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History of Worship and Spirituality

This syllabus follows the outline of the required text, focusing on the movements of worship and spirituality in the various paradigms – the ancient, medieval, Reformation, and modern. Special attention is given to the cultural context of each paradigm and the impact of culture on the worship and spirituality of the period.

Course Syllabus

COURSE OBJECTIVES – Three objectives in this course are in the areas of growth in understanding, growth in attitude, and growth in skill.

Understanding: The foundation of the course is the history of the Christian church in worship. Students will demonstrate knowledge of an ability to analyze key moments in this history and identify ways this history informs the development of their intellectual understanding of Christian worship and spirituality.

Attitude: Through interaction with the witness of the church in worship through history students will express ways in which their theology of worship in the church today is now influenced by their membership in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Skill: Because the study of the history of worship and spirituality is not only academic but integrated with spiritual vocation and ministry practice, students will identify developments in their own practice in the areas of worship planning and leadership that are shaped by the worship and spirituality of the historic church.


1.   Class Attendance/Participation – Seminary study, by design, embraces collegiality as a rich resource of personal growth.  Class time will be filled by lectures, discussion, and presentations.  Please anticipate no more than one excused absence.

2.   Reading and Journal  – Students shall carefully read the required text. After each session, the student will write an academic and practical interaction with the material covered during that session. This two to three page paper should include interaction with the assigned reading and with the class discussion of the class reading.  Summarize what has been learned.  Engage in agreement and disagreement.  Explore how the insight of the week’s material may be applicable to your ministry. Answer these questions:

What have I learned about Worship & Spirituality in [this] tradition?

How can I use what I have learned from this tradition?

3.   Field Trip  – In lieu of one class session, students shall visit the corporate worship service of a congregation that is different from their own, on a day of their own choosing, one that employs a liturgy with clearly historic roots (e.g., an Eastern Orthodox service). Students shall submit a paper similar to those submitting in fulfillment of #2 above.

4.   Project  –  Due the last day of class.  Select one of the following:

Academic Paper – The academic paper is a research paper based on a topic of interest to the student and confined to an issue of worship or spirituality related to a biblical or theological matter.  It is recommended that the student research a narrow topic in depth, supplemented by contemporary application. The paper will be about 15 pages and should not exceed 20 pages in length. Footnotes and bibliography must follow the style of Turabian, 7th ed.

Extensive Reading – A student may choose to read an additional 1,000 pages of material dealing with the history of worship and spirituality. A paper of about 10 pages interacting with the reading must be submitted for evaluation.  It is recommended that you choose readings representing your own tradition.

Professional Project – A project integrated with the student’s current ministry. The extent of work, original thought, and interpretive analysis must be equal to the assignments outlined above.  Approval for the project is to be determined through discussion with the instructor.

Focus On a Worship Tradition – This project allows the student to zero in on his or her own tradition of worship.  First collect an adequate bibliography. Study both the historical origins and development of the tradition. Complete the study through a paper, extensive reading or a professional project as clarified above.


Wainright, Geoffrey and Karen B. Westfield Tuckers, eds.  The Oxford History of Christian

Worship.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.


Bridges, Flora Wilson.  Resurrection Song: African-American Spirituality. Orbis Books, 2001.

Costen, Melva.  African American Christian Worship.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993.

Foley, Edward.  From Age to Age. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1991.

Gonzales, Justo, ed.  Alabadle:Hispanic Christian Worship.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996.

Martin, Ralph P.  Worship in the Early Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975.

Olds, Hughes Oliphant, ed.  The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

Schmemann, Alexander.  For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy.Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002.

Vischer, Lukas.  Christian Worship in Reformed Churches Past and Present. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.

Wainwright, Geoffrey and Edward Yarnold.  The Study of Spirituality. New York: Oxford, 1986.

Webber, Robert, ed. Twenty Centuries of Christian Worship. Vol 2, The Complete Library of Christian Worship, ed, Robert Webber.  Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994.

White, James F.  A Brief History of Christian Worship. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993.

White, Susan J.  A History of Women in Christian Worship. Pilgrim Press, 2003.


Session 1                     Overview followed by a case study on Worship & Culture: John Nevin & Charles Finney

Session 2                       History of Christian Worship Chapters 1-3
From the Apostles to 622 AD

Session 3                     History of Christian Worship Chapters 4-6
The Western Church From 622 AD to 1500 AD

Session 4                      History of Christian Worship Chapters 7
The Eastern Church

Session 5                       History of Christian Worship Chapters 8-9
The Root of the Reformation or Protest

Session 6                     History of Christian Worship Chapters 10-16
The Branches of the Reformation

Session 7                    History of Christian Worship Chapters 17-22
The Extension of the Reformation

Session 8                     History of Christian Worship Chapters 23-27
Latin America, Asia, Africa, Rome

Session 9                    History of Christian Worship Chapters 28-34

Session 10                  No Class – Projects/Papers Due