Worship in the Early Church: Did You Know?
The first part of an early Christian worship assembly was open to all, including strangers, who might be converted by the preaching. The second part of the service involved the Lord’s Supper, which only the baptized were allowed to partake, so the unbaptized departed then.
By the early 200s, baptism often included renouncing Satan and all his works, making a statement of faith, being baptized (naked) in water, being clothed in a white robe, receiving anointing with oil, and immediately celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
Many Romans believed Christians were a funeral society because Christian families observed the anniversary of a relative’s death on the third, ninth, and thirtieth (or fortieth) day after the death. They gathered at the tomb, sang psalms, read Scripture, prayed, gave alms to the poor, and ate a meal. Later, this practice developed into feasts to honor martyrs. Perhaps the first such feast was for Polycarp (a bishop burned to death for his faith); it began shortly after his death in about 156.
Christians prepared for Easter, the festival of the Resurrection, by fasting. At first, the fasting lasted one day; later it was extended to 40 hours, to symbolize the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the wilderness.
Sunday, the “little Easter,” was also a festival of joy. To prepare for it, many Christians fasted on Wednesday and Friday.
Repentance was an involved process in the early church. Sin was seen not as a personal matter but as something that destroyed the unity of the church. Penitents fasted and prayed for the forgiveness of their sins, appeared before the church to make public confession, and were barred from the Lord’s Supper until they gave evidence of a change of heart ...