Friday, October 28, 2016

All Saint's Day Worship - Reading which names?



A few weeks before my first All Saint’s Day, I was approached by an older woman in the congregation, an active member for nearly 20 years. She sheepishly asked if I would read her parents names during the upcoming service. Of course, why wouldn’t I? She explained that her parents had passed away many years ago while she was working overseas, and while she returned for the memorial services, she was not in the country for All Saint’s Day. The previous pastor only allowed for the names of immediate family members who had passed in the previous 12 months to be read, and as such, her parents were not honored in this way. 

This was new information, and I made sure to announce that we would read and honor any names, regardless of relationship or when they passed. I had three pages of names. 

Ack! That might take the whole service! 

And? 

Marcia McFee made a comment in her Worship Design Studio workshop that stuck with me. She said that “we become so worried about the shape of the candle that we forget to keep it lit”. 

For many of our members, hearing a name read, if it’s the first time or the tenth time, has deep meaning. On this special Sunday, the list of names may mean you don’t have time for three hymns, two prayers, two choir pieces, announcements from the Mission team about a fundraiser and the Trustees about a workday and Children’s about volunteers. Don’t be caught up in the shape of the candle. Keep the candle lit. 

If you are worried about the list being so long that people will disengage, break it up. Ten names, a verse of For All The Saints, another ten names, next verse. Or do it Taize style with On Holy Ground. 
If you have the opposite problem of only a few names but want the readings to be a meaningful, light a candle as each name is read (in addition to the bell ringing) and say a few sentences about the deceased. If you have multi-media, create a slide for each person with full name, birth and death dates and a photograph. 

After you read the list of names, open it up for the congregation to lift up names. Have extra candles behind the altar to add if you are doing that. Music folks will have to be on their toes for cues from you to sing if you are adding in music. 

All Saint’s Day began in the third century and has survived as a tradition this long because it touches people. Honoring it as a high holiday will show your congregation that you honor the people who have mattered to them and will help you to learn their stories, surrounded by the light of God. 


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

All Saint's Day Worship

If this is your first All Saint’s Day at a new appointment, you may be dealing with a variety of issues. My favorite is when the a congregation is so attached to a long serving pastor that they do not see how their church can survive without them. If this is you, you’ve spent the last four months listening to them lament the pastor of the past and the myriad of ways in which you will not be able to manage the church into the future.  All Saint’s Day can be a time to expand your congregations understanding of their history and see the previous pastor as part of that history, not all of it. 

Learning the history of your congregation is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Go through any archives you have, use the local library for historical newspaper articles, and your Conference archives. Often the nearest United Methodist seminary will have archives on the regional churches. Find out about the pastors of the past. Preach your sermon starting with the story of the first pastor, find the pastors during important times of national history (Pearl Harbor, the Great Depression, the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, moon landing) and how that pastor guided the church during those times, leading up to honoring an important event led by the previous pastor. 

The goal is to show the congregation that they are part of a vast and diverse history, and that many pastors have led the church. While the previous pastor may be the one they know, the pastors that came before paved the way for him/her, and he/she paved the way for you, and you are paving the way for the pastors to come.  

Image result for old church photoDecorate the altar area with church history. Photographs, baptismal and membership record books, Sunday School meeting minutes and the like. Read special passages, such as the day the mortgage was paid off, missionaries were sent out, special celebrations were held. The ice cream social in 1928 raised $6.35 for new hymnals. The trustees spent three meetings debating a hat rack in 1956.  These bites connect us, show us that the generations past were not all that different from us. 

As you read the names of those who have passed related to your congregation, consider reading the names of pastors who have passed away and the year they died. Conclude your sermon or service with a vision of people of the future looking back honoring the work that your congregation is doing today. What are they doing that will be celebrated in the future just like you are celebrating the people of the past.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Adapting Communion Liturgy

This past Sunday I was invited to provide Communion to a church that still does not have a pastor appointed to them, and as such, has not had Communion in two months.  I have a high sacramentology (what is yours, and are you ready to defend it to your BOM?) and can not believe that the Cabinet would just leave a church a hanging for so long without concern for their ability to receive the sacraments which we hold sacred. A very gifted lay speaker has been leading worship, so all that was needed was my 'authority' to provide communion. He was doing a sermon series on heroes of the Bible titled "Ordinary to Extraordinary" so I worked the theme into the Communion liturgy which maintaining the historical integrity of the ritual.

