I was able to order a copy of Frank Schulman’s A Manual of Worship: insights from over fifty as a Unitarian Universalist minister before it became available at the UUA Bookstore. It now is so available. PeaceBang clued me in on it. I got my copy today.
This kind of guide, intended mainly for ministers but not exclusively so, can be terribly important in the trajectory of worship practices for a generation. Earlier strata include the Seaburg titles (like Great Occasions) and before that the now-rare ministerial “special services” book twinned with the “red hymnal” Hymns of the Spirit. This genre is a mixed lot, a mix of rite (the texts of worship), custom (how worship is done and with what materials), and theological and historical rationale. In my opinion, the best books are a mix. The real value of the red hymnal special services book is its introduction. You might have to buy more than one book. (Presbyterians are out of luck; I’ve never found a Presbyterian customary.) Rite-only books assume the end-user has a developed set of operating directions or a local tradition to rely on: a dangerous assumption, but honestly based on a desire to be non-directive and thus more free. Better to have, I think, an assortment of worship practice books than to be convinced that a popular version is the only way.
So that’s how I’ll be reading the Schulman book.
One last thing: this book is neither from the Beacon Press nor Skinner House. The publisher is the UUA itself, specifically the Stewardship and Development division. Hmm. Let’s get what we’re thinking out in the public. Was this book published as a quid pro quo for the Schulmans’ huge gift? It needs to be said because if it goes unsaid people might suspect the worst, suspect a sleight of hand, and not give this book its due.
So I’ll start reading this book with a tough but open mind and will report back.