Rev. Dr. Nancy Hall’s New Manual of Worship, a 21st century update of a much-loved classic

Fifty years after the first edition of  A Manual of Worship was published, Rev. Dr. Nancy E. Hall has written a modernized version of the book while remaining true to its traditional history and values. As well as being the Associate Professor of Ministry and Congregational Music and Director of Contextual Education at the American Baptist Seminary of the West (ABSW), Nancy also serves as the Vice President of the CARe Advisory Committee. I spoke with Nancy about her writing process and the 21st century additions she made to this classic tome.

The front cover, (c) Nancy E. Hall, The New Manual of Worship

Published by Judson Press, The New Manual of Worship is an update on the original book, written by John E. Skoglund in 1968. Writing during a period of “liturgical renewal” in the Baptist churches during the 1960s and ’70s, Skoglund was a respected teacher, missionary, and author. Serving as the acting dean of ABSW, Skoglund’s manual reawakened liturgical themes within the traditional service of the free (non-liturgical) churches. Nancy’s revised edition has stayed true to the basic framework of the 1968 edition, as well as an edition co-authored by Nancy and Skoglund in 1993. What I wanted to know, though, was how this 21st-century edition has changed to reflect the current political, social and religious climate.

Nancy has provided the ministry leaders of today with diverse materials for planning worship services, as well as pointing them in the direction of where to find additional, often online sources. One of Nancy’s great loves, she tells me, is hymnody. She is particularly excited to see the advent of websites such as, which provides an online worship music database for worship leaders, hymnologists and amateur hymn lovers alike. This website is referenced liberally in the manual, allowing readers to expand their reach online. Nancy hopes to create a digital platform to expand the book’s reach, beyond the e-book version currently being sold on Amazon and by Judson Press. By developing a website to incorporate additional prayers, hymn collections and resources from the community, the book can continue to grow in a format that is more conducive to collaboration and revision.

A further difference from either the 1968 or 1993 editions is the increased inclusion of outside voices. Nancy’s new manual credits some 35 contributors, many of whom are from the ABSW community that Nancy has served and been a part of for so long. As part of her writing process, Nancy reached out to past students for contributions, as well as requesting permissions from authors whose prayers she found online. Many prayers in the manual are by Nancy’s students, most of whom are in the Bay Area, but some of whom live and work further afield. This far-reaching, inclusive mentality is also reflected in the encouragement to adapt the hymns, services and prayers included to the different contexts, needs and lifestyles of multi-various congregations. New sections highlighting social justice, interfaith worship and the church’s response to times of crisis and disaster further emphasize the manual’s commitment to reflecting the realities of the modern-day church. New festival days have also been added, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, International Women’s Day and Earth Day. Inclusive language for both God and humanity is a hallmark of the book and Nancy has adapted scripture readings from a variety of biblical translations.

Prayer from the section on Interfaith Worship, (c) Nancy E. Hall, The New Manual of Worship

The New Manual of Worship represents a labor of love for Nancy. While the book is brimming with useful advice for clergy, it is Nancy’s hope that she will see it tucked into the pews of any church – not just Baptist, and that it will be of use for students and as a book of personal devotions.

In the Fall 2018 Semester, Nancy will be teaching the class, “Planning Worship: Days, Seasons, and Themes”, that will explore the basics of worship planning using The New Manual of Worship as a guide. Offered through ABSW, this class is open to all students in the GTU and also to community members and auditors. Contact Nancy if you’d like more information on the course:

Thank you, Nancy, for taking the time to share your insights with us!

by Lydia Webster