phrase and work a metaphor. But I felt like it was (a) not persuasive to someone who is new to exploring liturgy and (b) not all that helpful to someone who really wanted to learn more about Christian liturgy.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    A brief and thoughtful exploration/explanation of liturgy written by someone coming out of and very familiar with American evangelical culture. It is not a defense in the sense of explaining away every objection--although many objections to liturgy are identified and acknowledged. Rather, it is a positive revelation of what liturgy is and how we, in our humanity, fail it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Luke Brodine

    Good for a light read. Well thought and relevant illustrations. Hopefully makes the reader want to dig deeper into knowing more about what Galli introduces. (rating should be 3.5. depending on reader: new to worship literature=4; well read in worship literature=3)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

    This is a great, easy to understand book for anyone curious about liturgy or wanting to understand more of what it's about...the symbolism and significance all the parts of it as well as the history in Christian worship behind it. This is a great, easy to understand book for anyone curious about liturgy or wanting to understand more of what it's about...the symbolism and significance all the parts of it as well as the history in Christian worship behind it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Rodriguez

    A quick introduction to liturgical worship. Humble and approachable. This is a great appeal to worship in the rhythms and styles of liturgical churches. Even if you won't, it makes us "low church" folk do some thinking about what we do and why. A quick introduction to liturgical worship. Humble and approachable. This is a great appeal to worship in the rhythms and styles of liturgical churches. Even if you won't, it makes us "low church" folk do some thinking about what we do and why.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Reed

    This was an enjoyable read however I don't think it lived up to the title. I was expecting the author to delve into the purpose of each of the symbols present in the liturgy more deeply than was presented here. Still, a good introduction to those trying to make some sense of liturgical worship. This was an enjoyable read however I don't think it lived up to the title. I was expecting the author to delve into the purpose of each of the symbols present in the liturgy more deeply than was presented here. Still, a good introduction to those trying to make some sense of liturgical worship.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

    A helpful introduction to liturgy, though without much exegesis. Galli notes that most Christians worship in liturgical churches, and that liturgy is one of the best places to hide from God--a double-edged sword. The comparison between traditions, showing remarkable similarity, is helpful.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Erin Goettsch

    This is a good, accessible, introductory-type read on the how/why of liturgy. There were a few things I hadn't thought of before, but mostly this book is full of things I already thought/knew but wouldn't have stopped to articulate -- which made it surprisingly satisfying to read. This is a good, accessible, introductory-type read on the how/why of liturgy. There were a few things I hadn't thought of before, but mostly this book is full of things I already thought/knew but wouldn't have stopped to articulate -- which made it surprisingly satisfying to read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    An ok review of the liturgy, and why it's important, for the Protestant reader. I appreciated the scattered quotes within, but it was just an "eh" book. An ok review of the liturgy, and why it's important, for the Protestant reader. I appreciated the scattered quotes within, but it was just an "eh" book.

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