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Theology Thursday: Edifying Worship

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Posted by Ben Thompson, 19 May 2016

How do we decide what to do with our services? Go trad? Or kick out all liturgy and call it a ‘youth service’? And whatever you do, you know some people won’t be happy.

If we were to list all the things that churches can argue over, ‘worship’ would consistently come right at the top. A wise older minister once observed that even the most united church has the ability to rip itself apart over the choice of hymn book in the pews. This can’t be right, but what is the answer?

David Peterson’s article takes us on a brief overview of a biblical answer to the two questions sitting right at the heart of these arguments—what is worship? And why do we gather as a church? At the same time, he demonstrates that the services of the Prayer Book are brilliant and ‘enduring models of how to express biblical theology and biblical spirituality in a liturgical way.’ He observes and critiques the recent tendency to throw out large sections of our liturgical heritage, to increase lay participation, and to strive after relevance to the non-Christian.

Speaking personally, this article was a very helpful call for us, as Anglicans, to ensure our services honour the wisdom of Cranmer—not necessarily in a slavish conformity to patterns of worship designed in the Seventeenth Century. Rather by returning constantly to the question whether or not these innovations have actually served the edification of Christ’s church through a richer engagement with His Word.

Peterson, David. “Worship and Edification in the Book of Common Prayer.Churchman 126, no. 3 (2012): 247–262.

Ben Thompson is Curate at St David's Moreton-in-Marsh.

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