Renewal of worship through the discovery and recovery of the African-American Ligturgical Tradition
The need at Central Christian Church was for the renewal of its worship life in terms of the discovery and recovery of its African-American liturgical heritage from which it had become alienated. Consequently, the goal of this project was to affect such a renewal through the process of acquiring a critical knowledge and understanding of African-American worship, our denominational worship tradition as well as a biblical and theological understanding of worship which functioned as a normative and critical guide in the process of renewal. The Petrine understanding of the church as expounded specifically in the pericope, 1 Peter 2:4 10, and generally in the entire epistle, was the basis for our biblical and theological understanding of worship. Methodologically, this project on renewal involved the use of workshop sessions designed to facilitate the acquisition of a biblical and theological understanding of worship and our worship traditions as well as to facilitate attitudinal and behavioral changes in the participants and to increase the meaningfulness of the worship experiences to them. It also involved the planning of two types of worship services--one culturally affirming, the other non-culturally affirming. Results from the workshop experiences confirmed the hypotheses that the workshop sessions would facilitate the acquisition of a biblical and theological understanding of worship, as well as a critical knowledge and understanding of African-American worship, and worship in our denominational tradition; and that they would affect some behavioral and attitudinal changes in the participants as well as increasing the meaningfulness of the worship experiences to them. However, the results of the worship experiences did not provide support for the hypothesis that the culturally affirming worship service would have been experienced as being more meaningful, satisfying and appealing to non-members. While the recommended changes were in the direction of the recovery and affirmation of the African-American liturgical heritage, the results suggested the emergence of a bi-cultural type of worship at Central. The bi-cultural path, then, seems to be the path to a meaningful, satisfying, and appealing worship experience at Central. Although this project has provided added confirmation of the need for an ethnic group to recover and affirm its liturgical heritage, its chief contribution to attempts to renew worship in the African-American liturgical tradition seems to be its demand for a critical re-examination of the stereotypical assumptions about African-American and Euro-American liturgical traditions and worship styles. Certain improvements are suggested in terms of data gathering relative to the workshop experiences as well as question construction relative to the evaluation of the worship service.