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Gathering Spirituality and Theology in Free Church Worship by Christopher J. Ellis

Gathering Spirituality and Theology in Free Church Worship


Gathering Spirituality and Theology in Free Church Worship by Christopher J. Ellis

This is a work of liturgical theology in which the faith of the Christian community is explored through a study of its worship. The book is significant in doing this from a Free Church perspective. Most ecumenical work on worship has been greatly influenced by those traditions which use written liturgical texts and who give a normative place to the Eucharist. Free Church worship however needs to be studied on its own terms if its ecumenical contribution is to be fully appreciated. Conversely evangelical attention to worship has tended to be pragmatic rather than theological and has not used the insights of liturgical study to understand worship as a key place of spiritual formation or expression. Using a study of Baptist worship, Gathering explores the spitiruality implicit in a worship tradition which to date has received little theological or historical attention.


Christopher Ellis has provided a thorough and scholarly examination of the Baptist tradition of worship and, for Anglicans who are unfamiliar with Baptist worship, this book is a potential source of much helpful information which can only serve to further ecumenical understanding. John Darch, St. Johns, Nottingham, ANVIL, Vol.22 No.1, 2005.

Here is a book that Baptists can be proud of. Amid the multitude of books on worship, most from a developed liturgical standpoint, someone has written seriously about the Free Church tradition of corporate worship and of Baptist worship as a significant partner in it. Ellis gives a very thorough treatment of the subject, drawn from his own contemporary research and historical material. (...) The book is clearly written, serious scholarly work (...). It is deeply intertwined with Baptist history, but also gives material to stimulate theological thinking which may be worked out in new ways in worship. You could be proud to have it on your bookshelf. Chris Voke, Spurgeon's College, BAPTIST MINISTERS JOURNAL. January 2005.

The book is a model of clarity and lucidity.(...) Ellis provides a helpful analysis of the place, use and function of hymns within the life of a denomination. In doing so his account is sufficiently general to stimulate a critique of the use of hymns in any context. Members will find this chapter of his book most rewarding. Those with a wider interest in free church liturgy will welcome the book as a whole. Andrew Pratt, Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland Bulletin 244, July 2005.

What makes this book refreshing is that [Ellis] is not a prisoner to the view that the job of the liturgical movement is really to formalize free worship in some way, and introduce a weekly eucharist.(...)Ellis's source-use, together with his sensitivity to context, architecture and hymnody included, provides a rich picture of an evolving tradition, with its own theological emphases and its own way of doing the liturgy.(...)He is to be congratulated not only on the account he has given of a story that many of us have only known in shreds and snatches, but in the ambitious way in which he has provided a truly ecumenical underpinning. Kenneth Stevenson, Anglican bishop of Portsmouth, England, The Ecumenical Review. April 2005.

There is no doubt that Ellis has done us a service in providing us with a magisterial study of Free Church worship that will probably become a standard work for some time to come. The production of the book is exemplary. The bibliography is extensive and impressive, and the notes (...) are also full. It is pleasing that there are separate indices for names and subjects and for biblical references.(...) I do warmly commend this book to readers of Ministry Today. Philip Clements-Jewery, Ministry Today, Summer 2005.

This stimulating, well-documented study will doubtless capture the attention of liturgical scholars in various traditions, but it especially merits careful reading by Baptists and others in the Free Church tradition who would like to gain new insight into their own gathering. Although focused on English Baptists, it contains critical insights for Baptists everywhere. Glenn Hinson, Baptist Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia, Worship July 2005.

This is a signifiacnt study of Free Church Worship, combining detailed historical analysis with rich theological reflection. (...)Chris Ellis'scholarly yet accessible book is essential reading. Ian Randall, Spurgeon's College, London, The Expository Times, vol 117, n Degrees3. Dec.2005

This is an excellent study, combining historical detail bith current theological reflection. Bryan Spinks, Institute of Sacred Music, New Haven, Ecclesiastical History, Vol.57/2, April 2006.

Ellis is a fine scholar whose rigorous and often groundbreaking work deserves careful attention. (...) The benefit of being the first to do scholarly work in an area is in knowing that your work will spur on further work. In this respect Ellis has laid out a solid and sizable foundation for further work to be built upon. His historical work in particular is worthy of much study and expansion. (...) Ellis has made a significant contribution to both the free church tradition and to liturgical theology. In my own teaching, his book was the cornerstone for our conversation in a recent doctoral seminar in liturgical theology, and excerpts of his work have been helpful introductory pieces in master's level courses. Ellis work deserves a wide and frequent reading, but even more deserves a lively idscussion and thoughtful scholarly reflection. Todd Johnson, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA, Doxology 2006

About the Author

Revd Christopher Ellis is the principal of Bristol Baptist College, having previously pastored congregations in various parts of the UK. He currently moderates the Faith and Unity Executive of the Baptist Union, is a member of Worship and Spirituality Commission of the Baptist World Alliance and is a former member of the Joint Liturgical Group of Great Britain. He has written a range of worship resources, authored a book on ecumenical theology and published various articles on worship, ministry and renewal.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st September 2004


Christopher J. Ellis

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SCM Press


336 pages


Christian liturgy, prayerbooks & hymnals



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