By Juan M.C. Oliver

Editor’s note: This article is a response related to a recent At the Threshold series of articles on the St. Polycarp Worship Society in New Orleans.

Juan Oliver

Juan Oliver

And you thought it had all been decided centuries ago? Worship is once again in the forefront of talk about the churches’ mission into the 21st century.

This is not exactly new, though. As early as 1971 the superior general of the Jesuits, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, was calling them to the work of inculturation.  By this term he meant,

“…the incarnation of Christian life and of the Christian message in a particular local cultural context, in such a way that the experience not only finds expression through elements proper to the culture in question (this alone would be no more than a superficial adaptation), but becomes a principle that animates, directs, and unifies a culture, transforming and remaking it so as to bring about “a new creation.”[1]

I have written elsewhere [2], about how in order to survive the current membership crisis and thrive into the future, Christian churches will have to invest huge amounts of creativity in trying new ways of doing things. Worship is certainly no exception, and the inculturation of worship is leading the way.

Briefly put, we must re-incarnate our worship so that it engages the local culture, for if we want to “… unify a culture, transforming and remaking it so as to bring about a new creation,” as Fr. Arrupe said above, we must speak its language.

Liturgical “language,” however, consists of much more than words. In a ritual setting every action, every item, every person is significant and charged with meaning. They work together as part of a holistic experience of the sacred in which a life lived in God´s presence is rehearsed and transmitted, forming a community of faith. Read More…

We are offering a series of chancel dramas designed for the worship of all ages. They were produced at Grace Episcopal Church by its rector, 1973 – 1985, Joe Morris Doss.



          16 actors

                   2 adult females

                   1 adult male

                   2 small acrobats

                   1 female child

                   1 male child

                   9 of any age, non-gender specific Read More…

By the Rev. Dr. Clay Morris 

Certainly, the primary identifying feature of catholic worship is the weekly celebration of the Eucharist. Having spent the week engaging life as Christ’s Body in the world, Christians gather to feed and be fed, so that they can move back into the world to minister to its needs. Just as the congregation is fed with Christ’s Body and Blood, so the world’s hungry are fed by the spiritually nourished Christian community. 

The centrality of the Eucharist in the worship life of the community reminds the church and the world that the religious commitment of the Body of Christ is the restoration of wholeness in God’s Creation. It is in feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and meeting oppression with justice that one’s Christian obligation is met. 

Tinned copper baptismal font from Bulgarian orthodox church

It is curious, then, that those who craft objects to be used in eucharistic worship seem intent on softening or even eradicating the symbolic connection between the experience of worship and the experience of life in the world.

For example, in the Eucharist, a plate and cup are used to hold bread and wine, as one would. But typically, the plates and cups on display look as if they were borrowed from a museum, not from a dining room. The plate and cup are placed on a table. But instead of suggesting, symbolically, a dining table around which people might gather for a meal, the object reminds us of a sarcophagus; a tomb in which someone might be buried.

The baptismal rite is a ritual washing. The New Testament description of Jesus’ baptism locates the ritual in a river. The Gospels’ accounts of his baptism don’t say exactly how water was used. Whether it was poured over his body or he was pushed under the water isn’t clear. What is clear is that the event happened in a river. Read More…

For most of Western history, the Bible and theological inquiry formed the foundation not only for learning and knowledge but also for shaping cultural perspectives as well as the individual’s. Families and communities, each society as a whole, lived within the Judeo-Christian worldview as the very air to be breathed. One of the most profound changes in Western culture is the loss of that foundation. (A friend who studied at Cornell in the 1960’s recalls a literature professor, Jewish, who paused in the midst of his published schedule of readings and, for two weeks, taught what he considered the minimal amount of “bible” necessary for his students to be able to understand nineteenth-century literature.) Society has become increasingly secular, left with only a strong memory of the Judeo-Christian story, and in many ways one which is inaccurate and inadequate. Read More…