Book review: Wide Awake Worship

by John Henson


The subtitle of this book is Hymns and Prayers Renewed for the 21st Century. John Henson is a retired Baptist minister, now residing in Wales, and he put together this collection of what he calls “reset gems and polished buttons.” I asked him for a copy, hoping to keep my finger on the pulse of progressive Christian worship worldwide. Not knowing entirely what to expect, I found the collection to be a wonderful indicator of the direction Christianity is moving. I couldn’t help feeling uplifted and encouraged as I read.

Henson writes out of concern for the “many Christians who have told me they find it difficult to join in the traditional prayers and hymns of the churches with honesty since the words no longer accurately express their genuine beliefs and commitment. Yet at the same time is felt a sense of loss that is more than just nostalgia for the tools of devotion of former years.”

Well, that certainly struck a chord! The result is a compilation of worship prayers and hymns that (with a few welcome exceptions, such as a prayer for deeper love between even same-sex couples) will be appreciated by Christians of all denominations, from the most liberal to the most fundamental. It’s a welcome aid to worship for progressive believers and a step toward the dream of uniting Christians of all types.

Here is a favorite of mine, based on Psalm 1:

Splendid are folk who never copy
Those who trash another’s creed,
Thinking only of themselves,

Making fun of others’ need.

Splendid those who honor God
And night and day think on God’s love;
Their lives are green like leafy plants

That grow beside the river banks.

Like trees they offer tasty fruit,
And shade for those who feel the sun;
They guarantee the planet’s health,

Sustaining life for everyone.

The selfish have such trivial aims,
Their cravings wander with the wind;
Their lives will fail the test of time,

Unlike the lives of those they scorn.

The caring know the help of God,
The selfish live and die alone.

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