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Worship Throughout the Year

United Methodist Churches

In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, observance of the Christian year by American Methodists was mainly limited to “great festivals” such as Christmas, Easter, and Whitsunday (Pentecost). A movement toward recovery of the entire Christian year gained momentum in the mid-twentieth century, and in 1984 United Methodists adopted the ecumenical Common Lectionary and calendar.

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Vineyard

Vineyard Fellowships usually celebrate Christmas and Easter in worship, but do not otherwise follow the Christian year.

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 Wesleyan Churches

A part of the Holiness movement, the Wesleyan Church has never followed the full church calendar. However, aspects of the Christian year have been introduced incrementally in many congregations, enabling them to enjoy some of its benefits without abandoning their nonliturgical worship tradition.

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Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Growing interest in liturgical renewal and the Christian year in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod is reflected in the recent publication of a new hymnal and companion volume. These publications follow, with some adaptations, the lectionary and calendar proposed by the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship in 1973.

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Women’s Aglow Fellowship

While they do not follow the church calendar in a formal way, Women’s Aglow groups do observe many of the seasons of the Christian year. They also enrich their worship with observance of the annual Jewish feasts described in the Old Testament.

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Alternative Practice of the Christian Year in Liturgical Churches

St. Gregory Nyssen Episcopal Church in San Francisco draws on ancient traditions of both the Eastern and Western church, as illuminated by modern scholarship, in its innovative practice of the Christian year. In contrast to many modern churches, St. Gregory’s makes Holy Week and Easter, rather than Christmas, the high point of the year.

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Alternative Practice of the Christian Year in the Free-Church Tradition

The Christian year has been instrumental in shaping congregational identity as the people of God in contrast with the surrounding culture. The church has placed emphasis on the symbol of light. Ceremonies throughout the extraordinary time of the Christian year point to God’s light shining in a dark world and his people as bearers of that light.

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Alternative Practice of the Christian Year in Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches

Many Pentecostal assemblies have begun to discover in recent years that the stability, organization, and connection with historic Christian roots that comes with following the lectionary and church year supports rather than conflicts with spontaneity and enthusiasm in worship.

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Alternative Practice of the Christian Year in Seekers’ Service/Believers’ Worship

In endeavoring to reach unchurched seekers, Willow Creek Community Church incorporates into its worship recognition of the holidays of the general calendar followed in society rather than rigidly adhering to the Christian year. Thus the church has sponsored special presentations and outreach efforts in connection with Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July as well as Easter and Christmas.

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THE HISTORY AND THEOLOGY OF THE CHRISTIAN YEAR

Regulating the life of the church today by the Christian calendar is no easy task. Life-long habits need to be reoriented to this way of marking time. If churches are to accomplish this task, worship leaders and planners must learn a great deal about the history and theology that have shaped the Christian calendar. The great benefit of the Christian year is that the worshiping church is able to follow a rich and meaningful way of orienting its life around the work of Jesus Christ. As shown in this section, studying the history and theology of the Christian year can only help the church do justice to the profound implications of each aspect of Jesus’ life.

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