Did You think you Know? Worship in the Early Church


Little-known or remarkable facts about worship
in the early church John O. Gooch
The first part of an early Christian worship
assembly was open to all, including strangers,
who might be converted by the preaching.

second part of the service involved the Lord’s
Supper, which only the baptized were allowed
to partake, so the unbaptized departed then.
By the early 200s, baptism often included
renouncing Satan and all his works, making a
statement of faith, being baptized (naked) in
water, being clothed in a white robe, receiving
anointing with oil, and immediately celebrating
the Lord’s Supper.
Many Romans believed Christians were a funeral
society because Christian families observed the
anniversary of a relative’s death on the third,
ninth, and thirtieth (or fortieth) day after the
death. They gathered at the tomb, sang psalms,
read Scripture, prayed, gave alms to the poor,
and ate a meal. Later, this practice developed
into feasts to honor martyrs. Perhaps the first
such feast was for Polycarp (a bishop burned to
death for his faith); it began shortly after his
death in about 156.
Christians prepared for Easter, the festival of
the Resurrection, by fasting. At first, the fasting
lasted one day; later it was extended to 40
hours, to symbolize the 40 days Jesus spent
fasting and praying in the wilderness.
Sunday, the “little Easter,” was also a festival of
joy. To prepare for it, many Christians fasted on
Wednesday and Friday.
Repentance was an involved process in the
early church. Sin was seen not as a personal
matter but as something that destroyed the
unity of the church. Penitents fasted and prayed
for the forgiveness of their sins, appeared
before the church to make public confession,
and were barred from the Lord’s Supper until
they gave evidence of a change of heart …


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