How to adapt Communion to fit a worship theme is a question I get often, so I thought I'd share this one. The congregation is very traditional, so I didn't want to mess too much with what they find comforting, but wanted the ritual to fit the theme. It's just a few added lines here and there, but the introduction also gets to the heart of why Communion is so important.

Adapted Communion Ritual:

Thank you for welcoming me here today to join you in this most sacred of rituals. Communion binds us as Christians. As we proclaim the mystery of faith, these ordinary elements of bread and juice become an extraordinary connection to the past, to all those who have said these words for the past 2,000 years, and all those who gather today around the world, speaking these words in hundreds of languages. We are one, in God. 

Back in the late 1800’s, ordinary people with extraordinary courage settled this region and founded this church, riding up on horseback to share in the bread and the juice. By 1925, the congregation had grown enough and was committed enough to build this beautiful sanctuary in which we worship today. How many people have sat in the light of these stained glass windows and shared in this ritual? Though the Great Depression and World Wars, the moon landing and the technological revolution, the faithful of this church trusted in God with their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude, as it is because of their faithfulness and vision that we are able to be here today. And it is because of your faithfulness and vision that one day people of faith will park their flying cars out front, and come into this place, and share in sacred ritual of communion. We are part of something extraordinary; we are part of God’s plan for our world.    

And knowing the humble honor that comes with being God’s people, I say: 

THE GREAT THANKSGIVING

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is right, and a good and joyful thing,
      always and everywhere to give thanks to you,
God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
You formed us in your image
       and breathed into us the breath of life.
     When we turned away, and our love failed,
           your love remained steadfast.
     You delivered us from captivity,
               made covenant to be our sovereign God,
                  and spoke to us through the prophets and the heroes. 
     You have give us a tradition in which your people, with your gifts, go from ordinary to extraordinary. 
     And so,
       with your people on earth
       and all the company of heaven
      we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

 Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
      heaven and earth are full of your glory.
     Hosanna in the highest.
     Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
     Hosanna in the highest.

Holy are you, and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ.
Your Spirit anointed him
       to preach good news to the poor,
      to proclaim release to the captives
          and recovering of sight to the blind,
       to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
       and to announce that the time had come
          when you would save your people.
He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and ate with sinners.
He encouraged his followers to use their gifts and graces 
to fulfill their calling on this earth. 

By the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection
      you gave birth to your Church,
       delivered us from slavery to sin and death,
      and made with us a new covenant
          by water and the Spirit.
     When the Lord Jesus ascended,
       he promised to be with us always,
          in the power of your Word and Holy Spirit.

   

On the night in which he gave himself up for us,
he gathered with the most ordinary of people for the Passover meal. 
      At the end of the meal, he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread,
       gave it to his disciples, and said:
     "Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you.
     Do this in remembrance of me."

When the supper was over, he took the cup,
      gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said:
    "Drink from this, all of you;
      this is my blood of the new covenant,
      poured out for you and for many
          for the forgiveness of sins.
  Do this, as often as you drink it,
         in remembrance of me."

     And so,
       in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
       we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
       as a holy and living sacrifice,
       in union with Christ's offering for us,
       as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

     Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here,
       and on these gifts of bread and juice.
Make them be for us the heart and soul of Christ,
      that we may be for the world the body of Christ,
redeemed by his love.

By your Spirit make us one with Christ,
      one with each other,
      and one in ministry to all the world,
      until Christ comes in final victory
       and we feast at his heavenly banquet.

Through your Son Jesus Christ,
      with the Holy Spirit in your holy Church,
       all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father,
now and forever. Amen.

And now, with the confidence of forgiven children of God, let us pray:

Our Father in heaven,
       hallowed be your name,
       your kingdom come,
       your will be done,
       on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins 
      as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
       and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
       now and for ever. Amen.

BREAKING THE BREAD 

Because there is one loaf,
we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
The bread which we break is a sharing in the body of Christ.
The cup over which we give thanks is a sharing in the blood of Christ.

GIVING THE BREAD AND CUP 

Eternal God, we give you thanks for this holy mystery
       in which you have given yourself to us.
Grant that we may go into the world
       in the strength of your Spirit,
       to give ourselves for others,
       embracing our extraordinary potential,

in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.