Elements of Worship

In the beginning, the earliest Christians were either Jews or God-fearing Gentiles who worshiped in the synagogue; therefore, early worship followed the pattern of the synagogue, which it still does in some churches today.

What does "Liturgy"mean?

The word "liturgy" comes from a Greek word meaning work of the people. In other words, worship is something you do, not something you watch.

The word "liturgy" has several different meanings in common use. For some, a liturgy is a pre-planned worship service with all the parts written out. Orthodox Christians, however, use the word liturgy to refer to the Eucharistic part of the service, so if a Baptists tells an Orthodox Christian, "We have a non-liturgical worship service," the Orthodox Christian might go away thinking that Baptists never have communion. Technically, however, if ou have a printed bulletin or a set order of worship of any type, it is a "liturgy." The only Christians who have truly non-liturgical worship are the Quakers (they sit in silence and wait to see if anyone says anything, and it is possible for a complete Sunday service to pass in silence).

Eastern liturgy has not changed much for the last thousand years. The service is elaborate and the clergy and the choir perform it in the presence of the congregation. The role of the congregation is in many cases limited to standing in awe and adoration.

Western liturgy has always been characterized by simplicity. Over the centuries, the west was dominated by only two or three liturgical styles, which gradually conformed themselves to Roman practice. During the Protestant Reformation the liturgy was reformed to expand the role of the congregation and to make communion more frequent.

A traditional Christian worship service may consist of two parts:

The Synaxis (The Service of the Word)

The first part is modeled on the liturgy of the synagogue, and in ancient times as in the present, it is public. Synaxis comes from the same Greek word as synagogue; it means gathering together. This part of the service consists of prayers, Scripture readings, psalms, hymns, and the sermon. Because it is centered on the Word of God, it is often called the Service of the Word.

The Eucharist (The Service of Communion)

The second part of the service is the Communion service; In ancient times it was called the Eucharist, the Greek word for thanksgiving. It consists of hymns and scripture readings and the sharing of the bread and wine -- the body and blood of Christ. Originally, this part of the service was secret; only baptized Christians could attend or participate. However, overheard acclamations ("this is my body, take, eat") led pagans to conclude that cannibalism and other untoward thins were going on, which led to violent persecutions. As a result, this part of the service is also open to the public.