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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 Seven: Main Characteristics of Relevance


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Main Characteristics of Relevance


In this chapter I will outline the four main characteristics of emotionally efficacious worship ritual, or what we may call relevant rituals (the experience of relevance). The four characteristics are not the four most common description of a relevant worship ritual used by informants; they are my construction based on the material I have collected and the analyses I have conducted. The four characteristics to be analyzed are: (1) authenticity, (2) collective effervescence (fellowship), (3) involvement, and (4) divine encounter. Analytically speaking this chapter is characterized by more theoretical pluralism than the previous chapter; although Collins’s IR theory still is the main analytical framework. In particular, the emotional efficacy of rituals and Collins’s (2010, 3) reference to “distinctive emotional experiences” in religious interaction rituals is pertinent in this chapter. The analyses of the four characteristics in this chapter are designed to display the congregational view on relevance, as such it will emphasize the endogenous, rather than the external, view of relevance. The guiding question in this chapter is: What is relevance in the two case studies?

7.1  Authenticity

Authenticity is a term and a concept that frames a main feature of a relevant worship gathering, as it is found in this study. Authenticity was not a common term among the interviewees, but it captures an essential idea of the relevant ← 173 | 174 → worship as the informants described it. It is...

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