Worship and Justice: Spirituality that Embodies and Mobilizes for Justice

by Sandra Maria Van Opstal

Christian worship is the communal gathering of God’s people in which we glorify God for His person and actions. This encounter with God includes gathering together, encountering the triune God in the word and sacrament, and sending the community out into the world as agents of His love and justice. This paper is meant to highlight the importance of worship in forming people who walk humbly with God, love mercy, and do justice.

Worship is formative, so we must ask, “What are we forming?” What we include or exclude from our worship practices in preaching, prayer, music, and arts informs our theology and our embodied faith. I examine the importance of spirituality that embodies and mobilizes for justice, the challenges in breaking people free from idolatry in worship, and the implications on the church and its role in the world. I rely on case studies from local congregations, denominations, and organizations for both illustration and to help suggest some best practices for those seeking to build bridges at the intersection of worship and justice.

There are churches that make worship a priority, and yet the worship doesn’t result in transformed disciples with increased compassion and love for neighbor. What does it look like for us to develop practices of worship that mobilize our communities towards justice and to model just practices in our worship? While there are some dialogues on contextualized worship and or multicultural worship, they often employ approaches that model little more than tokenism and appropriation. I start by exploring the theological intersection of worship and justice and then move to worship and formation.

The strategies I propose are rooted in worship that embodies hospitality, solidarity and mutuality. I conclude by reimagining a worship that does more than entertain us.