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Old Paths and New Ways

Negotiating Tradition and Relevance in Liturgy


Robert Lilleaasen

The relationship between tradition and relevance is a core feature in religious practice in general and public worship in particular. On the one hand, worship is a bearer of religious traditions, i.e. traditions are maintained in the practice of public worship, and the worship enables individuals to connect with these traditions. On the other hand, it is a quest for relevance in public worship. In order to maintain existing worshippers and attract new participants, congregations have to consider their ability to connect their core values to the needs and expectations of existing and potential participants. This dual purpose of the worship causes a need for negotiation, and it is this negotiation between tradition and relevance that this book investigates. Old Paths and New Ways is a case study of the negotiation between tradition and the quest for relevance in liturgy.

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Chapter Three: Methodology


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3.1  A Case Study Approach

The main problem in this study is concerned with the relationship between tradition and the quest for relevance in the practice of worship. In order to carry out this investigation I have applied a case study approach. Robert Yin (2009, 18) has defined case study as an “empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon in depth and within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident.” I investigated the worship in two congregations, which historically were affiliated with different worship traditions (church and prayer-house). At the time of my fieldwork, the traditional differences were less visible whereas the similarities were conspicuous. Revetal Menighet and Misjonssalen Aalesund are cases of worship practice; moreover, the two worship rituals are cases of worship that, starting from two distinct traditions, have moved towards a similar conception of worship. As such they are cases of Lutheran and evangelical worship practice in Norway.

The case study approach enabled me to investigate the worship as an act of a local congregation. This was an important issue in this project, because although rites are conveyed historically and socially they are always expressed locally. “No matter how universal ritual patterns are thought to be, they are enacted in particular contexts, and contexts play a crucial role in how they are undertaken and ← 59 | 60 → understood” (McGann 2002, 16). Like McGann,...

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