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Pliny the Younger and Worship in the Ancient Church

What was worship like in the early church? Did it differ significantly from our present practices? A letter written by a Roman official in 112 AD provides a window into these ancient Christian liturgical practices.

Pliny the Younger was appointed governor of Bithynia in 111 AD by the Emperor Trajan (98–117). Trajan knew that there was social unrest in that province, with a growing number of political factions causing divisions within the city. Among other things, he tasked Pliny with dissolving all associations or clubs in service of keeping the peace. This led him into a quandary regarding the Christians.

In one of the cities, trouble of some kind had arisen regarding the Christians, who were in several cases brought into court and accused of atheism, sexual immorality, incest, and even cannibalism. Pliny the Younger’s letter offers a window into the liturgical practices of ancient Christians and how they were often misunderstood by the world.

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