I have slowly been looking into matters of the early church, reading wherever I can, histories of christian thought, and seeing what the early Christians believed, did, and experienced.
And everywhere I turn, I am confronted by a proto–catholicism that just will not go away. Tillich himself has said it, to be aligned with the first 5 centuries of Christian thought is to be generally Catholic in theology. Of course, that thought developed and changed greatly throughout those 5 centuries.
My search is for a genuine, Patristic expression of the christian faith and worship, one that aligns with the beliefs, thoughts, and practices of the early church Fathers. By early church, I refer to primarily the Apostles and Ante-Nicene Fathers. My conviction is that the beliefs and practices of the pre-Roman church were as simple and unsullied by excess cultural baggage as could be, and are as valid for us today as they were for their own time. And conversely, I see more and more that the Reformation did nothing to reform the one holy and catholic church. It shattered it into a million pieces, and ultimately did nothing to fulfill Jesus’ request that his disciples might be one. Yet somehow, that prayer will be answered.
Having said that, I am still trying to sort through and understand just what that really is. It seems that the structure of doing “church” became somewhat formalized in the second century, and took on a familiar Catholic appearance, with something akin to Apostolic succession beginning to be formally recognized then as well. The following are what I see as the central elements of authentic worship:
1. The Eucharist was always the central mystery of worship for the early church. The Bread and Wine, Body and Blood of Christ.
2. Other elements of corporate worship were the singing of Psalms and hymns, prayer, and fasting.
3. Selections from the Old Testament were regularly read, as were letters from other churches.
So does denomination really matter? I don’t think so, as long as we are in communion with one another.
I’m rambling badly. This search is not about denomination, but about authentic worship, and that ultimately means the presence of God’s Spirit.
Yes, there is a fresh wind blowing, let it fill this place….