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Worship and the World to Come:
A Theological Ethnography of Hope in Contemporary Worship Songs and Services

PACKIAM, GLENN,PREVIN (2018) Worship and the World to Come:
A Theological Ethnography of Hope in Contemporary Worship Songs and Services.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This research explores how hope is encoded in contemporary worship songs and experienced in contemporary worship services.

Three paradigms for contemporary worship in North America which emerge from the literature on congregational worship are outlined. Then models for understanding hope are explored from psychological, philosophical, phenomenological, and theological perspectives. The theological perspective uses the Nicene Creed as a summation of early Christian hope and Jürgen Moltmann and N. T. Wright as representative of recent scholarship on the theology of hope. Based on historical overviews of Evangelical eschatology, a suggested taxonomy of popular Evangelical eschatological frameworks is given as a starting point for fieldwork.

The fieldwork is focused on two Evangelicals churches, one Presbyterian and one Pentecostal-Charismatic, and uses ethnographic methods such as participant observation, interviews, and focus groups to collect data and engage in discourse analysis. A national list of worship leaders is also surveyed to provide a catalogue of ‘songs of hope’ which can then be analysed. Employing Helen Cameron’s ‘theology in four voices’, the ‘espoused theology’ of hope from pastors, worship leaders, and congregants, and the ‘operant theology’ of hope encoded in songs and experienced in services is compared with the ‘normative theology’ of hope in the Nicene Creed and the ‘formal theology’ of hope articulated by Moltmann and Wright.

The research demonstrates a disproportionate focus on the present tense, proximate space, and personal perspective encoded in ‘songs of hope’. Yet the experience of hope in congregational worship seems to be a regular phenomenon for focus group members in weekly worship, and this experienced hope had a quality of resilience, adapting to outcomes that were desired. The thesis engages in theological reflection around three questions: How could the experience of hope be consistent when the encoded hope was so theologically weak? Why does the experience of God’s presence produce hope? In what ways is the Spirit present and active in congregational worship? The thesis concludes with recommendations for church leaders and songwriters.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Theology and Ministry
Keywords:worship, eschatology, hope, evangelical, music, congregation, ethnography, practical theology
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2018
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:27 Mar 2018 11:38

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