Worship Is Embodied Theology
WORSHIP IS EMBODIED THEOLOGY
How do we find out what Christians believe? Should we turn to a professional theologian, someone who spends their life researching, reflecting, analyzing and explaining what various Christians down the ages have thought and said about what they believe? Should we approach a minister or priest, or someone responsible for helping others understand the truths of the Christian faith? Perhaps we should interview an ordinary Christian, in the hope of a more practical and down-to-earth answer. A scouring of library shelves or the displays of a religious bookshop might help. A study of the creeds will provide us with certain information. Each of these paths is likely to offer some help in understanding what Christians believe. But there is yet another way, the exploration of Christian worship, which can lead us towards a rich appreciation of Christian faith. Worship will not only inform us about the content of Christian believing, but will demonstrate faith's embodiment in prayer, proclamation and the patterns of community life.
The gathering of Christian worship is where Christians express what they believe in a forthright and explicit way. In worship, Christians articulate what they believe, and express it in ways which are often memorable. They use their own words and they use the words of others, often passed down from previous generations. They use actions and gestures to express what cannot easily be put into words. Most importantly, they bring themselves: their hopes and fears, their guilty feelings and their concerns, their gratitude and their longings, their self-examination and their seeking for that which is beyond them. In short, they come to worship God, to seek some kind of communication with divine reality and to ask for help, both for themselves and for a desperately needy world.
In this event of worship we find exposed what the Christian community is concerned about—what it values, what it takes for granted, what it regrets and where it wants to go. In this mixture of lofty thoughts and down-to-earth regrets, the Church states more clearly than anywhere else what, as a community, it stands for. Worship is embodied theology.
—Christopher J. Ellis. GATHERING: A THEOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY OF WORSHIP IN FREE CHURCH TRADITION. London: SCM Press, 2004, pp. 1-2. ISBN: 0334029678
[Summer Quiz: When you hear someone talk about the Free Church tradition, what does the word "free" mean? From what is the Free Church "free"?]
Have a great week!
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
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