Saturday, 28 January 2023

What Does Liturgy Have to Do with Doctrine?, by Joshua Cockayne (Grove Doctrine D9)

Joshua Cockayne, What Does Liturgy Have to Do with Doctrine? Grove Doctrine D9 (Cambridge: Grove Books, 2022)

As I’m on the editorial group for Grove Doctrine, I plan to promote (but not review) each of the books released in the series as and when they’re published.

‘What does liturgy have to do with doctrine? In a word: everything.’ (p. 24)

In What Does . . . ?, Joshua Cockayne explores the connection between liturgy and doctrine, recognising that the term ‘liturgy’ applies to far more than traditional church services, and that the word ‘doctrine’ is not limited to academic theology or systematic expressions of (in this context) Christian faith. There is an intimate connection between liturgy and doctrine because they arise from and incorporate each other: ‘the [early] church’s beliefs about Jesus were formed by their liturgy, and liturgy was formed by their beliefs’ (p. 15), meaning that it is both ‘almost impossible’ and ‘unnecessary’ (p. 15) to attempt to discern whether doctrine precedes liturgy or vice versa. The point is that Christians need to be alert to the doctrinal stances embedded within liturgical decisions, including, of course, which songs are sung, but also the placement of songs within the service, whether sermons can occasionally be dropped, whether children should always be present during a service, how worshippers with learning difficulties should be included—even how the space within a church is used and which direction chairs face. In the book’s conclusion, Cockayne writes:

Regardless of how much (or little) academic theology we have read, we cannot avoid engaging with doctrine in the life of the church. Every decision we make about liturgy has implications for those who are being shaped in belief and desire by these practices. . . . It is in the practical life of those who follow Jesus today that we find doctrine lived out and acted on. As worship leaders, we are challenged to see ourselves as theological educators, seeking always to grow in understanding of God. As theologians, we are challenged to see that we too are worship leaders, reflecting on issues that concern people’s hearts and lives, and not just their minds. (p. 24)

What Does Liturgy Have to Do with Doctrine? is available for £4.95 from the Grove Books website (in both print and electronic formats), as well as through Christian bookshops.

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