Customs and Rituals

What rituals do Christians practice in church?

Primary Christian communal rituals are as nearly varied as the communities that perform them. A broad distinction between liturgical and nonliturgical churches is useful here. Liturgical churches feature a carefully regulated set of rituals, often of great antiquity. Only a handful of specialists, typically garbed in traditional vestments and sometimes using ancient liturgical languages for all or part of the ritual, may participate. In liturgical churches this spectator model emphasizes the performance of a sacred action with relatively limited participation by the congregation. In the middle of the spectrum, some churches follow what is called an “order of service,” with the emphasis on preaching rather than on the sacred action of liturgical ritual as such. Leaders here often wear an academic-style robe and lead from a pulpit within a separate space called the sanctuary. Activities in entirely nonliturgical churches often tend to be more like a town meeting. Worship leaders sometimes wear a robe, but more often ordinary semi-formal street clothes. Services emphasize more inclusive participation during virtually all phases of the gathering, but preaching by the leader, and sometimes by one or more others as well, remains a centerpiece.


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