Worship, Ritual, and Pentecostal Spirituality-as-Theology

A Rhythm that Connects our Hearts with God


Vibrant worship music is part of the Charismatic liturgy all around the world, and has become in many ways the hallmark of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity. Despite its centrality, scholarly interest in the theological and ritual significance of worship for pentecostal spirituality has been sparse, not least in Africa.
Combining rich theoretical and theological insight with an in-depth case study of worship practices in Nairobi, Kenya, this interdisciplinary study offers a significant contribution to knowledge and is bound to influence scholarly discussions for years to come. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in Pentecostal worship, ritual, and spirituality.
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Martina Björkander, Ph.D. (b. 1977), is a post-doctoral researcher in practical theology at The Polin Institute, Åbo Akademi University, Finland. She has published several book chapters and articles on Pentecostalism, including "Pentecostal Praise and Worship as a Mode of Theology" in Faith in African Lived Christianity (Brill, 2020).
This work is an excellent study of lived theology. In Björkander’s analysis, the theological riches of Pentecostal spirituality come to the fore. - Mika Vähäkangas, Professor, Director of Polin Institute of Åbo Akademi University

Björkander here makes a significant contribution to a pentecostal theology of worship that accounts for the various affective, performative, and embodied dimensions of pentecostal spirituality, enabled through meticulous ethnographic foregrounding of two charismatic East African congregations and their ritual practice. This is practical theology at its best, lifting up the many (disciplinary) tongues and (linguistic) accents of global pentecostal-charismatic Christianity. - Amos Yong, Professor of Theology and Mission, Fuller Seminary


List of Figures and Tables

 1 The Task at Hand
 1.1 Background

 1.2 Introducing the Research Study

 1.3 Introducing the Researcher

 2 Worship in Pentecostal Spirituality: Previous Research and Study Rationale
 2.1 Ritual Perspectives

 2.2 Theological Perspectives

 2.3 Congregational Music Perspectives

 2.4 Africanist Perspectives

 2.5 Study Rationale

 3 Step by Step through This Book

Part 1
Theory and Method
2Worship, Ritual, and Pentecostal Spirituality-as-Theology
 1 A Spirituality Approach to Pentecostalism
 1.1 The Pentecostal-Charismatic Tradition

 1.2 Pentecostal Spirituality as Theology

 1.3 Worship as Orthodoxa

 2 A Practice Approach to Theology
 2.1 Starting with Practice

 2.2 Researching the Lived and the Local

 2.3 Worship as a Modus Theologicus

 3 A Ritual Approach to Worship
 3.1 The Lacuna in Pentecostal Studies

 3.2 Perspectives in Ritual Theory

 3.3 Embodiment and the Study of Pentecostal Ritual

 3.4 Worship as ‘The Rite of Worship and Praise’

 4 A Combination of Approaches

3Research Design and Method
 1 Case Study Design
 1.1 Critical, Multiple-Case, Embedded-Case Study Design

 2 The Fieldwork Journey
 2.1 Choosing a Topic, a Method and a Field

 2.2 Two Phases of Fieldwork and Two Cases

 3 The Data-Collection Maze
 3.1 Observation and Participation

 3.2 Field Notes, Audio-Visual Recordings

 3.3 Interviews

 3.4 Lyrics

 3.5 Research Surveys

 3.6 Summary of Collected Data

 4 The Quagmire of Analysis
 4.1 Analysing Lyrics in Search of Theology: A Special Excursion

 5 Ethical Considerations
 5.1 Access, Anonymity and Informed Consent

 5.2 Copyright Issues

 5.3 The Role of the Researcher

Part 2
Cases and Context
4Urban, Progressive Melting Pots
 1 Urban Pentecostalism in Kenya
 1.1 Historical Background

 1.2 One Charismatic Community, Two Influential Church Families

 2 Introducing Woodley and Mavuno
 2.1  citam  Woodley

 2.2 Mavuno Church Bellevue

 2.3 Demographic Profiles and Affiliation

 3 Situating Woodley and Mavuno Theologically
 3.1 Pentecostal or Evangelical?

 3.2 Cultural, Theological, and Liturgical Melting Pots

 1 Sunday Worship in Mavuno Church, Bellevue, January 2014

 2 Sunday Worship in citam Woodley, January 2014

Part 3
Worship in Pentecostal Spirituality-as-Theology
5Orthopraxis: Worship as Ritualized Practice
 1 Ritual Dynamics in Worship
 1.1 Music and Singing within the Larger Ritual System

 1.2 The Rhythm of Sunday Services

 1.3 The Rhythm and Flow of Worship and Praise

 2 Core Elements of Worship
 2.1 Ritual Preparation and Production

 2.2 Ritual Actors and Groups

 2.3 Ritual Objects and Places

 2.4 Ritual Languages

 3 Conclusion: the Ritualization of Pentecostal Worship

6Orthopathos: Worship as Embodied Practice
 1 Bodies together as One: Why Community Matters
 1.1 Nurturing Community through Worship

 1.2 Conflicts, Power Play, and the Body of Christ

 2 Bodies in Motion: Why Movement Matters
 2.1 Kinesthetic Dimensions of Worship

 2.2 Dance, Spirituality, and Liturgy

 3 Bodies Dressed for Service: Why Clothes Matter
 3.1 Dress Codes and Holiness Ideals in Worship

 3.2 The Social Skin: When Style is Everything

 4 Bodies Feeling and Not Feeling: Why Emotion Matters
 4.1 Affective Dimensions of Worship

 4.2 The Emotions of a Worship Leader

 5 Conclusion: The Embodied Character of Worship

7Orthopistis: Worship as Theologizing Practice
 1 What Does the Bible Sing? Singing the Scriptures
 1.1 Emic Voices on the Bible in Worship

 1.2 Tabernacle and Throne: How Selected Passages Recur in Song

 1.3 A Psalter-Inspired Typology of Worship Songs

 2 Christology as the Hub of Pentecostal Theology
 2.1 Patterns of Trinitarian Thought in Contemporary Worship

 2.2 Jesus Is the Centre of It All: Not the Spirit

 2.3 Christ as (Newborn, Crucified, and Triumphant) Saviour and King

 3 Conclusion: Theologizing through Worship

8Orthodoxa: A Rhythm That Connects Our Hearts with God
 1 Pentecostal Spirituality-as-Theology Revisited
 1.1 Theoretical Remarks on This Study’s Contribution to Knowledge

 2 Worship as Unio Mystica
 2.1 Transformation as a Key Concept in Pentecostal Spirituality

 2.2 Songs That Carry Salvific Transformation

 2.3 Sung Worship as a Mediator of the Divine-Human Relationship

 2.4 Becoming Fearless Influencers: The Missional Goal for Worship

 3  BTW , What Is Worship?
 3.1 Worship Is a Lifestyle: It Encompasses Everything

 3.2 Worship Is Biblical: It Is Modelled on Scripture

 3.3 Worship Is More Than Music, Yet Music Is Critical for Worship

 4 Living a Life of Love: Worship as Orthodoxa

Appendix 1: Interview Guides and Examples

Appendix 2: Observation Guides

Appendix 3: Lyrical Content Analysis Guide

Appendix 4: Research Surveys

Appendix 5: Research Survey Results, Mavuno Church

Appendix 6: Research Survey Results, CITAM Woodley

Appendix 7: Primary Sources


Index of Scripture

Index of Subjects

Students and scholars of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity, in particular those interested in the role played by worship, music, and ritual in Pentecostal spirituality and theology, and those interested in East African Pentecostalism. Libraries and institutions serving such students and scholars. Pentecostal practitioners, particularly pastors and worship leaders.
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