Corporate Worship in the Reformed Tradition

By James Hastings Nichols

Identifying and evaluating the characteristics of the Reformed tradition in worship, this book surveys the history of worship in the Reformed tradition from the sixteenth century to the present time.

“Worship” in this book indicates a focus on the regular Lord’s Day worship, services of preaching and Holy Communion, with some reference to weekday worship. The changing balance of function in public worship, whether evangelistic, educational, or expressive is explored, as well as the “felt” self concerns of the local congregation and the shared heritage with the church catholic.

The author believes that worship is but one aspect of the life of religious service and must be seen in relation to the total ministry of a religious community. He attempts to interpret the Reformed tradition as expressing the prophetic, personalist religion of revelation. Non-theological factors—political, sociological, cultural—are also viewed as essential ingredients in the equation.

The structure of the book is chronological, beginning with the formation of the Reformation liturgies and tracing these patterns through the phases of Puritanism, evangelicalism, rationalism, and romanticism. Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Anabaptism are compared and explored, but the central theme is the worship of the Reformed churches of the Continent, and the major denominations of the English-speaking world seen ecumenically.

The author shows that through the changing forms of its corporate praise, the Reformed tradition has been distinctively Biblical and personal. The worship of these churches has been an expression of a highly verbal, emotionally disciplined, intellectually critical mentality. “The Reformed,” he claims, “have always laid chief weight on what is now most crucial, the actualization of fully responsible personal existence before God.” This understanding of the history of Reformed worship points up the factors and dimensions to be considered today.

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