Elizabeth Mackie OP
Eucharist in the Local Church: Meeting the challenge of real participation by Neil Darragh in association with Jo Ayers
This book has a striking authenticity, grounded as it is in years of pastoral practice and informed by theological and liturgical scholarship. It is indeed the challenge that its own title indicates. But it is also an exciting presentation of almost endless possibility. No one liturgy conducted in any single parish could encompass all the elements so carefully presented in each chapter of the text; but every Eucharistic liturgy in every parish community could be enriched by the introduction of even a small number of the options and opportunities described by Neil Darragh and Jo Ayers.
The Introduction states quite clearly what the book is – and is not. It is not ‘a manual for new ministers on the one hand or a study in liturgical theology on the other’. Nor is it a ‘handy toolkit of resources’. Instead, it ‘proposes perspectives and principles that we believe will lead liturgical planners towards high active participation of people in Sunday Eucharists’. It quite clearly presupposes that preparation for the Sunday Eucharist is a community task involving priests, liturgical leaders, liturgical planners, musicians, readers and others. This would have to be a given if the exciting possibilities described throughout the book are to have any chance of flowering in our parishes.
There is strong emphasis on inclusion: of gender, culture, age, socio-economic background, competence and on the challenge to achieve inclusion with sensitivity and awareness so that representation is not a mere balancing of numbers.
Much of the book is devoted to the development of a fourfold structure of the Eucharist: the rite of Gathering, the liturgy of the Word, the liturgy of Eucharist and the rite of Sending.
Each of these phases is explained and the leadership required for each is explored at some depth. Other chapters deal with formation of leaders; liturgical music; some interesting observations and suggestions for remaining connected with the universal church in the celebration of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter, but at the same time focusing on symbols and images appropriate to the seasons in which these feasts are celebrated in our southern hemisphere; and a section on other liturgies, such as liturgy of the Word – with or without communion.
The book addresses some of the difficult questions which face all liturgy planners and leaders: Who belongs? Who can/will receive communion? What do we do about language? Can we depart from the text? Who can deliver the homily? How do we deal with the universal church and the local community?
Four other features that are helpful to the reader are the artwork by Yvonne Ashby, the footnotes for readers who wish to search further, the comprehensive index and the four or five Key Questions that follow each chapter to serve both as summary and as guide for discussion and reflection.
That so much has been made available at this price and in only 141 pages makes this a must read for all of us who want to take liturgical participation seriously.
ATF Theology Adelaide 2012, $30. ISBN: 9781921817854.
Sr Elizabeth’s review was first published in Tui Motu, May 2013.