Book Review: Call and Response

Call and Response: Litanies for Congregational Prayer by Fran Pratt

Fran is Pastor of Worship and Liturgy at Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, TX. She’s also a liturgist, musician, songwriter and mom. I follow her on instagram, where she has been sharing pieces of her liturgies which caught my attention. I jumped on the chance to preview her book and was happy to be selected. You can purchase your own on amazon for around $13 or $9 for kindle, which is a steal! There are over 70 different litanies in the 112 page book that is small enough to carry with you or keep on your desk.

Fran recounts her faith journey in a brief but meaningful three pages. Liturgy, she says, saved her life when she didn’t have a “prayer to pray or a song to sing”. Like her liturgies, her story-telling authentically conveys the voice of a woman who knows the ancient prayers, psalms, and songs and translates them not into slang, but into modern liturgy rich with meaning. I have found some modern translations of biblical text or church liturgies have lost the poetry and weightiness that comes with holding divine mysteries, but that is not true of Fran’s work. I have found that the older liturgies carry weight but feel stodgy and inauthentic in modern voices. Her work is relevant, meaningful, and a blessing.

The table of contents divides the litanies into categories: Litanies for Looking Inward, Litanies for Looking Outward, Litanies for Coping, Litanies for Church Rituals, and Litanies for Communal Worship. There are thee appendices: Injustice, Advent, and Lent. And a bonus Litany for Heretics.

I have been reading her liturgies as personal devotions. I am excited to use them in this new way of worship we are creating through zoom; new prayers for a less formal worship where all of our faces (and living rooms) make up a digital stained glass window for other worshipers. Her words ring true in this strange new way of living and worship. I’ve already used her Litany for Gratitude in Psalm 101 devotional. That litany feels a little more traditional to me because the bold words for the congregation are the same each time, “We give thanks”.

I love “Litany for Listening”. It could be said as a single voiced prayer or as a litany. Here is a selection from that Litany:

God, who so graciously speaks to us and is present to us, Help us to be present to you, and to your people. We confess that we have avoided quieting ourselves before you. We confess that we are distracted and noisy people. We confess that we are often so busy speaking that all we hear is our now opinions. We confess that we’ve been afraid of what you might say to us. …. We confess that we have not listened to our neighbors. We confess that we have not made time and space to hear their stories and concerns. We confess that we have allowed our differences to put us off. We confess that by not engaging, we have stifled love. Show us how to open our ears and hearts to those of different cultures, races, backgrounds, belief systems. Show us how to love our neighbors. …. May we overcome our fears of shame, and our reluctance to experience awkward moments. May we live love loudly, and listen quietly. Amen.

Her “Litany for Changing Times” feels all to timely in social-isolation-weirdness. This litany includes a combination of repeated lines like “Litany for Gratitude” and couplets that compliment each other. Here is a selection:

God, things are changing. The world is changing.

We feel uncertain and shaky. We feel anxious.

Questions have arisen that we’ve never had to deal with before. Give us wisdom.

Shifts in culture and technology have brought problems we’ve never had to face before. Give us discernment.

…. Even as all around us changes. You love endures forever.

Even in war, and climate change, and social media, Your love endures forever.

Even in theological and political disagreement, Your love endures forever.

Help us to love one another as never before – Better than before.

Help us to not be defensive or closed-minded, But open to the Kingdom coming in unexpected ways. Amen.

And, I have to share with you a beautiful selection from her Lent Litanies, “Litany for Waiting”.

We acknowledge act so much of faith-life involves waiting,

For the voice of God to speak,

For the Spirit of God to move,

For the fullness of your kingdom to come,

For Christ’s appearance on earth,

For the world to be made new,

For music and peace to become ordinary,

For love to become the world’s motivation.

I want to share with you some of her instagram posts:

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