Folio: A Preaching Companion

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Folio: A Preaching Companion
A Review

Folio: A Preaching Companion, is a new resource for preaching from the lectionary available from Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. Currently Volume 1 is available, which covers Advent/Christmas/Epiphany for Year A, which are the Sundays from December 1, 2013 through March 2, 2014. Each year will have four volumes. Volume 2 will cover Lent/Palm Sunday/Easter Sunday/Eastertide; Volume 3 will cover Pentecost and a portion of Ordinary Time, while Volume 4 will cover the rest of Ordinary Time through Christ the King Sunday.
Part of what makes Folio unique is the intended audience. Merritt J. Nielson, General Editor, writes,
“Folio is for all pastors who may be long on training and passion in ministry, but short on time. It recognizes the unique challenges the bi-vocational minister faces balancing job, family, personal life and ministry demands – especially those involving worship and sermon preparation. Its focus includes those solo-pastors, fully employed by the local church but without the assistance of any staff, who struggle week after week with limited time for worship and preaching preparation because of ministry-intensive expectations in the congregation he or she serves. A third-tier group includes those ministers who may already be shaping congregational life according to the Christian seasons, but want further direction in the pastoral disciplines of lectionary/liturgical informed worship and proclamation. We are calling this process lectionary formation.”1

Or, put more simply, “Folio—A Preaching Companion, is a resource created with this overstretched pastor in mind.”2
It is this idea of “lectionary formation,” that is of particular interest. I have served all of my ministry career in one of the categories making up the intended audience of Folio: first as a solo-pastor and currently as a bi-vocational pastor. Early on, I made the decision to generally follow the lectionary, so that I might offer my congregation a more balanced biblical diet than if I was left to my own devices. Over the years I have learned, from my returning to some of my educational background and outside research, how to engage my congregation with the stories of Jesus and the Church as told through the rhythms of the liturgical calendar. For those not familiar with the lectionary or the Christian calendar, Folio can serve as a wonderful guide.
Each week in Folio includes:
The lectionary list of readings for each Sunday with the intended passage for Sunday’s sermon printed in its entirety, using the NRSV as the translation of choice.
Annotations on all the Revised Common Lectionary Sunday scripture readings, plus thematic tags to spark one’s thematic preparations.
Wesley’s Notes on the Sunday epistle lesson.
Brief motifs for the development of the basic Four-fold Worship Sequence: Gather, Listen, Respond, and Go.
A Devotional Reflection on the Sunday preaching passage.
Commentary on the Sunday preaching passage.
Preaching Pathways sermon helps based on the Sunday preaching passage to inspire the pastor in sermon development.
Occasional thematic articles and liturgical commentary for special seasons of the church year.

On the first Sunday of each month, the sacrament of Holy Communion is included in the “Response” section of Four-fold Worship, which could help if your local church is transitioning to more frequent observance of this sacrament.
One complaint would be that Folio, is very Gospel-centric, meaning that each week, it is the Gospel lesson that is assumed as the preaching passage. Though this is often the case in churches that follow the lectionary, part of the power of what the editors call “lectionary formation,” is in pulling the four lectionary passages to see and proclaim how the different parts of Scripture can create a thematic whole. Therefore, Folio alone cannot serve as a stand-alone lectionary commentary. I wonder though if the plan will include subsequent, Year A companions, that deal with the epistle and Old Testament lessons.
One remarkable feature of Folio is its small size. It reminds me of a legal pad that has been turned on its side, and the readers has been given large margins to use for note-taking, sermon development, or worship planning. Its size makes it exceptionally convenient; it would be easy for the reader to carry it with them in a laptop bag or purse as they go about the tasks of ministry. The size is also a downfall of Folio; at $25 USD per volume, it may be asking much of the intended audience of solo and bi-vocational ministers to spend $100 USD a year on a preaching companion that focuses most of its attention on the Gospel texts.
Whether or not this investment is worth it to you can only be found by picking up a copy and using it. If you are interested in “lectionary formation,” worship in the four-fold pattern, or celebrating the Christian calendar in your church faithfully, Folio is a resource worthy of your time.

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