Sundays During the Early Church Period

The Early Church stands among the storied people of God, and so they participated in and performed (lived out) the Theo-drama—God’s drama of redemption in the past, present and future. God’s redemptive drama culminated in the life and ministry of Jesus, and so Christ’s redeeming death, burial, resurrection, ascension and second coming are the earmarks of the Christocentric metanarrative of the “already-not yet in full” Kingdom of God. This was the good news that the Early Church proclaimed and celebrated and was the reason they began gathering on Sunday—the Lord’s Day (the day of Jesus’ resurrection).

During these gatherings, Christians were committed to the reading of the Scriptures, to commentating on those readings, to singing hymns, to prayers, to the kiss of peace, to offerings, to partaking of the bread and cup (as the broken body and shed blood of Jesus) and to departing benedictions.[1] The Early Church gatherings were marked by joy, gratitude and celebration. Justo Gonzalez writes, “A new reality had dawned, and Christians gathered to celebrate that dawning and to become participants in it.”[2]

In the book of Acts, converts to the Jesus movement are typically baptised immediately, whereas in the Early Church there was an emphasis on catechumenate which was “a period of preparation, trial, and instruction prior to baptism.”[3] This was due to the gospel expanding throughout the Greco-Roman world resulting in the large influx of Gentiles becoming Jesus followers. Most of these new Gentile Christians would have needed a lot of instruction regarding God’s story with the Jews and how that story leads to the good news of Jesus for the world.[4]  After the catechumenate period, catechumens were baptized early in the morning on Easter Sunday. Once they were baptized, they received white robes signifying new life in Christ (Col 3:9-12; Rev 3:4) followed by their first eucharist with the community.[5] 

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[1] Justo L.González, The Story of Christianity, Rev. and Updated, 2nd ed. (New York: HarperOne, 2010), EPUB edition, pt.1, ch. 11, “Christian Worship” [2] González, The Story, EPUB edition, pt.1, ch. 11, “Christian Worship” [3] González, The Story, EPUB edition, pt.1, ch. 11, “Christian Worship” [4] González, The Story, EPUB edition, pt.1, ch. 11, “Christian Worship” [5] González, The Story, EPUB edition, pt.1, ch. 11, “Christian Worship”