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Another serving

“Feasting on the Word” lectionary commentary series releases new volume

September 14, 2009

Louisville

Next month, fans of Westminster John Knox Press’ “Feasting on the Word” series will be able to take a bite out of the latest installment.

The sixth volume will be released Oct. 1.

“Feasting on the Word” is a 12-volume lectionary commentary series covering all the Sundays in the three-year lectionary cycle. For each of a day’s four lectionary texts, readers can see essays from four perspectives — exegetical, theological, pastoral and homiletical.

The series offers “16 different ways into the text” said David Dobson, executive director of publishing and editorial for the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.

“Feasting on the Word” is a resource for preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, which provides a disciplined way to read the Bible. The sixth volume will cover the lectionary’s Year C, volume 2, running from Lent through Eastertide. The entire series is expected to be released by May 2011.

So far, previous volumes of the series have received a “tremendous” response, said Dobson, adding that they’ve also required a tremendous amount of work.

With more than 900 contributors to the series, the editors’ jobs have been demanding, he said. WJK has received support from Columbia Theological Seminary; six of the 12 volume editors are Columbia faculty.

Also from Columbia are co-general editors David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Bartlett is a professor of the New Testament at Columbia, and Taylor is an adjunct professor of Christian theology at Columbia and a professor of religion at Peidmont College.

Although the task of putting together such a series first seemed impossible, “it was too good of a proposal” to turn down, Taylor said.

“It’s been worth it,” she said.

The editorial board has gone above and beyond the normal workload for such a position, doing hands-on editing to ensure “quality and evenness,” Dobson said.

For one reader, the quality of “Feasting on the Word” is huge.

“I can’t say enough about the series,” said the Rev. Carrie Mitchell, associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Pittsford, NY. “I have used it virtually every time I’ve preached since it came out. I would encourage every preacher to use it … it really is indispensable.”

Bringing hundreds of voices to the conversation she’s trying to have with the text is very helpful, and the series is an immediate source of respected colleagues, Mitchell said.

That sense of dialogue and variety is something that makes the series valuable and a true “feast,” Taylor said.

“It’s like having a clergy group in my study,” she said, adding that she likes when the four perspectives disagree.

The exegetical essays tend to be scholarly with heart, the pastoral essays are often anecdotal and the homiletical essays offer different approaches to a sermon, she said.

“It’s an immediate rescue from feeling alone with the text,” Taylor said.

Gathering all those voices in one resource is attractive to Randy Harris, book review editor for The Presbyterian Outlook.

“That variety of perspectives brought to bear in one volume, side by side, I’ve found to be helpful,” he said. “It’s written by preachers for preachers.”

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