“Why do we do what we do?”: A brief look at Christian worship throughout history
This fall, we will explore how Christian worship has evolved over the last 2,000 years, as we seek to understand the meaning of our worship practices and their underlying reasons. During this series, our order and style of worship will vary to reflect the worship practices of each particular time period we’re exploring.
Sept. 19 — Why worship? Why Christian worship? [View on YouTube]
In this introduction to the series, we’ll follow the familiar order of worship that we’ve established at United Presbyterian, as we consider what it means to be people who seek to love God and neighbor, and how our worship supports and nourishes us on the way.
Sept. 26 — Beginnings in the Synagogue: Eighteen Benedictions [View on YouTube]
This service of worship will be modeled on a 1st-century synagogue service of prayer and scripture, including the Eighteen Benedictions that became the basis of rabbinic Judaism and the singing of psalms.
Oct. 3 — Agape and Eucharist: In Christ’s Name in the 1st Century [View on YouTube]
After the synagogue service, followers of Jesus would gather in small groups for a meal and to share their particular struggles, to pray together, and to listen to the teachings about Jesus — the stories that became the gospels, the letters written by apostles to particular communities. This service of worship will include a celebration of the Lord’s Supper and a consideration of what it would have been like in the earliest communities. We will have a short congregational meeting after worship, and then a picnic, so in some ways we will be doing what our ancestors in the faith would have done.
Oct. 10 — After the Break: When Christianity Became a Separate Practice [View on YouTube]
This service will be modeled on Christian worship in the late 2nd & 3rd centuries, when Christianity had developed its own distinct practices and liturgy but was not yet the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Oct. 17 — Becoming Official: When Worship Became a State Affair [View on YouTube]
In the 4th century, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and worship was standardized throughout the empire for state and practical reasons: creating a unified culture and a unified practice among different ethnic and language groups. It was the time of the great ecumenical councils, when the canon of Scripture was set and the early creeds were agreed upon.
Oct. 24 — Mysterium Fascinans Tremendum: Worship as a Spectator Sport [View on YouTube]
After the split between east and west in the 11th century, the Latin mass continued to be practiced by specially trained and ordained priests, with limited engagement by ordinary folks. This hierarchical and tightly controlled system preserved a single voice of Christian authority. Today’s service will be modeled on the liturgy that became standard in Western Christianity for five centuries.
Oct. 31 — Reformation Sunday
Today’s worship service will be modeled on a liturgy from Calvin’s Geneva.
Nov. 7 — The Feast of All Saints
Today’s service of worship will be in the style of a traditional American Protestant service until the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and the building of the Bouquet of Remembrance, when we will name out loud and in our hearts those whom we wish to remember.
Nov. 14 — The Race to the End of Empire
Today’s service is modeled on the liturgical model that was developed in the ecumenical movement of the 20th Century, with all of the movements and responses that will be familiar to those who have worshipped in traditional churches.
Nov. 21 — The Reign of Christ Sunday
We complete the journey this week as we join with believers through the centuries in proclaiming that God is One, that Christ is Lord, and that we seek to live according to a biblical vision of a world made new.