Reflection on a Worship Service
Your assignment is to write a theological meditation on
a church service (but not a chapel service at school) during Holy Week (the
week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday). Appreciate and/or critique the
service of your choice (such as Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Tenebrae, Good
Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday) at the Christian church
of your choice. Think "basketball": My goal is to help you draw
connections between the doctrine we've been learning in class, and the Christian
practice that goes on in the worshiping Church.
Obviously the easiest connections to make during Holy
Week will probably involve the atoning work of Christ. But these may not be
the only ones you find. Also make sure you address the issues raised in the
previous week: How a church's symbolism shows the church's self-understanding,
whether and how worship fits the Trinitarian nature of Christian faith, and
Please include the printed program of the
worship service you attend, so I can follow along. If none is
available (or if the program is not descriptive enough), outline
it yourself. Don't forget details like the name and denomination
of the church, which service you attended, and so on.
- The structure of the service (what comes where in the order
of worship, and why might the order be theologically significant?).
- The words and tenor of either rehearsed or extemporaneous
- The words and tenor of songs and hymns. Often traditional
hymns are theologically packed, and chosen carefully for their
liturgical occasion, so pay close attention here.
- Scripture. "Liturgical" churches often have readings
preselected from a lectionary. My church picks them ad hoc.
How does the choice of Scriptures serve theological purposes?
- Sermon themes and illustrations.
- Other features of the service: processional; dress, decorations,
and "effects"; special rituals like baby dedications,
drama, baptisms, and confirmation; offering and offertory; Communion;
benediction; recessional; etc. How do these reflect doctrinal
themes in the church's worship?
- Prominence of central themes in our course: e.g., atonement theories;
the personhood of Christ; the personhood and work of the Holy Spirit; the
threefold office; doctrine of the Trinity; sin and grace; election.
- Connections with particular details from lectures and readings
(cited appropriately, of course).
- Particularly insightful or striking uses of doctrinal themes
or theological uses of Scripture.
- Ways you see Christian doctrine presented practically,
and lived out in the Church.
Uh-oh! What if the service is theologically and doctrinally
- First, don't condemn it too quickly. Before you give up on
the service, look hard for solid doctrine coming to life. Begin
with a spirit of charity. Be responsive to the fact that the
church may simply be doing things in an unfamiliar way, so that
you have to "translate."
- If the service simply needs doctrinal improvement, then tell
me how you would improve it. Again, here I would be most impressed
with suggestions that tie doctrine in with real Christian worship
practice in a compelling way.
Please keep your paper 3-4 pages, double-spaced,
and follow the directions in my handout
for writing papers.
Remember, I want to see proper style,
clear writing, a thorough answer to the question, and explicit
citations of course materials.
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