Until the 4th century (under
Constantine's rule), community Christian worship took place entirely in house
churches. These were Christians' private homes that were made available to the
local Christian community for worship. Initially there were no dedicated dwellings
that were solely used for congregating, but by the end of the 3rd century it
appears that some homes were completely turned over to the Christian community.
Still there were no church edifices, no dedicated church buildings designed
and built for worship -- until Constantine launched a church building program
in the 4th century. As churches moved from the home, which traditionally was
women's domain, to the elaborately built Roman church edifices, women in the
church became further marginalized.
Even today Christian worship
in many localities throughout the world is conducted in house churches. During
the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Christianity survived -- and even
thrived -- entirely in house churches.
- "LEADERS OF HOUSE
CHURCHES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT" at http://www.bibleresourcecenter.org/vsItemDisplay.dsp&objectID=D5E70498-844F-4134-9F735EC052B8F675&method=display.
- "Constantine's influence
on Christian theology, practice, and church organization" at http://www.bibletexts.com/topical.htm#constantine.
churches and church weddings" at http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/churchweddings.htm#weddings-and-edifices.
role in founding the church in Philippi" at http://www.bibletexts.com/verses/v-act.htm#lydia.
Schussler Fiorenza's In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction
of Christian Origins, especially, pages 175-184, "The House Church,"
and pages 285-342, "The Patriarchal Household of God and the Ekklesia
- Everett Ferguson's Backgrounds
of Early Christianity, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993),
especially pages 70-73, "Place of Women."
J. Torjesen's When Women Were Priests : Women's Leadership in the
Early Church and the Scandal of Their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity
(NY: HarperCollins, 1993), especially pages 76-80, "House
Church Leadership: Managers of the Household of God;" pages 80-82, "From
Household to House Church: The Leadership of Women;" and pages 126-127.
- Robert J. Banks' Paul's
Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting, Revised
Edition (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994)
- Robert J. Banks' Going
to Church in the First Century (Jacksonville, FL: Christian Books Publishing
House, 1990). This is an intendedly fictional account that informatively portrays
first century worship.