I’m spending this summer writing a series for our church about our particular set of worship. We are a Christian Church in the Disciples of Christ tradition that have developed an odd mix of high church practices (such as candle procession, pastoral vestments) despite being formed out of frontier revivals and low church theology.
We are also in Orange County, CA, USA, which is the epicenter for megachurch and ecclesial contextual adaptation.
So I’ll be sharing what I write here as well as some of the wonky social science background stuff, as I have time.
In his entry on “Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Worship” in the Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship, Keith Watkins writes that our “liturgical practice emerged in one of the most interesting periods of American intellectual life”, stemming from the early 1800s as previous ties to the traditions of Europe were discarded, frontier expansion stressed pragmatism, and a spirituality took on an individual, rather than institutional focus.
As such, we do not have a common Disciples worship, as other denominations are inclined to. This reflects our sense of local church autonomy as every congregation decides how best to worship together and grow in faith. Some pieces are borrowed (such as saying the Lord’s Prayer or singing the Gloria Patri) while others have a unique Fullerton origin (such as ending the morning with the words “Worship is over, let the service begin”) but all pieces come together to form the standard format for our Sunday morning together–our unique liturgy.
Liturgy provides an order for experiencing the spiritual activities of the church. The term derives from roots meaning “the work of/for the people” (which is how the term “church service” comes about) and reminds us of its communal nature. All elements of any church gathering were, at one point, new inventions to help a community find a way to express themselves to God and to open themselves up for spiritual renewal.
Over the next few weeks, I will be exploring some of the different elements that comprise our liturgy together– providing a short description of their history, meaning, and purpose. Hopefully, they will spark your own curiosity and open a conversation about why we do what we do so that we can be more fully engaged with the Spirit to which our liturgies directs us toward.