Russell Yee’s Worship on the Way takes an intelligent and accessible look at Asian American Christian worship. Yee‘s passion for the Asian American Church shows in his work, crafting a systematic answer to what he calls “the most basic questions: Does culture really matter? What does being ANA have to with how we worship? Why can’t we all worship the Christian way?”
Focusing on Christianity’s unique flexibility, Yee compares the Christian Bible’s myriad translations to the single form of Arabic that Islamic scripture requires. Missionally, he refers to 6th century Bishop Gregory’s instructions to take from each culture “whatever is holy, whatever is awe-inspiring, whatever is right.” In the same vein, Yee quotes Pope Alexander VII, “Do not in any way attempt, and do not on any pretext persuade these people to change their rites, habits and customs, unless they are openly opposed to religion and good morals.”
In the Asian American context, Yee talks about the Asian American experience in terms of history and culture. Part of what he’s doing is using these ingredients explain the underdeveloped state of a distinct Asian American Christian worship. To help explain that, he uses the concept of Asian American culture as “Emergent, Delitescent and Latent,” meaning it is new, hard to see, and full of potential. He’s optimistic when he describes this condition as the “freedom to shape the future instead of perpetuate the past.”
I particularly liked the chapters on “Explorations” and “Expressions”. These sections detail Yee’s practical work and ideas on the practice of Asian American worship. Some simple take-aways for me are:
- The revision of individualist language in songs to reflect a more collective culture. In other words, changing the I’s and Me’s into We’s and Us’s.
- A multilingual choral version of “God is So Good.”
- The compelling nature of spoken word. There’s something in the reciting of poetry that’s a different kind of meditative experience that singing songs or hearing sermons.
Also, a point regarding the audience for this book: Yee’s book is useful as a study on Christian worship in general. He presents a strong case for going beyond allowing culturally specific worship forms, and embracing the value, necessity and unavoidability of it.
 Another version of this review was originally Posted on Amazon.com