1st Edition

Memory and Liturgy The Place of Memory in the Composition and Practice of Liturgy

By Peter Atkins Copyright 2004

    Memory is a major factor in the composition and practice of liturgy. Recent research into how the brain and memory function points the way to how liturgy can best meet the needs of worshippers. In Memory and Liturgy, Peter Atkins draws on the fruits of his research into the process of the brain and our memory and applies it to liturgical worship. His extensive experience in writing and using liturgy keeps this book rooted in reality. In its ten chapters the author applies the functioning of the brain and the memory to our remembrance of God in worship; God's memory of us through Baptism; our remembrance of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; the corporate memory of the community created through worship; the healing of memories of sin and pain through forgiveness; three aids to help us worship; the process of continuity and change in liturgy; and the connection between memory, imagination and hope. The conclusion summarizes the main practical issues. This provides a check-list for those serving on Liturgical Commissions and those involved in the teaching of the practice of liturgy. This book is a positive contribution to the ongoing search for suitable liturgical worship and music for the 21st century.

    Contents: Introduction; Discovering how the brain works; Discovering how memory works; Remembering God; God's memory of us; Remembering Jesus Christ; Corporate memory; Memories of sin and pain; Aids to remembering; Continuity and change; Memory, imagination and hope; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.


    Bishop Peter Atkins is a retired Anglican Bishop, retired Dean of the National Theological College and lecturer in theology at the University of Auckland. Author draws on specialist research and advice from scholars in cognitive science, medicine and education-with particular expertise in the field of memory and brain processes.

    'In this useful and innovative book, Peter Atkins [...] sets out to study the function of memory in relation to worship... Atkins has done us all a considerable favour in pushing at these doors.' The Church Times 'This is a fascinating book which uses research into the workings of the brain and memory function in order to draw some practical conclusions for the liturgical expression of the Church... This book stands alone as a major contribution to the thinking of the Church on matters of liturgy and worship. It should be read by scholars and practitioners, by students of liturgy, and those who create the liturgical texts for our churches. It should be read by those who love the use of books and texts and those who loath them, for it has much to say about the manner in which we enable the people of God to experience and express worship.' Reviews in Religion and Theology 'Books that successfully discuss the nature of Christian worship in relation to both science and theology are a rare breed and so I was pleasantly surprised to read this stimulating and fresh account of worship written by the retired Bishop of Auckland... This book will be a stimulating read for anyone responsible for planning and leading worship and from this perspective one of its most helpful features is a concluding section in which the practical implications of each chapter are summarized.' Theology