July 09, 2012

worship cohort - 2012 update


At the end of June, I began my second residency of three for the DMin Worship Cohort at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.  The cohort consisted of nine students and four professors, most participating in all three years together.  

This year's cohort explored worship as it developed over the course of the Church's history.  From the Early Church to the 20th Century Liturgical Renewal Movement, we covered a lot of ground.  Here is some of what we covered:
  • Day 1
    • Scotty Smith (former pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN) led us through Psalm 73 ("We're Made for Wonder but Prone to Wander"), which was followed by personal reflections on the ups and downs of our individual lives and ministry over the past year.  I am thankful for this aspect of soul care that has been an important aspect of our coursework.
  • Day 2-3 - Early Church
    • Reggie Kidd (RTS Orlando) covered theological themes relevant to worship in the ancient church, looking at the work of Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius of Alexandria and Melito of Sardis, the writings of Justin Martyr and the Didache, and the use of images in the early church.  Of note was discussing the Eucharistic Prayer of Hippolytus and the Easter Sermon of Melito of Sardis (read lines 100-105, preferably aloud).
    • Donna Reinhard (Saint Louis University) taught on Cyril of Jerusalem and the Patristic practices of mystagogy (teaching of doctrines of Christian initiation)
  • Day 4 - Medieval Church
    • Mike Farley (Covenant) covered 1,000 years of history in a day, notably tracing the changes of the Western liturgies of the 4th-8th centuries with that of the 11th century.  We also looked at the development of the doctrine of transubstantiation and eucharistic sacrifice.  Our discussion elaborated on the many barriers that were developing between the congregation and the clergy in worship, setting us up for the Protestant Reformation.
  • Day 5-6 - Continental Reformation Worship
    • Mike Farley continued the lectures into the 16th century, looking at how the Reformers were attempting to achieve continuity with the practices of the Early Church, which meant changing a number of aspects of worship carried by the Medieval Church while maintaining many other positive things that were still present in the services.  In considering the development of the doctrine of transubstantiation, we discussed the other views of Christ's presence in the eucharist.
  • Day 7 - Scottish and Puritan Worship
    • Mark Dalbey (Covenant, also administrator for the cohort) shared from his doctoral studies of the Puritan understanding of the Regulative Principle of Worship.
    • Mike Farley explored the work of John Knox in Scotland and later the Westminster Assembly in transporting the worship of John Calvin and Geneva to the English speaking world.  We also addressed their reactions to the worship of the Anglican Church and the Book of Common Prayer.  Much of their work was quite reactionary, so we paused to consider the positive and negative results of their legacy.
  • Day 8 - American Worship through 1850
    • Mike Farley showed the transition of English worship into the American colonies.  An increased emphasis on the personal conversion experience grew in certain colonial congregations, which would have a profound effect upon the nature of preaching and the growth of revivals in the Second Great Awakening. Over this period, Presbyterian worship began to develop its own distinct flavor from its Scottish roots, influenced by the growing American styles of worship as well as in response to the style of worship created by the Westminster Directory a century before.  Much of what is considered "Traditional Presbyterian Worship" today was set in place in the middle of the nineteenth century due to the influence of Charles Finney and the New Measures of Revivalism.
  • Day 9 - Liturgical Renewal from 1850 to present
    • Mike Farley closed things out by looking at the liturgical renewal that took place in the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches in the 19th and 20th centuries.  For the Catholic Church, we explored the writings of Vatican II and how they were variously applied to changes in the practice of Mass.  At the same time, changes were taking place in Protestant Churches that mirrored the scholarship in the Catholic Church. We took special note of John Nevin and the Merersburg liturgies in the mid-nineteenth century, which would lead to liturgical changes in the Presbyterian Church at the turn of the twentieth century.  It was interesting to consider the parallel works of the liturgical renewal movements, as well as the reasons many evangelical churches have not been influenced by this work.  Many of us are just learning today about work that was being done 50 years ago in other (largely mainline) denominations.
  • Day 10
    • Scotty Smith closed our time together with a discussion of the topic of his upcoming book on Identifying and Dealing with the Idols of our Hearts.
Every morning before class and every evening at the end of class, we gathered for prayer and praise.  These times were planned and led by students and professors, and it provided a rich variety of expressions while turning our hearts to God at the start and close of each day.

Reflecting on all of this, I am challenged to consider how the rhythm of history has played out over the course of the Church's existence.  Many of the problems that we have today in churches were experienced by earlier generations.  I was also convicted by the myopia of my understanding of worship over history.  It is easy to discount the contributions of a certain period of history because of the problems that later generations had to address.

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