Early Christian Liturgical Practices Class – Students comments October 3

Comments based on discussions in class and the reading by Paul Bradswan “The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy” – * The comments below are approved  by the students to be posted in this blog. Cláudio Carvalhaes.

“The liturgical practices of the early church as fascinating, particularly those surrounding baptism. In our discussion, it was remarkable to see how each and all of us stand theologically related to this practice. What is baptism and what really happens on this sacrament? After talking about the place and context of such ceremony for the primitive church, we all ended up agreeing that Christ comes to us and make us a new through the power of the Word and the Water; that there is forgiveness of sins and “de facto” membership in the Catholic Church is included in “the package.” However, one of the “bunny trails” conversations in class surrounded the topic demonology. Do we believe in demons? Everyone was on the spot and the demogogic gymnastic started to flood the room. The different points of view flourished around the table, some of us are more skeptic while others affirm without hesitance their belief. After all, I think the real question is about the topic of mythology and its relation to our faith. I stand with Mircea Eliade in all this: just because something is not scientifically factual it does not means its untrue. Myth is a valid way of explaining reality.  At the end, after our ritual, we shared a common meal of bread, milk, and honey; food usually talked about in biblical imagery. What a great way to end our fruitful discussion by sharing a simple meal in fellowship and conversation. Great time, great time. ” Angel Marero

“The  biggest impression that has stuck with me from the readings and this class is that we can’t underestimate the complexity of the inter-relatrionship between  lex orandi, lex credendi and lex agendi. It had not occurred to me until today that one of the factors  (though by not means only) why there was so much prayer+feasting in the first few centuries was due to the fact that it was dangerous and risky to be a Christian. Thrown into this situation, their praying and what they believed was their understanding of their immanent eschatology. All of this has made me pause and rethink the messiness of it all. And finally it has forced me to think about how messiness was a factor when Christianity became the official state religion.” Paul

“Today it we had a wonderful discussion around rites that are performed within the church, especially baptism, that have seemingly lost their meaning. It seems that in our practice of baptism it has become more a rite of passage, something that must be taken care of early and then never engaged ever again. It is my feeling that as a church we must get back to the intentionality of baptism and what it means to be brought into the Church of Christ through baptism; to continually remember our baptism and what God has promised in that act on a daily basis. I also enjoyed our discussion on authority within the church when it comes to liturgy. Dr. Carvalhaes brought up the point that in the church we focus on what what makes a sacrament a sacrament, especially Eucharist. The question gets raised that is Eucharist a sacrament when only the presiding minister says the words of institution? This was a key discussion for me because I have been having an issue with clergy claiming that Christ can not be present in the meal when only gluten free bread and grape juice are used.” Ryan Ferwerda

“Where does authority lay in our rituals? This an important question. Are we doing things so that God shows up? Will saying the right words bring Christ in our midst? I would argue no. Jesus is the subject of our sentences, the host of our meals, it is into his death and resurrection that we baptize. It is important that we remember this in our liturgical thinking. Jesus promises to give us himself, and being aware of this allows us to avoid making our ritual actions and words an idol of our own making.” Timothy Ness

“I was really happy with Wednesday’s discussion and it got me to think more about prayer.  I think that your question – “is our prayer defining the world or is the world defining our prayer?” – is an important one for us church leaders to consider in regard to how we pray our intercessory prayers (prayers of the people) in our worship services.   I believe that Lutherans especially struggle with praying out loud because we haven’t encouraged it enough throughout the history of our tradition.  Rarely have I been to a Lutheran worship service where the intercessory prayers were actually the prayers of the people in that place!  Most of the time, they use ones from “Sundays & Seasons” a lectionary resource provided by the ELCA. Consequently, I believe the Lutheran church has unintentionally conveyed the message that church prayers are to be done by the pastor or worship assistant and not the people themselves.  It’s no wonder that many of the Lutherans who arrive at this seminary (including myself) don’t know how to pray! Coming in, I was worried about how my prayers sounded and saying the right things. It wasn’t until I stopped worrying and just started to pray from my heart that I became comfortable with it. Therefore, I hope to encourage the members of whatever congregation I serve to pray out loud and pray confidently in our worship services. The prayers should be coming from our people – their words and their voices.”  Alexander Kennedy
Ritual for the class, by Alexander Kennedy

Brothers and sisters in Christ: Today we give thanks to God and we seek God’s blessing as we gather to bless this campus and community to the praise and glory of God.

A Reading from Psalm 100:

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.  Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.  Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

The Grounds 

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, maker of heaven and earth. We give you thanks, O God, for the beauty of your creation. We praise you for the plants and trees that make the oxygen we breathe and for the animals that breathe it with us. Lord, we thank you especially for this soil that we hold in our hands – the ground on which this seminary sits.  Bless this ground and help us to care for it, that we may live in harmony with this good creation. Amen.


The Students

Eternal God, throughout history, you have called individuals to be leaders of your people. We thank you for the students in this place who have answered that call.  We thank you for the unique gifts that you have given to each of them and for those who have and continue to support them in their journeys.  Bless them, O God, that they may serve you and the places in which you call them with peaceful minds and loving hearts. Amen.


The Faculty

Sovereign God, you are the source of holy wisdom, and the fountain of all truth. We give you thanks for Dr. Carvalhaes and all of the faculty and staff at this seminary. We are graced by their service and hard work. We are touched by their knowledge and faith. Bless them, O God, as they are a blessing to this community. Pour out your Spirit, that he and they may continue to nurture and support these students and future leaders of your church. Amen.

We give you thanks, O God, as we lift this seminary and community to your glory and praise. Grant us faith to know your gracious purpose in all things, give us joy in them, and lead us to the building up of your kingdom; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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