Seeking a 'Fanboy' Faith
Last summer my daughter practiced one of the oldest traditions in Western culture: she was baptized. Members of our church along with family and friends gathered lakeside in a neighborhood park and watched while I waded knee-deep with my daughter and our friend and pastor in the cold water. People on the shore sang "Amazing Grace" as we prayed and plunged my daughter under the water, watching as she sprang back to the surface drenched not only in the water but the grace and mercy of God and those gathered in love around her. As we came out of the water and she received hugs, people who were at the park for a myriad of reasons—walking their dog, playing with their kids in the playground, journaling on a park bench—started to wander over and ask what we were doing.
As Beth Maynard, professor at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, has noted, the word leitourgia is a Greek term used in early Christian communities to mean a public act that expresses the mission of a people, something done in the open and not behind closed doors. Maynard cites David Fagerberg's study Theological Prima in looking at how the term grew in usage in the early Christian communities. She notes that the term becomes more and more associated with "actions expressing [a] city's relations to the world of divine powers on which it acknowledged itself to be dependent." In the early centuries of Christianity, leitourgia was a term to denote public rather than private gatherings whose focus and intent was essentially to bring light into darkness and challenge the prevailing social and spiritual assumptions of the time. By "public," it is meant that everyone is invited to participate and find their voice in this reality. As Fagerberg notes, "… the early Christians chose the term leitourgia for what they were doing [because] it signaled that they did not think themselves to be doing [a service closed off in meaning from the rest of the world], but they were doing the eschatological work of making Christ's kingdom present … [embodying] the presence in this world of the kingdom to come."