Works of liturgical theology tend to be produced by experts who draw from the sources and explain the meaning of the liturgy to the lay people. When such explanations are firmly grounded in the sources, the academy accepts and celebrates them as genuine works of liturgical theology. Liturgical theology requires an examination from a different perspective: the lay people's. How do the lay people explain their understanding of the liturgy in their own words? Drawing from the results of parish focus groups and a clergy survey, The People’s Faith presents the liturgical theology of the lay people in the Orthodox Churches of America.
The People’s Faith presents original findings on how ordinary laity experience the Divine Liturgy, Holy Communion, Lent and Easter, liturgical change, and gender roles in the Liturgy. The author brings the laity’s views into dialog with the prevailing liturgical theology in the Orthodox Church and identifies several topics worthy of theological reflection. The people’s veneration for tradition tops a list of liturgical issues worthy of further research, including ecumenical aspects of the Eucharist, the relationship between liturgy and theological anthropology, and a desire to receive divine compassion during ritual celebration.
Nicholas Denysenko is Emil and Elfriede Jochum Professor and Chair at Valparaiso University.
Chapter 1: Introducing the People’s Faith
Chapter 2: Mainstream Orthodox Liturgical Theology in America
Chapter 3: Parish Focus Groups: What the People Said about Liturgy
Chapter 4: The People’s Faith: A Synthesis
Chapter 5: Common Ground: Liturgy in the Academy and in the Church
Chapter 6: Hearing the Word, Penance, and Communion
Chapter 7: Conclusion
The scholarly literature that the study covers suggests that its primary target audience are theologians, church historians, and sociologists of religion, especially of popular or everyday religion. The bottom-up focus will also be of interest to ordinary members of the congregations themselves as a mirror of their own lived experience. . . . The People’s Faith is a welcome contribution to the study of everyday religion in America in the context of an under-examined religious tradition.
Those who study the liturgy most often focus on its historical development, the effects of change and renewal and how liturgy is celebrated, but mostly by leaders. Nicholas Denysenko goes where few if any have, right into the people of God, to parish members who celebrate the liturgy with their clergy. The findings are provocative and a revelation--what the members of the body of Christ see, hear, feel, and take away from worship. Readers will want to hear much more from the pews, about how liturgy is experienced and lived--this is a groundbreaking study.