Reflection on a Worship Service
Your assignment is to write a theological-historical meditation
on a church service of your choice (but not a school chapel service). My goal
is to help you draw connections between the history and doctrine we've been
learning in class, and the Christian practice that goes on in the worshiping
How does the church's symbolism show the
church's self-understanding? How does it reveal its historical
and theological legacy? How does this community's worship purposefully
remember its past (i.e., how his
this worship service a form of Christian historiography)?
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 both historically informed and theologically packed,
and chosen carefully for their liturgical occasion, so pay close
- Scripture. "Liturgical" churches often have readings
preselected from a lectionary. My church picks them ad hoc.
How does the choice of Scriptures reflect historical heritage?
How does it 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 historical
patterns and doctrinal themes in the church's worship?
- Prominence of central themes in our class.
- 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.
- Particular and concrete ways you see Christian history being
done, past being remembered purposefully, when the Church worships.
Uh-oh! What if the service seems historically novel and theologically poor?
- First, don't be too quick to judge. Before you give up on the service, look
hard for solid doctrine and important history 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 improvement, then tell me how
you would improve it to bring it in line theologically and historically.
Again, here I would be most impressed with suggestions that tie
the Church's remembrance 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. As always,
I want to see proper style, clear writing, a thorough answer
to the question, and explicit citations of course materials.
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