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A Brief History of Christian Worship

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Most histories of Christian worship are written as if nothing significant in liturgical history ever happened in North America, as if cultural diversities were insignificant in the development of worship, and as if most of what mattered were words the priest or minister addressed to God. This book is a revisionist work, attempting to give new direction to liturgical histor Most histories of Christian worship are written as if nothing significant in liturgical history ever happened in North America, as if cultural diversities were insignificant in the development of worship, and as if most of what mattered were words the priest or minister addressed to God. This book is a revisionist work, attempting to give new direction to liturgical history by treating the experience of worship of the people in the pews as the primary liturgical document. It means liturgical history written facing the other way--that is, looking into the chancel rather than out of it. Relishing the liturgical diversity of recent centuries as firm evidence of Chritianity's ability to adapt to a wide variety of peoples and places, Professor White shows that this tendency has been apparent in Chrisitian worship since its inception in the New Testament churches. Instead of imposing one tradition's criteria on worship, he tries to give a balanced and comprehensive approach to the development of the dozen or more traditions surviving in the modern world.


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Most histories of Christian worship are written as if nothing significant in liturgical history ever happened in North America, as if cultural diversities were insignificant in the development of worship, and as if most of what mattered were words the priest or minister addressed to God. This book is a revisionist work, attempting to give new direction to liturgical histor Most histories of Christian worship are written as if nothing significant in liturgical history ever happened in North America, as if cultural diversities were insignificant in the development of worship, and as if most of what mattered were words the priest or minister addressed to God. This book is a revisionist work, attempting to give new direction to liturgical history by treating the experience of worship of the people in the pews as the primary liturgical document. It means liturgical history written facing the other way--that is, looking into the chancel rather than out of it. Relishing the liturgical diversity of recent centuries as firm evidence of Chritianity's ability to adapt to a wide variety of peoples and places, Professor White shows that this tendency has been apparent in Chrisitian worship since its inception in the New Testament churches. Instead of imposing one tradition's criteria on worship, he tries to give a balanced and comprehensive approach to the development of the dozen or more traditions surviving in the modern world.

30 review for A Brief History of Christian Worship

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Dufoe

    This is definitely worth the read for those interested in a general overview of the history of Christian worship. It was a really dense read, flying through different traditions' evolution over time at a breakneck speed, but thoroughly enjoyable throughout, full of facts like how churches in the west didn't have seating for the congregation until the 14th century! Very illuminating, thoroughly insightful. This is definitely worth the read for those interested in a general overview of the history of Christian worship. It was a really dense read, flying through different traditions' evolution over time at a breakneck speed, but thoroughly enjoyable throughout, full of facts like how churches in the west didn't have seating for the congregation until the 14th century! Very illuminating, thoroughly insightful.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Faux

    Excellent overview of Western Christianity To give an overview of 2,000 years of such a monumental topic of history, philosophy, and religion is no easy task. White, as always, is focused, well researched and provides excellent sources. Anyone involved in the study of Christian worship should start here.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Chandler

    A decent guide through countless paths of change This book is so packed with information that I felt lost along the way. There was little synthesis at the end of sections so I felt there was limited big-picture significance.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra Mauney

    Solid intro with intelligible section breaks in each chapter.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sean McGowan

    Really enjoyed this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Holford

    This is a very good, even-handed treatment. White is unencumbered by the presuppositions that turn many books on worship into apologetic tracts for a particular viewpoint, often claiming apostolic authority for practices that have developed much more recently. Unlike another reviewer, I think one weakness is that there is not enough treatment of the Eastern churches, other that to note where Western churches have introduced Eastern-influenced practices. One of White's great strengths is that he f This is a very good, even-handed treatment. White is unencumbered by the presuppositions that turn many books on worship into apologetic tracts for a particular viewpoint, often claiming apostolic authority for practices that have developed much more recently. Unlike another reviewer, I think one weakness is that there is not enough treatment of the Eastern churches, other that to note where Western churches have introduced Eastern-influenced practices. One of White's great strengths is that he follows various aspects of worship, in the broadest sense, through the different period of time. Thus he looks at developments in what it means to become of Christian, daily public prayer, the Eucharist, Christian time, reconciliation, healing, marriage, burial, leadership, preaching, music, and architecture. He goes through each of these very quickly, as would have to be expected in a book of this brevity, but the reader has been forewarned as brevity is in the title. His demonstration that most American worship has been heavily influenced by 18th century Enlightenment and 19th century Romanticism should be required reading for all church leaders. While not an overly scholarly volume, this book is probably not very accessible to those without some background in Church history and more than a basic vocabulary of worship beyond contemporary evangelical buzzwords.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Edwards

    A good introductory overview of the history of worship in the Christian church. It is more slanted towards the development of the church in the West and very little discussion on the Eastern church. It has been helpful in getting a basic grasp on the trends, culture, liturgical leaders, and issues of the church during its early years, post Constantine, medieval, enlightenment, and modern eras. Each chapter contains a bibliography for further reading. I would recommend this book for the person be A good introductory overview of the history of worship in the Christian church. It is more slanted towards the development of the church in the West and very little discussion on the Eastern church. It has been helpful in getting a basic grasp on the trends, culture, liturgical leaders, and issues of the church during its early years, post Constantine, medieval, enlightenment, and modern eras. Each chapter contains a bibliography for further reading. I would recommend this book for the person beginning or interested in religious studies, or for a simple and broad understanding of Christian worship in the West (i.e. Roman Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, etc...). At this point, the book is getting dated but is a good start for historical understanding.

  8. 4 out of 5

    David

    "Brief" is the correct word. While offering interesting summaries of worship through different periods of church history, the book suffers from being too brief. Adding another 100 pages and more depth would bring it to 285 pages which could still be called "brief". The book suffers most discussing the Reformation and Modern periods when it tries to summarize a worldwide religion's diverse worship in a few pages. But it is helpful as an introduction to the history of worship and a pointer to othe "Brief" is the correct word. While offering interesting summaries of worship through different periods of church history, the book suffers from being too brief. Adding another 100 pages and more depth would bring it to 285 pages which could still be called "brief". The book suffers most discussing the Reformation and Modern periods when it tries to summarize a worldwide religion's diverse worship in a few pages. But it is helpful as an introduction to the history of worship and a pointer to other resources for further study.

  9. 4 out of 5

    MrWalterN

    This work was fairly bland, even according to the standards of history books in general. It moved almost too quickly through 2000 years of Christian worship, and lacked depth that would have made the read more stimulating. For me, this book was a required assignment for class, but not one I would work through again.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tim Woody

    This was a fantastic book for anyone looking to get a good grasp of the historical development of worship. White takes each chapter on a different age of the church and shows how each element of worship (baptism, preaching, location, etc...) changed and developed. He is concise and summarizes very complex movements really well.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brian Reagan

    An excellent treatment of the history and develeopment of worship in the Western Church, but with a fair amount of referene to the Byzantine/Orthodox churches.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Troy Borst

  13. 4 out of 5

    J. David Knecht

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sondra Bateman

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ethan Tapscott

  17. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Johnson

  18. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  19. 4 out of 5

    chris schmidt

  20. 5 out of 5

    Josef Muench

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nitzchiya Mutiso

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jason Schaitel

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Whitfield

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jared

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rick

  28. 5 out of 5

    D. Owsley

  29. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Schlabs

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bill

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