Traditional and mainline denominational churches who begin to make the transition to contemporary worship quickly learn that there is more at play than simply swapping organs for guitars or hymnals for projectors. How can churches honor tradition while also becoming conversant with new styles? Lester Ruth, research professor of Christian Worship at Duke Divinity School, and his team of graduate researchers have written Flow: The Ancient Way to Do Contemporary Worship (Abingdon, 2020) to explore these questions further. Building upon one of the most ancient liturgical descriptions from Justin Martyr, these short and practical chapters offer introductions to how to plan and implement contemporary worship services that honor tradition. Flow becomes a lens through which the various elements of the service can be understood as actions within a single, unified service. Chapters consider how good liturgical flow has developed historically, its theoretical affordances, and how it can be applied to musical, spoken, and visual elements of worship.
Ryan David Shelton (@ryoldfashioned) is a social historian of British and American Protestantism and a PhD researcher at Queen’s University Belfast.