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March 2015 Vol. 52 No. 7

Baker Academic

The following review appeared in the March 2015 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email


2014-9065 CIP
McGowan, Andrew B. Ancient Christian worship: early church practices in social, historical, and theological perspective. Baker Academic, 2014. 298p bibl indexes ISBN 9780801031526, $34.99.

This is a fine thematic survey of ancient Christian liturgy; it is informed by the most up-to-date scholarship on the subject yet caters to the needs of nonspecialists.  McGowan, an Anglican priest, is dean and president of Yale Divinity School.  His previous publications include Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (1999) and numerous other works of systematic theology.  His approach, which aims at underlining both broad continuities and rich diversities in the tradition, is ecumenical and will appeal to readers of different Christian traditions.  Though many such surveys use a chronological approach, McGowan employs a thematic methodology and breaks his material into six central themes reflected in chapter titles: "Meal," "Word," "Music," "Initiation," "Prayer," and "Time."  The material includes historical evidence from the first century through the fourth.  Many similar surveys exist, e.g., Paul Bradshaw’s Early Christian Worship (2nd ed., 2010); however, McGowan’s is unique in its broad scope and thematic approach.  A helpful supplement is the anthology of sources found in Lawrence Johnson’s four-volume Worship in the Early Church: An Anthology of Historical Sources (CH, Aug'10, 47-6595).

--J. P. Blosser, Benedictine College

Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through graduate students; general readers.