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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 Six: Interaction Ritual Ingredients and Outcome


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Interaction Ritual Ingredients and Outcome


The purpose of this chapter is to investigate worship as a ritual, in view of ritual theory. I intend to unpack the ritual by applying Randall Collins’s Interaction Ritual (IR) theory (2004, 2010). I will introduce the main components of IR theory, and I will use this theory to analyze the ritual ingredients and outcome of the two cases. The guiding question in this part of the study is: What are the main ingredients and outcome of the worship ritual? In addition, I intend to close in on the congregational view on tradition and relevance. I will investigate the conceptions of relevance and tradition of the two congregations further in the proceeding chapters.

6.1  Interaction Ritual Theory

Building on the theoretical insights from Durkheim ([1912] 2008) and Goffman (1967), Randall Collins developed a theory that enables us to investigate the relatively complex social process of worship rituals with respect to what causes emotionally efficacious rituals (ritual intensity) and emotional and other ritual outcomes. This attention towards ritual intensity and ritual outcome makes the theory well suited to investigate the congregational view on relevance and tradition. ← 143 | 144 →

The core or hub of IR theory is the actual ritual. Collins (2010, 2) set out four “processual ingredients” on which the success of the ritual depends. These are (1) bodily co-presence; (2) boundaries and barriers; (3) mutual focus of...

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