You can’t always trust what you read in a website, and I don’t expect you to think I have the final word on things. So I have listed some reference books that you can use to find more information or just check up on me. I’ve also given you enough information that you can find them in a library or order them from a bookstore.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.
—1 John 4:1-3, NIV
Anchor Bible Dictionary
David Noel Freedman, editor in chief. Doubleday (1992)
ISBN 0-3851-9351-3 (for volume one)
This is a very detailed and extensive Bible dictionary in six thick volumes. It never ceases to astound me. The article on Ephesus, for instance, has so much detail you might wonder if it is a tour guide for time travelers! It is expensive, so unless you are clergy, you may want to consult it at the library. It is an indispensable tool in serious Bible study. When I graduated from seminary, I purchased a set as a graduation present to myself, and I regard it as an excellent investment.
The Cultural World of Jesus
by John J. Pilch. Order of St. Benedict (1995)
ISBN 0-8146-2286-0 (for volume one)
This is a set of three paperbacks, one volume for each year in the Sunday lectionary. It isn’t anywhere near as good as the Anchor Bible Dictionary, but since it is arranged in lectionary order, it's a good way to get insights into the gospel text during sermon preparation.
Burton H. Throckmorton, editor. Fifth edition. Thomas Nelson (1992)
This book is a very harmony of the synoptic gospels. It contains a synopsis of the first three gospels with alternate readings from the manuscripts and extra-canonical parallels. It was one of my seminary textbooks.
New Interpreters Bible Commentary
Leander E. Keck, convenor. Abingdon Press
ISBN 0-6872-7814-7 (for volume one)
This is the best and most authoritative Bible commentary today. It comes in twelve volumes plus an index. It is not infallible, of course, but it is very helpful and it will inform you about the latest scholarship. It is based on the New International Version and the New Revised Standard Version.
A Brief History of Christian Worship
by James F. White, Abingdon Press (1993)
If you are curious about the history of Christian liturgy, this short book is a good place to start. The author is a United Methodist minister who was Professor of Liturgy at the (Catholic) University of Notre Dame and has been the president of the North American Academy of Liturgy.
The New Handbook of the Christian Year
by Hoyt L. Hickman, Don E. Saliers, Laurence Hull Stookey, and James F. White, Abingdon Press (1998)
If you are clergy in a denomination that is just now coming to use the Christian year to structure worship, this book is an invaluable help. This book is based on the Revised Common Lectionary. It explains the historic origins of the Christian year, recounts the rediscovery of the Christian year by Protestants, and gives concrete, practical ideas for structuring worship for each Sunday in the three-year cycle. The authors have impeccable credentials. Hoyt Hickman is director of resource development at the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church. Don Saliers is professor of theology and worship at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Laurence Hull Stookey is professor of preaching and worship at Wesley Theological Seminary, and was one of my professors. James F. White is professor of liturgy at Notre Dame University.
The New Westminster Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship
John Gordon Davies, editor. First American edition. Westminster Press (1986)
This is a good general reference book in dictionary format. It has, as the title says, an emphasis on Christian worship.
Liturgies of the Western Church
Bard Thompson, editor. Second edition. Fortress Press (1961)
This book is an excellent history of the development of Christian liturgy through the ages. It even contains some of the original liturgies of the Protestant Reformers.
The Origins of the Liturgical Year
The Rev. Dr. Thomas J. Talley, Liturgical Press (1991)
This book is an in-depth study of the origins of the liturgical year. The author is a professor at the (Episcopal) General Theological Seminary.
The Study of Liturgy
Cheslyn Johnes, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Edward Yarnold, SJ. Oxford University Press (1978)
This may be the most authoritative book on the structure, meaning, purpose, and origins of Christian liturgy and Christian observances. It would make a very good seminary textbook.
The Shape of the Liturgy
Dom Gregory Dix. Continuum (1945)
This is an encyclopedic work, tracing Christian liturgy throughout history. It even includes information about a government raid on a house church in the Roman Empire.
Dictionary of the Christian Church
J. D. Douglas, general editor. Revised edition. Zondervan (1978)
This is a good general reference book. It isn’t as good as the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, but it is accurate and less expensive.
Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingston, editors. Third edition. Oxford University Press (1995)
This is probably the best one-volume reference book about contemporary and historic Christianity. It's a little expensive, but worth every penny. It can answer nearly any question you have.
Church Vestments, Their Origin and Development
Herbert Norris, Dover Publications (2002)
This book, first published in 1950, traces the historical development of contemporary Christian vestments from the ordinary clothing of the Roman Empire. The author is English, and a noted expert in historical clothing. (When the author refers to “this country,” he means the United Kingdom.)
All of these books include guidance on vestments.
The Ceremonies of the Eucharist
A Guide to Celebration
Howard E. Galley, Cowley Publications (1989)
This is a how-to book for Episcopal clergy, with emphasis on the Eucharist. It is succinct and comprehensive, and it also gives background information about why things are done the way they are. Mr. Galley was the working editor of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
The Lord Be With You
A Visual Handbook for Presiding in Christian Worship
Charles D. Hackett and Don E. Saliers, OSL Publications (1990)
This is a slender but comprehensive how-to manual for clergy. I don’t think you can go wrong with this one; it makes extensive use of photographs. It is published by the Order of St. Luke, an order of the United Methodist Church, open to all denominations, that promotes traditional liturgical practices and has chapters all over the country. The Rev. Hacket is the director of Episcopal Studies at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and Don E. Saliers is professor of theology and worship at the same school.
Manual on the Liturgy—Lutheran Book of Worship
Philip H. Pfatteicher and Carlos R. Messerli, Augsburg Publishing House (1970)
This book is a companion volume to the Lutheran Book of Worship, and it is intended as a how-to manual for Lutheran clergy. It is informative and instructive for clergy in other denominations. In addition to being a respected authority and prolific author of books on liturgy, Rev. Pfatteicher is the associate pastor of First Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and an adjunct professor at Duquesne University.
A Priest’s Handbook: The Ceremonies of the Church
Dennis G. Michno, third edition, Morehouse Publishing (1998)
This (Episcopal) book is meant as a companion volume to the Book of Common Prayer. It seeks to give the clergy more information about how to conduct dignified worship services that honor historic practices, without imposing rigidity. In other words, it is a how-to guide for Episcopal clergy. The Rev. Michno is an alumnus of the (Episcopal) General Theological Seminary.