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The Theology of Worship in the Reformed Tradition

This is a syllabus for a study of prominent theological writings from the Reformed tradition on nature and purpose of public worship. A course like this might include study of documents by Zwingli, Calvin, Hodge, Nevin, Barth, and von Allmen with an examination of how the enduring themes in these writings might be reflected in the practice of public worship in today’s cultural environment.

Course Syllabus

Instructional Objectives
For each student . . .

  • To sense more deeply the privilege of offering public worship to God in Christ through the Spirit; to sense the privilege of leading congregations in worship, and to dream dreams and see visions about new opportunities for faithful service in Christ’s church.
  • To gain a sense of the central themes, metaphors, and angularities of the practice of worship in Reformed tradition, and, more generally, to articulate key biblical and theological dimensions of Christian public worship; to develop aptitude for critical theological thinking about public worship.
  • To reflect on the nature of catholic worship across Christian traditions and what it means to live as a truly catholic Christian in today’s era of global Christianity.
  • To gain a sense for the discipline of the study of Christian worship, including basic bibliographic and source materials.

The Worship Sourcebook


  • Brief Biographies
    • Write a brief description of what you hope to learn in this class as well as a brief description of your background and what brought you to take this class.
  • Reading Analysis.   Read carefully Christian Worship in Reformed Churches, Past and Present, Lukas Vischer (Eerdmans).
    • In light of class discussions, respond in writing to each article in Part I.   What idea most challenged or intrigued you in each chapter?   How would that chapter deepen or inform our course discussions?   How would our course discussions correct, inform, contradict, or complement each chapter? 
    • In complete sentences and well-formed paragraphs, write a 7-page critical review essay of Part II of this volume.   Suppose it was being presented to your congregation’s council or consistory for adoption as your official worship statement.   What are its strengths and weaknesses?   What is missing?     Cite at least 8 other documents covered in class as you develop your argument.   Again, a good grade is dependent on these citations and the integration of your reflections on course discussions into your paper.
  • Pastoral Letter
    • Prepare a 5-page pastoral letter to a specific congregation (that you already know well) to address the question:   “How can we most fruitfully worship as Christians who are both self-consciously Reformed and also self-consciously catholic?”   Describe the congregation in a brief, 3-4 sentence preface to your letter.