While many histories of Christian worship exist, this project undertakes a task both more focused and more urgent. Rather than survey the whole history of the Christian church, it focuses on the formative period between the first and fifth centuries CE, when so many of the understandings and patterns of Christian worship came to be. And rather than include such developments as the monastic hours of prayer and the history of ordination, the authors deal primarily with those aspects of worship that recur on a weekly or regular basis: preaching, Eucharist, and baptism. The book divides its subject into three periods. It begins with the emerging worship of the New Testament era. It moves to the second and third centuries, when the church’s main tasks of establishing its identity in relation to its Jewish roots and making its way in a hostile Roman environment showed up in its theology and practice of worship. And it concludes with the fourth and fifth centuries, when introducing the increasing numbers of converts after Constantine to Christian faith became one of the highest priorities of the church’s worship. This resource will serve as a valuable guide to the historical developments that brought about Christian worship as we know it today.
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“In Worship in the Early Church, Justo González and Catherine Gunsalus González present the early history of components of Christian worship with particular focus on preaching and the sacraments, and describe the various tumultuous, changing contexts that impacted the ways in which Christian worship developed in the church’s early centuries. Through this enticing and accessible text they invite a conversation between generations that ‘will lead to insights [to] enrich today’s worship.’ Worship in the Early Church will help my students engage with the ancient church’s worship practices so that we are not (to quote G.K. Chesterton) the ‘oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.’ I am very excited about this book!
--Jennifer L. Lord, The Dorothy B. Vickery Professor of Homiletics and Liturgical Studies, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
González and González have made a vital contribution to the understanding and practice of Christian worship with this engaging new work. Their focus on proclamation and the sacraments—defining characteristics of the church and the heart of the service for the Lord’s Day—offers valuable insight for students of the liturgy and contemporary leaders of worship alike. Their rigorous, yet accessible review of changing cultural contexts in the early church is eminently relevant for congregations facing change today.
--David Gambrell, Associate for Worship in the Office of Theology and Worship of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and editor of Connections Worship Companion