The placement and appearance of the baptismal font has been the subject of many debates throughout the history of the church. This article traces many of these discussions and offers suggestions for current practice.
Very little can be said with certainty about the music of the first three centuries of the church beyond texts used and liturgical forms followed. Judging from later music in the Eastern churches and in Gregorian chant in the West, the musical settings of these texts probably shared characteristics with much Eastern music, including tunes in various modes. Ecstatic song continued in the practice of the thanksgiving of the “prophets” in some early liturgies.
To enhance the flow of worship, a leader should work on acquiring the necessary skills. Of particular importance is learning how to master the timing of worship. Well-planned transitions help the congregation to sense the intended purpose of each act of worship. Included here is a detailed outline of worship designed to go with Isaiah 6:1–8—Isaiah’s encounter with God and the prophet’s subsequent call to ministry.
The kerygma (preaching) is a summary of the preaching themes of the early church, based on the study of the sermons in the book of Acts. These themes, most visible in Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14–41), lie at the heart of the gospel.
The Didache probably represents the type of small Christian group that met in the region of Syria, perhaps outside of the city of Antioch. By the fifth century, this hilly countryside was dotted with small churches and baptistries, but in the late first century, there were probably no buildings specifically designated as churches. Christianity was still a proscribed religion, and the Christians of a village or rural area gathered after work. Although they did not necessarily meet in secret, they certainly did not publicize their gathering loudly.
Worship during the second and third centuries continued to follow the course set by New Testament liturgical traditions. Consequently, the discussion of worship during this period centered on the significance of baptism and of the Eucharist, understood in its full content of the service of Word and of the Lord’s table.
The New Testament records that Jesus and his disciples, as well as early Christian preachers such as Paul and Barnabas, attended the synagogue assemblies. The true influence of the synagogue on early Christian worship, however, is difficult to assess. Contacts between Christians and Jews continued up to the fourth century; thus, in the post–New Testament period Jewish influence can be seen in the development of Christian prayer and the Christian calendar.
The early Christians continued the Jewish practice of praying at mealtimes and at set hours of the day. The Didachē, a primitive Christian manual of instruction, prescribes prayer three times a day; Clement of Alexandria and Origen in the third century refer to a similar custom in Egypt, as well as to prayer in the night. At the same period in North Africa, however, Tertullian and Cyprian describe a more extensive pattern of daily prayer.
From New Testament times, the church met for worship on the first day of the week, the day of Jesus’ resurrection. The Lord’s Day has absorbed some features of the Jewish Sabbath but also differs in important respects. It is a day that incorporates within it all the festivals of the Christian year.
These writings encouraged the early Christians and give scholars today information about a period of early Christian history that is otherwise relatively obscure.