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A Rhythm that Connects my Heart with God : Worship, Ritual and Pentecostal Spirituality as Theology


Summary, in English

This qualitative theological study seeks to shed light on pentecostal theology and spirituality through an investigation of worship as it is practiced in two urban pentecostal-charismatic churches in Nairobi, Kenya. The empirical data serve as a springboard for theological construction and interpretation from a pentecostal perspective. In contemporary charismatic liturgy, the first section of the service consists of communal music-making, led from the pulpit by a band or a choir. Ritually speaking, the section has a specific flow and format, and theologically speaking, it relies on certain kinds of convictions. It is this ritualized communal pentecostal music-making that is the starting point of the examination. In pentecostal idiom, it is known as ‘praise and worship’ or simply ‘worship’.
Theoretically, the study combines insights from pentecostal studies, more specifically pentecostal theology, and ritual studies, particularly performance theory. In the past, pentecostal theologians have often pointed out the close connection between pentecostal spirituality and theology, and how the two cannot be understood apart from each other. Commonly, a tripartite model is used to explain different dimensions of this pentecostal spirituality-as-theology, expressed with the Greek words orthodoxy (right doctrine), orthopraxy (right praxis), and orthopathy (right affections). It is in the interplay between these dimensions that pentecostal spirituality ‘happens’, as it were.
This study modifies and applies this model by looking at worship (in the sense of communal musicking) from three different angles: 1) ritualization and practice (Orthopraxis, Chapter Three); 2) embodiment and affection (Orthopathos,Chapter Four); 3) theologizing and doctrine (Orthopistis,Chapter Five). At the same time, the study underlines the interconnectedness between these dimensions and their relation to larger issues by adding a fourth dimension: 4) transformation and integration (Orthodoxa, Chapter Six). Thus, orthodoxa is a way to speak of worship as including and yet transcending all its component parts, highlighting the richness of the practice and its connection to life as a whole. The argument of this thesis is that it is only when we understand this connection between worship (as practice) and worship (as spirituality) that we start to understand what worship entails from a pentecostal perspective. In doing so, the analysis is indebted to ritual theorists and their understanding of ritual as embodied action, functioning in complex ways to create meaning, attune bodies, and enact transformation. By utilizing a performance perspective on ritual the study highlights the way worship is enacted in time and space. This perspective opens to analysis non-intellectual dimensions of worship—emotional, physical, kinaesthetic and sensual—thereby assigning active rather than passive roles to participants.
The methodological approach is informed by ethnography and uses a combination of methods: participant observation, interviews, surveys and song collection. The study is based on a total of five months of fieldwork in Nairobi, conducted in 2013 and 2014. Two churches were selected as the main focus of research: Mavuno Church, Bellevue, and Christ is the Answer Ministries (CITAM), Woodley, referred to simply as Mavuno and Woodley. In the history of revitalization in urban Kenya, they and their respective mother churches (Nairobi Chapel and Nairobi Pentecostal Church/CITAM) are profiled representatives of the most recent strand of renewal, the Progressive Pentecostal Churches (PPC).
At the heart of Pentecostalism is its spirituality, which finds one of its major expressions in worship; thus, worship may serve as a window into the very heart of Pentecostalism.

Publishing year






Document type



Lund University


  • Religious Studies
  • Ethnology


  • Pentecostal spirituality
  • Pentecostal theology
  • Charismatic Liturgy
  • Worship
  • Praise and Worship
  • Ritualization
  • Embodiment
  • Theologizing
  • Transformation
  • Progressive Pentecostalism
  • Nairobi, Kenya
  • African Church Music
  • Pentecostal dance
  • Pentecostal dress
  • Pentecostal music
  • Pentecostal use of Scripture
  • Oral theology
  • Sung theology
  • Empirical methods in theology
  • Mavuno Church
  • Christ is The Answer Ministries, CITAM




  • ISBN: 978-91-89213-88-3

Defence date

27 August 2021

Defence time


Defence place


  • Mark J. Cartledge (professor)