The worship of the United Reformed Church: a historical theology

Colechin, Elaine S. (2021) The worship of the United Reformed Church: a historical theology. Doctoral thesis, Anglia Ruskin University.

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An examination of the service books of the United Reformed Church might lead one to conclude that the Church’s approach to corporate worship follows a fixed liturgy which is uniform across all congregations. Yet, although the liturgies published are complete in form, they were never intended to be the sole sources for corporate worship. In the introduction to each service book, those using the volumes were not encouraged to see them as the only way corporate worship could be approached. In fact, freedom in worship was favoured. But what did this mean? This thesis describes the approach to corporate worship in the United Reformed Church from the perspective of three principles that are evident in the liturgies of the service books: freedom, order and participation. It demonstrates how the Church’s understanding of these and their relationship to one another has developed over time. This is achieved through a historical survey of corporate worship in the Church’s antecedent traditions, particularly English Congregationalism and English Presbyterianism, both of which were rooted in seventeenth century English Puritanism. This survey shows how the understanding of these principles are both practical and theological. Although the emphasis on freedom implied in the introductions to the service books relates to how individuals or congregations might approach corporate worship, God’s place and role in corporate worship cannot be ignored. Corporate worship is not just an offering made by humanity to God; God and humanity both participate, and God too has freedom in that participation. Therefore, through the development of a theological understanding of freedom, order and participation and their inter-relationship, this thesis shows how the United Reformed Church, being attentive to scripture, open to the Holy Spirit, engaging the covenant community (i.e. an individual congregation) and in partnership with God, worships in spirit and in truth as is required of the church by God.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Keywords: Worship, United Reformed Church, Congregationalism, Presbyterianism, Freedom, Order, Participation
Faculty: Theses from Anglia Ruskin University
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2022 14:26
Last Modified: 31 May 2022 16:18

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