I read somewhere recently that one of the differences between early Friends and Quakers today is that those who had left the church recently would have a better grasp of, and an ongoing awareness of, the liturgical year of the Christian church and the stories contained there, even as they rejected times and seasons. I’m not sure that I agree with this actual thesis – many Friends today have recently left one church or another, or were brought up in one, thereby closely replicating that first generation experiences – but I am not one of them, and in any case the liturgical year does provide an interesting framework within which to explore the stories which are foundational to Christianity.
(The same would be true of Judaism, and some other religions, but the historical relation of Quakerism and Christianity is one of the motivating factors here.)
I am beginning this blog project at the start of Advent, which seems like the natural beginning of the Christian year, rather than at the start of the calendar year, but I intend to finish Y and Z during December. I might also throw in a few posts about the Pagan year, often called the wheel of the year, since I find myself celebrating or at least noticing those changes in the natural world anyway.
I am using the Inclusive-Language Lectionary Year B, just because I happened to have it on my shelf anyway. This has three effects on my reading: firstly, I will be reading Year B when most churches are in Year A of a three-year cycle; secondly, the readings will be different to those provided in other lectionaries; and thirdly, the translations I read will be somewhat different. I propose to approach these potential problems as follows: for the first, to not care in the slightest, as I’m not really trying to be in step with others (the ‘my blog my rules’ principle); for the second, to give links to Bible Gateway so that you can look for yourself at any passage I mention (I probably won’t discuss all four every week); and for the third, to pray that this helps me read the texts deeply and not simply get angry about patriarchy every week. I should also note that the Inclusive Language Lectionary was produced by the National Council of Churches in the USA in the 1980s, and its choices may be linked to that specific political context. The text is based on the RSV with some alterations for inclusive language – I don’t intend to discuss these much, but of course they will be relevant and appear in my quotations from time to time.
What’s in a lectionary and why use one? A weekly lectionary of the kind I am using gives four readings for each Sunday of the year, plus some bonus ones for extra special days. On each ordinary Sunday, there’s a reading from the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, a Psalm, a reading from the New Testament letters, and reading from a Gospel. Why use one? It focuses thought and prayer and brings you into the cycle of the liturgical year. It encourages a wide reading of the Bible in bite-sized and thematically appropriate chunks. And it gives you something to blog about every week which isn’t a letter of the alphabet.