From the Pastor...
Beloved Christ Congregation,
A couple of weeks ago the diaconate gathered to reflect on our time of worship, to explore the theological assumptions behind our order of worship, and discuss what changes might create the clearest, most inviting, and most cohesive experience of worship for our community.
One major change you will notice is that we switched the placement of the Confession and the Joys and Concerns, which we are now calling the Prayers of the People. In our invitation to confession I often talk about how honesty is the foundation of any healthy relationship, and so it makes sense that after our call to worship and opening hymn, our first act is to share honestly about the things we have done or left undone, so that our hearts are unburdened as we proceed through the service.
We will then follow the Assurance of Grace with the Gloria Patri and the passing of the peace. Moving the passing of the peace to this point helps us return to the true roots of that practice, which are about so much more than simply greeting our neighbors. In offering Christ’s peace, we offer to one another the reconciliation, unity, and love that are in Christ. It expresses an openness to the power of God’s love to heal our brokenness and make us agents of that love in the world.
The Prayers of the People, formerly called “Joys and Concerns” will now follow the sermon. This is because our prayers are truly a response to hearing God’s word. By the time we reach this part of the service, the Holy Spirit has (hopefully) swept us out of a sense of isolation and into a deeper sense of connection with God and all creation. This connection liberates us to share our joys and concerns from the deepest, most honest places in our heart.
The other major change you will notice is that we are making the communion table safer, more welcoming place for all people by no longer using wine and adding in gluten-free wafers. Throughout my ministry I’ve heard from many in the recovery community that communion is loaded with dis-ease for them. For some, it feels like unnecessary temptation. Others worry about jeopardizing their sobriety if they accidentally pick the wrong cup. (A friend of mine pastored a church where someone actually did relapse after accidentally taking the wrong cup.) For others, they worry there is a stigma attached to taking the non-alcoholic cup. Christ’s table should be a place of grace and liberation, not fear or anxiety. So, in the spirit of hospitality and providing a welcome table for ALL, we have decided to move to a juice-only communion. We also want to be able to share the Bread of Life with those who are gluten-intolerant, and so we will make sure to have gluten free crackers available at each communion station.
Finally, after a long debate, we have decided to move the benediction to after the postlude. This was, the “sending words” will be the very last thing you hear before leaving the service.
Friends, in a world where so much is always changing, I know how tempting it can be to rest into the status quo. And yet, the hallmark of a healthy and thriving church is that we continue listening to what the Spirit is saying and respond accordingly. I pray these changes will bring new life to the service for you, and will offer us a format we can rest into for a long time to come.
Blessings on the journey,