At the dawn of the middle ages Pope Gregory the Great began the systematic reforms of the crumbled western Roman empire. Part of his project included the unification of ritual practice from Rome to the western edge of the continent. These liturgical reforms aimed to unite Christendom in a common mode of worship. Though liturgists speak of this time as the codification of liturgical texts, it was also a landmark historical moment in which the pope recognized the importance of shared practice. In other words the citizens of the empire would not just be Christian in name but would identify one another as companions in a shared practice.
In our time this political usage of the church's worship seems Machiavellian, especially at the dawn of Post-Christendom. For those traditions of the Radical Reformation which are most at home in the age Post Christendom, such a perspective on the formation of persons through ritual practice is suspect. For many in the Anabaptist stream of Christianity our theology, most notably our ecclesiology, often has little room for liturgical awareness. Instead ethics or mission are results of a cognitive system. We simply do what we believe. But where do these beliefs emerge? How do we know that our way of life is actually distinct from that of the surrounding world?
The Kreider's have finally opened the door to answer and understand these questions as uniquely liturgical. Without heading down the road of Pope Gregory's liturgy, Alan and Eleanor reveal how our time of worship in the presence of a transforming God shape us and send us out into the missio dei- the mission of God's reconciling love in the world.
This is no small undertaking. Not only do the Kreider's address the cultural and ecclesial shifts of 21st century Post-Christendom, they describe the fields of missiology and liturgical history. It is a task they accomplish with attentive skills throughout the book. Not only does their research emerge clearly in their prose and bibliography but their ability to synthesize these often insular disciplines.
Director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship, Church of the Brethren