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Home > Issues > 2009 > Winter > Return to Ritual

We keep hearing of churches "returning to ritual." Such churches often share common elements: weekly Communion, written prayers, creeds, corporate confession, and other things that for some stalwarts may feel awfully Catholic.

Are liturgical elements a worship fad, like amateur drama and pop-star singers of the 1990s? Or is there lasting interest in expressions of the faith older than ourselves?

"Dimming the lights doesn't make you liturgical," said one pastor when asked about the advantages of weekly Communion. "We can create worship services with the candles and creeds, and people would have a great experience, but that's not a good reason to do it. We shouldn't reclaim liturgy because it 'works' in a postmodern age or because other churches are successful at it. We should do it because it reconnects us with historic Christianity and moves us from my spirituality to our spirituality, dating back 2,000 years."

Perhaps that's why we're hearing of more such churches popping up. For these congregations, the new worship means going old school.

Creedal Revival

Trinity Fellowship Church
Richardson, Texas
Keith Hileman, associate pastor

Ours is an independent church. With Plymouth Brethren roots and strong influence from Dallas Theological Seminary, our congregation has a deep appreciation for expositional preaching and weekly celebration of the Lord's Table. Faced with the practical issues caused by growth (how do you include so many people in participatory worship in multiple services?) and the theological issues of a postmodern context (a more biblically illiterate culture, for one), we began wrestling with the issue of how we stay connected to each other and should our congregation be connected to any other body of believers? Our quest led in a direction none of us predicted.

Studying church history at Dallas Theological Seminary, I began to expose the youth to the events of the Christian calendar. Then the pastoral staff began including historic worship elements. At first, we added the emphasis of Advent. We then expanded from a Good Friday Tennebrae service to the Triduum--a three-day service from Maundy Thursday across Good Friday to Easter Morning.

At the same time, we began designing a sanctuary. The idea of moving from our multi-purpose building into a dedicated space for worship caused the elders to ask serious questions about the priority of worship for the church's identity. We started reading: Creed by Luke Timothy Johnson, Nicene Christianity by Christian Seitz, and Creed or Chaos by Dorothy Sayers, plus a host of books on worship by Marva Dawn, D. H. Williams, and others.

We asked the basic question: What do we believe?

We can't assume today that people know what they believe and why. We needed to give people something positive to hang onto and say, "This is what we believe to be true," which becomes the foundation for what we do in worship.

As the discussion developed, we asked, "How do we create a doctrinal statement that doesn't need to delineate fifty points about our faith?" We also asked, "How can we connect with the historic church?"

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From Issue:Rediscovered Roots, Winter 2009 | Posted: March 13, 2009

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