Lectionary loops: one year or three?

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Sarah Dylan Breuer, of Dylan's lectionary blog fame will be transitioning this Sunday from blogging from the Episcopal Church's lectionary to the Revised Common Lectionary. (RCL) This makes sense: each lectionary is on a three-year cycle and she started her blog three years ago. Finish one lectionary, start another. That and the RCL is becoming the norm (or a norm) for the Episcopal Church, so just as well to start fresh with it. In practice, there's lots of overlap anyway, so no tears, please.

The RCL is a point of pride for Unitarian Universalist Christians. While modeled based on the Roman Catholic post-Vatican II lectionary and developed for US Protestants, the RCL has been adopted by churches globally. The Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship and the Council of Christian Churches in the Unitarian Universalist Association have representatives on the council that established the RCL and related ecumenical documents.

But I wonder if there might not be options for churches. Many pre-Vatican II Protestant lectionaries cycled readings over a single year. Yes, a one-year lectionary has less of the Bible covered than a three-year lectionary (and in being "revised" effectively doubled the number of Old Testament readings) but I can imagine that a well-selected one-year lectionary might be more helpful for occasional attendees and those just learning Christian faith. There's something about the longer lectionary readings that test my patience and I suspect mystify those who don't understand the use or function of longer readings. And then there's the live question if public, liturgical reading is the best way to impart an understanding of the Bible.

With changing patterns of church membership (and its meaning) and literacy, and more complex understandings of learning styles, I have to wonder if a simpler, shorter "reading list" might not be useful.

This is article #1600. 

2 Replies to “Lectionary loops: one year or three?”

  1. When I lived in Manhattan, I was a regular attendee at St Michael’s Liberal Catholic Church on E 53rd St. The LCC uses a one year lectionary. While much more limited in scope than the RCL, I’m still very fond of the LCC lectionary, and use it for my own devotions.

  2. Hi, Scott — Some of the Emergent Church folks have been experimenting with longer Bible readings, and report that at least some people in their 20s and 30s like the longer readings as it gives a better sense of the overall context of the Bible. The theory is that there are lots of newcomers who have no idea what’s in the Bible at all, so why not give them a big dose to get them up to speed quickly. ((Of course we’re talking about Emergent Churches that do two hour worship services and 45 minutes sermons….and of course the big mega-churches with religion-lite worship services are still growing. You pays your money and you take your choice.))

    I’ve actually been experiementing with longer readings in worship services, and so far no one has walked out or even complained. I don’t use the lectionary myself, but in January I’m going to start a series on Exodus, and I’m planning to use longer readings. I’ll probably print the readings on inserts in the order of service so people can follow along if they want (UUs do not bring Bibles to church). I’ve tried this with a couple of long Ralh Waldo Emerson readings, and it has worked well. We’ll see how it turns out — it’s all a big experiment at this point.

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