Most Christians at one point or another express a desire to return to the worship style and authentic communal nature of the early Church. However, many of us have had differing perspectives as to what that truly looked like. This week, we asked members of our community how they thought the first Christians worshipped. Some of the responses:
“The one thing I did not think Early Christian worship services were like was liturgical. I assumed the local bishop or pastor had complete freedom to lead those gathered in prayer, reading of OT Scriptures along with copies of the Gospels and maybe copies of what would become NT epistles. I figurd there may have been singing of Psalms, but not in the liturgical manner done today in Catholic Mass. The leader–or “president” as Justin Martyr called the leader—may have modeled his prayers and worship structure off of what he had learned from his former pastor or even an apostle, but I was completely unaware of any form of early Church liturgy. I didn’t, however, presume early Church worship was necessarily like my modern Evangelical Presbyterian worship, but I did believe that what we were trying to emulate as conservative Presbyterians was the kind of worship we presumed was closest to what was developing in Acts 2.
Marcus Grodi, Founder, The Coming Home Network
“Before studying Catholicism, I thought that worship services in the early Church were basically
similar to the simple liturgy used in our Calvinist churches, consisting of a few hymns surrounding a long teaching (sermon) based on Scripture.”
Dr John Bergsma, author of “Bible Basics for Catholics”
“I always assumed worship services in the early Church were exactly like I experienced—hymns and Bible study! But then again, I had never even heard the word Eucharist until after I befriended Catholics in college and began to learn more about the Church. The church I grew up in celebrated a communion service once a month, so communion didn’t factor largely into my imagination until I entered the “no man’s land” of being between Protestantism and Catholicism, when I no longer felt comfortable receiving at the Protestant church but didn’t know what to do or think about Catholicism. Now, I have the good fortune to be married to a theologian whose area of study is he early Church—and believe me, I know better now! The more I learn about the historical rituals surrounding the celebration of the Sacraments, of the beauty and deeply symbolic language and acts of the Rites themselves, the more I’m blown away.”
Rhonda Ortiz, rhondaortiz.com
“I had no idea what worship services looked like to early Christians in the first century, but I had begun to suspect that they were pretty different from what I was used to on a Sunday morning. My investigations into the history of corporate worship within the church led me to discover the liturgy of the Catholic mass, and I was blown away by how little has changed in the worship of the mass from that century to this.”
Jessica Ptomey, catholicmom.com
As always, leave your own thoughts in the comments below! And be sure to check out some of the other responses to this week’s question in our Community Forum.