Foundations of Christian Worship

Fall 2016
TTH 9:00am - 10:20am
Area II
Permission Not Required
No Limit to Enrollment
Course Description: 

Foundations of Christian Worship is the core course of the program in liturgical studies at Yale. The course focuses on theological and historical approaches to the study of Christian worship, with appropriate attention to cultural context and contemporary issues.  The first part of the course attends to the foundations of communal, public prayer in the Christian tradition (such as its roots in Hebrew Scripture and the New Testament, its Trinitarian source and direction, its ways of figuring time, space, and human embodiment, its use of language, music, the visual arts, etc.).  The second part offers a sketch of historical developments, from earliest Christian communities to present times.  In addition, select class sessions will focus on questions of overall importance for liturgical life, e.g. the relationship between gender differences and worship life, and the contemporary migration of liturgical practices into cyberspace.  Foundations of Christian Worship, as the gateway course to the program in liturgical studies, should be taken prior to other liturgy courses.  The course is especially recommended for students preparing for ordination and/or other responsibilities in worship leadership, and is an essential course for all students interested in graduate work in liturgical studies.

Background Expected: 


Course Requirements: 
  • Attendance (timely, attentive) at all class sessions. 
  • Readings as outlined below.  Please note that, in general, we do not teach or review the reading materials in lectures.  These readings are designed to give you additional information and/or perspectives you will not necessarily encounter in class. 
  • Attendance at a worship service of a tradition significantly different from your own, and a written report (i.e., a description of your visit, with critical reflections, 2-4 pages, double-spaced).

Specifically, you are asked to attend the worship service of a Christian faith community significantly different from any you have so far been involved in (the difference can be in denomination, ethnicity, social class, language, gender representation, etc., or in a combination of these factors).  Note that this requirement can be fulfilled in numerous ways (e.g., a Taizé Prayer Service during the week; a mid-week revival; a Latin Mass; a Saturday morning Seventh-Day Adventist Service; a service in an online sanctuary, etc).  Some helpful questions to ponder, during the visit and/or when writing the paper, can be found in the “Calvin Institute Handbook for Worship Visits,” posted in ClassesV2.

  • a reflection paper (7 pages; double-spaced)

The task for this paper is as follows:  attentively review and engage chapter 2, “The Apostolic Tradition,” by Maxwell Johnson (The Oxford History of Christian Worship, 32-75) in conversation with a second chapter in the same volume, of your own choosing.  You are welcome to choose the chapter that most closely attends to your own ecclesial tradition.

More specific guidelines will be provided, early in the Fall semester, to offer guidance for your reflections.

  • Final in-class exam

In addition to these requirements, attendance at the Fall semester Liturgy Symposium is required. [If you are taking another class or have a major conflict, please contact us in writing ahead of time]

Basis of Evaluation: 

Grades will be determined as follows:  Your final grade will be assigned on the basis of your 2nd reflection paper and the result from your final exam.  Your first paper (i.e., the report on a church visit) will serve to tip the balance between the grades for the two later requirements.  Class attendance, attendance at the Liturgy Symposiums, and online postings are all required but will not be assigned a separate grade; they might, however, be taken into account if the other three indicators of your work fall squarely between two grades.