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Worship and Christian Identity

Practicing Ourselves

E. Byron Anderson

Worship and Christian Identity argues that sacramental and liturgical practices are the central means by which a church shapes the faith, character, and consciousness of its members. Consequently, for any church to set aside such practices as outdated or irrelevant is to set aside the means by which the church nurtures and sustains its theological identity. From this perspective, Anderson explores the following questions: What is the relationship between worship and belief? What is the relationship between corporate worship and the formation of Christian persons and communities? What is the relationship between worship and our knowledge of ourselves, our world, and God? How might our attention to the reform and renewal of worship and sacramental practice provide a framework for theological, evangelical, and sacramental renewal? Questions of sacramental practice, inclusive or transformative language, and the renewal of congregational hymnody have been largely displaced by marketing questions and conflicts between "traditional" and “contemporary” worship. The hour of worship is subdivided now into increasingly specialized “target audiences” of singles, seekers, boomers, and “X-ers” with worship carefully packaged as “traditional” or “contemporary.” What at various points has been understood as a “means of grace” is now seen primarily as a “means of numerical growth.” Missing in the conflict between “traditional” and “contemporary” worship is significant discussion of what is at stake for the identity of Christian persons and communities in the shape and practice of worship. Perhaps more surprising, discussion of the theological shape and practice of worship also has been absent in discussions concerning theological standards. These absences suggest that for many in the church today, worship is a means for expressing a community's belief but has little to do with the shape and character of that belief. The assumption that worship is only or primarily a pragmatic means for expressing a community’s belief stands in sharp contrast to the Christian tradition. This assumption also contrasts with the insights provided by recent work in ritual studies, psychology, and faith development. Worship and Christian Identity is an important book for faculty and students in seminary and graduate programs in liturgical studies and religious education, particularly those interested in the relationships between liturgical studies and practical theology, ritual studies and liturgical theology, as well as the role of worship in Christian formation. Chapters are “Making Claims About Worship,” “Worship as Ritual Knowledge,” “Worship as Ritual Practice,” “Trinitarian Grammar and the Christian Self,” “Trinitarian Grammar and Liturgical Practice,” and “A Vision of Christian Life.” E. Byron Anderson, PhD, is assistant professor of worship at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. An ordained United Methodist, he has served in parish ministry as pastor, musician, and educator. He is coeditor of Liturgy and the Moral Self, published by The Liturgical Press.

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I Was And I Am Dust

Penitente Practices as a Way of Knowing

David M. Mellott

There are a variety of people, practices, and celebrations in the Catholic Church. At times some of these can be dismissed too easily as extreme, superstitious, or uninformed. Such is the case with the Penitentes of New Mexico. In I Was and I Am Dust, David M. Mellott shares his experiences of the Penitentes as an outsider. He explains their struggles with the institutional church, and some of the seemingly extreme rituals they facilitate during Holy Week. Through the voice of Larry Torres, one of the senior members of the Penitentes, Mellott poignantly provides readers with a more intimate picture of this community of practitioners. Yet so much more than an analysis written by an outsider, this work attempts to understand the experience of those within a group whose practices are considered outside the mainstream. With Mellott and Torres, readers may be surprised to discover a depth of meaning in these practices—and to realize the beauty of being dust. David M. Mellott is assistant professor of practical theology and director of ministerial formation at Lancaster Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in philosophy, ethnography, and theology of ministry. He is committed to supporting and nurturing Christian communities that empower people to live more authentically as they seek to love God, neighbor, and self more deeply.

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Public Worship and Public Work

Character and Commitment in Local Congregational Life

Christian Scharen

In a time of increasing cultural pluralism and vast religious restructuring in the United States, Christian social ethics must take account of how values and commitments shape Christian communities. In Public Worship and Public Work Christian Scharen examines theological claims about the relationship of worship and ethics by means of ethnographic study of the life, worship, and work of three vibrant congregations. Public Worship and Public Work moves beyond two caricatures of the relationship between worship and social ethics. Rather than resolute portrayals of the Church as a reflection of its culture and context and causal accounts of the Church's liturgy forming a Christian witness over and against culture, this book lifts up congregational identity as an area of dynamic interaction between worship, social ethics, and culture. Chapters in Part One are "Liturgy and Social Ethics: Characterizing a Debate," and “Sociologizing the Debate: Identity, Ritual, and Public Commitment.” Chapters in Part Two, Three Case Studies in Atlanta’s Old Downtown are " 'People Living Church’: The Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception,” “’Jesus Saves’: Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church,’” and “’The Church at Work’: Central Presbyterian Church.’” Part Three concludes with "The World in the Church in the World.” Christian Scharen, PhD, is associate director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut.

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I Was And I Am Dust

Penitente Practices as a Way of Knowing

David M. Mellott

There are a variety of people, practices, and celebrations in the Catholic Church. At times some of these can be dismissed too easily as extreme, superstitious, or uninformed. Such is the case with the Penitentes of New Mexico. In I Was and I Am Dust, David M. Mellott shares his experiences of the Penitentes as an outsider. He explains their struggles with the institutional church, and some of the seemingly extreme rituals they facilitate during Holy Week. Through the voice of Larry Torres, one of the senior members of the Penitentes, Mellott poignantly provides readers with a more intimate picture of this community of practitioners. Yet so much more than an analysis written by an outsider, this work attempts to understand the experience of those within a group whose practices are considered outside the mainstream. With Mellott and Torres, readers may be surprised to discover a depth of meaning in these practices and to realize the beauty of being dust. David M. Mellott is assistant professor of practical theology and director of ministerial formation at Lancaster Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in philosophy, ethnography, and theology of ministry. He is committed to supporting and nurturing Christian communities that empower people to live more authentically as they seek to love God, neighbor, and self more deeply.

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A Precious Fountain

Music in the Worship of an African American Catholic Community

Mary E. McGann, RSCJ

A Precious Fountain is a work of liturgical ethnography that probes the rich liturgical life of one worshiping community whose roots and practices are at once Black and Catholic, using music as a primary lens through which to explore the community's liturgy and embodied theology. Our Lady of Lourdes community in San Francisco is part of a larger event in the American church: the emergence of a new paradigm of Catholic worship, one that is "authentically Black and truly Catholic." Mary E. McGann, RSCJ, describes how the music worship of Our Lady of Lourdes in San Francisco not only enriches that community but also is an example of how a theology of music is practiced in that parish. She offers this new genre of liturgical literature that brings to light how God’s Spirit is working in the churches through the idioms, perceptions, and insights of specific ethno-cultural communities in this time of massive cultural change and globalization. Mary E. McGann, RSCJ, PhD, is assistant professor of liturgy and music at the Franciscan School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of Exploring Music as Worship and Theology and co-author with Edward Foley, Capuchin, of Music in the Eucharistic Prayer published by Liturgical Press.

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