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Praying in Groups: Suggestions for a Sociology of Prayer

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Chapter Summary

This chapter proposes a focus for a sociology of prayer, which has been relatively little studied and whose further exploration could yield valuable theoretical and practical benefits. It reviews systematically the relatively small body of research that describes and classifies types of group prayer (spontaneous, Dionysian/ecstatic, worldly, interactive and primary) and maps the different kinds of praying groups. Some prayer experiences such as Taize services are designed to lead the group into a state of quiet, contemplative unity with each other and with the Divine. Others, such as Pentecostal healing services or the serpent-handling rituals in some Appalachian churches, are designed to induce a contagious emotional high within the group. The main argument of the chapter has been that Herbert Gans' criticism applies to the sociology of prayer as well.

Keywords: Appalachian churches; group prayer; Herbert Gans; Pentecostal healing services; serpent-handling rituals; Taize services



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