The right wing sociologist Charles Murray says we’re coming apart. His left wing counterpart, Robert Putnam, has spoken of a loss of social capital. And now as rural America and, increasingly, American cities are carried away by drug addiction, our scholars are talking about deaths of despair.
What all these scholars are observing is the decaying of American communal life and the consequent crisis which extends from this decay. In the world of media and politics, many are recognizing this decay and trying to take steps to address it through starting new media outlets, organizing activists for collective action, or a bit of both.
This is similarly a moment when Christians can come together to not only revitalize our intellectual understanding of communal life, but also to engage in our own sort of activism to restore the foundations of membership in the many smaller communities that make up our republic. Certainly this will include a reinvigorated interest in questions of political theology, common life, and church membership, all projects which are well underway within the American church.
However, Scripture teaches us that words and even actions that are disengaged from the heart are empty and will not ultimately produce the transformation we wish to see. Alongside the intellectual spadework to be done is a renewal of piety and the practices that promote spiritual formation in the lives of individual Christians. We cannot give to others what we do not possess ourselves. If we are to bless our fellow Christians with a richer life in the spirit, we must possess such a life ourselves. And if our churches are to offer thicker forms of community to the surrounding community, they must possess such community themselves.
Toward that end, we are launching the Household Worship Project. Co-sponsored by Mere Orthodoxy and Plough Publishing House, the Household Worship Project will promote practices of daily worship in Christian households that will acquaint individual believers with the riches of the historic Christian faith and ground them in daily rhythms and routines that encourage adoration of God and love of neighbor. Daily household worship consists of three parts: reading (both Scripture and sacred writings), prayer, and singing. The Household Worship Project will promote this discipline in two ways.
What the Household Worship Project Is
The Household Worship Project is designed to help families and other households develop normal rhythms of formal worship in their home while introducing people to classic spiritual texts, prayers, and songs and encouraging a daily routine of reading aloud from the Bible.
How the Household Worship Project Will Begin
First, we have gathered together a collection of readings, prayers, songs, and a daily reading schedule, all intended to provide households with the means necessary to conduct daily worship. Readings will come from Scripture and from various other sources. During Lent, households will read from the Bread and Wine anthology published by Plough. Special note: The kind folks at Plough have made the books available for $12 for Mere O readers, half off the normal price. To get the deal, purchase the book at this link and at checkout on step three under payment method enter the discount code “mereo.” With shipping, the book will be $16 instead of the normal price of $28.
In the future, households could potentially use the daily readings from Plough alongside the Book of Common Prayer and excerpts from more devotional historic catechisms, such as the Heidelberg Catechism, or more recent catechisms, such as the New City Catechism published by Crossway. Prayers and songs will be selected from historic texts with an eye toward simplicity and memorability. Half of the battle in adopting such disciplines is often finding the readings, prayers, and songs to be used in worship. The Household Worship Project provides Christian households with those resources in a single well-organized and easily accessed place.
Second, we have created a Facebook group that is free and open to all where people participating in the project can share stories of both success and failure, ask for help with logistical questions concerning family worship, and tell others about ways that God has worked in their home through the practice of household worship.
The initial launch of the project begins today on Ash Wednesday 2018. The project will run through Lent, with regular discussion in the Facebook group and a daily rule being observed by participants. Once Lent has ended, we will evaluate how the project went and discuss what its long-term future will be.