Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Brian Gogan

Second Advisor

Lisa Batten

Third Advisor

Scott marsh


This project examines the intents and effects of ritual in contemporary worship services in the United Methodist Church. Ritual, as an important aspect of vital worship, must be examined carefully in order to help churches offer vital worship experiences. Previous literature has discussed at length the evolution of ritual and ritual processes and has studied ritual as a point of social contact. The differences between ritual and habit have been generally ignored by previous writers, yet understanding this distinction contributes to an awareness of intention in the context of planning and performing rituals. My project explores the theoretical properties of vital worship in the interest of differentiating ineffective, disconnected rituals from effective, connected rituals.

By conducting a comparative case study between two United Methodist worship communities, I collected information about how individuals from each community interpret the purpose and meaning of regularly performed rituals. I found that the purpose, or the intent of the rituals as described in biblical texts, does not always correlate with the perceived source of meaning for participants. Sources of meaning differ between individuals and can even come from external factors, indicating a disconnect between the intended effect of the rituals being offered in worship and the manifested effect. Recognizing this disconnect indicates a need for more careful attention from worship planning teams. As a solution to the problem of disconnected worship, I propose a five-step plan for worship leaders to implement in their communities that will lead to more connected, vital worship experiences. I also offer a self-designed worship series resource for planning teams to use that provides scripture selections within a theme, suggestions for ritual art interpretations, and instructions for implementing the worship series regardless of budget, church size, or worship style in an effort to be hospitable to all worship environments.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted