Western Theological Seminary, Ronald Rienstra

Grand Rapids, Michigan

To write a book comprised of brief essays that explore the deep patterns in worship as well as in worship's constituent parts (ordo, scripture, sermon, song, prayer, action).

Researcher(s): Ronald Rienstra
Academic Discipline: Practical Theology

Project Summary

My project is to write a book for pastors, worship leaders, students, and curious congregants; it will be comprised of brief essays that explore the deep patterns in worship as well as in worship's constituent parts (ordo, scripture, sermon, song, prayer, actions). My working title is "Gifts of Grace for Pattern-loving People: Fifty-Five Forms Worship Leaders Need to Know." The book will include a graphic design element and will be written in conversation with pastors from multiple congregational contexts to ensure that it has cross-cultural traction. 

What questions have you asked about worship in the past year? List at least two questions that have generated theological reflection and have helped shape your project.

  1. I'm returning to the Nairobi statement on Worship & Culture and wondering about the "transcultural" elements that they outline there -- are those prescriptive or descriptive? 
  2. I'm wondering whether the shape of worship and its constituent elements will change in any significant way, post-COVID. We are already learning how to worship differently; will we return to old patterns or is this a crisis that the church can use to develop new/old patterns? 

In what ways has or will your project strengthen the worship life of congregations?

I hope that when the book is published it will inform pastors and worship leaders and lay people. Though I imagined this project would be helpful BEFORE our current crisis, I'm even more convinced now that the innovations being pressed upon the church need to be grounded in time-tested patterns of devotion and discipleship (as this book will highlight) and not in market-driven or technology-limited schemes. 

What have been your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)

I have experienced two significant challenges. The first -- that everyone is likewise dealing with -- is the reduced capacity during the pandemic to just get things done. I am behind where I would like to be at this stage, but I keep telling myself that I'm not failing at task X, I am surviving a pandemic and anything that gets done at the same time is a bonus. Relatedly, it has been a significant challenge to be unable to consult in-person with my non-Anglo partners. I hope to finish that work this summer. 

What advice would you like to share with other Teacher-Scholars? 

Be gentle with yourself. 

Also, during this time where we are still feeling so isolated from one another, having conversations with other scholars -- even if they aren't working the same ground as you are -- is so very encouraging and helpful. 

What products will emerge from your project?

Lots of intangible products. But the ones I can identify for certain: 1) The book I'm writing-- and perhaps some ancillary products: 2) a new elective course, 3) a series of podcasts, 4) perhaps some speaking engagements.