The observance of sacred time in the Congregational Church, 1886-1957
Spaulding, Margaret Elizabeth
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This dissertation examines how changes in the understanding of Christian time developed in the Congregational Church in the United States, and in particular considers the processes and influences that led to the adoption and wide sharing of the broadly ecumenical Christian liturgical calendar in local Congregational churches. Internal and external factors from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that may have inspired these shifts are investigated, including: the emerging ecumenical movement, and in the United States the work of the Federal and National Council of Churches; the international and ecumenical liturgical movement; the writings of influential Congregationalists such as Von Ogden Vogt and Willard Sperry; and new approaches regarding church architecture and other ecclesiastical arts, including hymnody. While developments from the seventeenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century are not neglected in this study, focus is given primarily to the period from 1886, when the National Council of the Congregational Church issued its first survey of local congregations concerning worship practices, to 1957, when the Congregational Church, having already merged with the Christian Church, joined the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ. Church-related periodicals, denominational hymnals, annual reports, writings of various Congregational clergy, and minutes of national Congregational meetings serve as primary texts in this investigation. A vital component of the study is the examination and interpretation of a variety of worship resources produced by the Commission on Worship and Evangelism of the Congregational Church and the National Council of Congregational Churches, as well as worship-related letters, editorials, and services found within various Congregational publications. While external factors were important in the reception of the ecumenical liturgical year into the annual calendars of Congregational churches, this research shows that it is the writings of various Congregational clergy, published as pamphlets, articles, and books, that have had the greatest influence. The results of this work fill a lacuna in scholarship related to the worship of the Congregational churches from the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, and contribute more generally to studies of the transitions in mainline American Protestant theology and practice in the late modern period.