Jesus whom we worship was born into a specific culture of the world. In the mystery of the incarnation are the model and the mandate for the contextualization of Christian worship. God can be and is encountered in the local cultures of our world. A given culture’s values and patterns, insofar as they are consonant with the values of the Gospel, can be used to express the meaning and purpose of Christian worship. Contextualization is a necessary task for the Church’s mission in the world, so that the Gospel can be ever more deeply rooted in diverse local cultures.
—Constance Cherry, The Worship Architect, A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services, 293
However much, therefore, worship and prayer may vary in linguistic and behavioural forms, as they inevitably and rightly do when they are expressed in the habits of different societies, peoples, cultures and ages, they nevertheless have embedded in them an invariant element which derives from the normative pattern of the incarnate love of God in Jesus Christ. Insofar as worship and prayer are through, with and in Christ, they are not primarily forms of man’s self-expression or self-fulfilment or self-transcendence in this or that human situation or cultural context, but primarily forms of Christ’s vicarious worship and prayer offered on behalf of all mankind in all ages. However, precisely because our worship and prayer are finally shaped and structured by the invariant pattern of Christ’s mediatorial office, they are also open to change in variant human situations and societies, cultures, languages and ages, even with respect to differing aesthetic tastes and popular appeal, if only because these variant forms of worship and prayer are relativised by the invariant form of worship and prayer in Christ which they are intended to serve. Hence when worship and prayer are objectively grounded in Christ in this way, we are free to use and adapt transient forms of language and culture in our worship of God, without being imprisoned in time-conditioned patterns, or swept along by constantly changing fashions, and without letting worship and prayer dissolve away into merely cultural and secular forms of man’s self-expression and self-fulfilment.
—T. F. Torrance, “The Mind of Christ in Worship: The Problem of Apollinarianism in the Liturgy,” in Theology in Reconciliation, 213.
Nevertheless, the church has been sent to all ages and nations and, therefore, is not tied exclusively and indissolubly to any race or nation, to any one particular way of life, or to any set of customs, ancient or modern. The church is faithful to its traditions and is at the same time conscious of its universal mission; it can, then, enter into communion with different forms of culture, thereby enriching both itself and the cultures themselves.
—Margaret Mary Kelleher, “Vatican II and the LWF Project: Points of Convergence,” in Worship and Culture Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 62-63
Nothing is more traditional among faithful Christians, says Anscar Chupungco, than the constant inculturation of the liturgy, including the resultant spread of the creative assimilations. Somebody started to anoint the newly baptized or clothe them with a clean white garment. Somebody began to light candles at evening prayer or light a fire at Pascha. Somebody started to use an Advent wreath or a Christmas tree. The original stories are complex, partly hidden, but they involved cultural practices. And they have spread nearly everywhere.
—Gordon Lathrop, “Every Foreign Country a Homeland, Every Homeland a Foreign Country: On Worship and Culture,” in Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, page 17
Scriptural imagery portrays diversity within the church as a characteristic of flourishing life in Christ: one Spirit grants a diversity of gifts, one body of Christ has diverse members.
—Benjamin M. Stewart, “What, Then, Do Theologians Mean When They Say ‘Culture’?” in Worship and Culture Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 46
On the one side is the local, the particular cultural context of a given people, a given group of congregations. How can cultural richness be reflected in worship? What are the thought patterns and linguistic styles that should shape how prayers and sermons and liturgical texts are written? What aspects of indigenous music should find their way into hymns and other music in the church? What aspects of the aesthetics, the artistic styles, the symbol systems, the architectural prototypes in a given culture should be reflected in the rooms in which worship takes place? What gestures and postures from the culture can be meaningfully incorporated into Christian worship? What are the cultural manifestations of gathering into a community, of offering hospitality, of expressing reverence? All of this can be termed localization, or contextualization, or inculturation.
—S. Anita Stauffer, “Christian Worship: Toward Localization and Globalization,” in Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, ed., Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland?, 41
Lathrop suggests that Lutheran liturgical hermeneutics offers two guiding principles for decisions about the relationship between worship and culture. The first is that “in worship, the center must be clear: the assembly gathers around the gift of Christ in Word and sacrament.” The second guiding principle is that the gifts of diverse cultures are to be welcomed and honored, but “these cultural patterns must not become their own new law or usurp the place of the center…They must be broken to the purpose of Christ.”
—Margaret Mary Kelleher, “Vatican II and the LWF Project: Points of Convergence,” in Worship and Culture Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 64