Elements of Worship

Some elements of worship to remember:

This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it necessarily in order. These are suggestions. Several sample orders of worship can be found below.

* Call to worship
The call to worship does what it says – it invited the gathered body to enter the time of worship. This could be a responsive reading, a prayer, a word spoken corporately or by the leader alone.

* Prayer of invocation
Just as the call to worship invites the congregation to engage, the invocation invites the Spirit of God to be present and enliven our worship. Yet we know that the Spirit is there without our even asking! Sometimes the invocation simply recognizes the Spirit’s presence.

* Hymns and congregational singing
The church has three commonly used resources: Hymnal: A Worship Book (the blue hymnal), Sing the Journey (the green book), meant for use during ‘ordinary time’ between Pentecost and Advent, and Sing the Story (the purple book), meant for use during the time from Advent to Pentecost.

The books could very well be used during other times of the year and other resources are definitely okay but can take some extra planning if the song needs to be printed, projected or have a musical accompaniment that is not included in the books that we have. There are several guitarists and other musicians in the congregation that would be willing to be asked. Introducing too many new songs into a service can be awkward for people. It helps to have a strong leader for new material.

Because we often use at least two songbooks, and sometimes supplement with readings and hymns that are in the printed order of worship. That can be confusing for newcomers, and even for long-time members of the church who need to flip between three or four items to get to the next thing.

It may be helpful, as you announce the next hymn or reading, to carry the book or piece of paper with you, so that everyone can see where they might find what they’ll need to participate. Give people a chance to find the piece, perhaps by saying one or two things about the hymn, or just allowing a little silence before beginning.

* Scripture
The lectionary is a resource that offers an Old Testament, Epistle (letters by Paul and others to individuals and churches), Psalm, and Gospel (stories about Jesus’ life) each Sunday. We use these during the seasons from Advent to Lent often as a part of resources from Mennonite Church USA in the Leader magazine.

http://divinity.library.vanderbilt.edu/lectionary/ is one place to find lectionary readings. It is also appropriate to choose scriptures based on a theme, to study a book or in other ways. Because scripture reading is a part of the worship experience, it should be read clearly, loudly and slowly to make it understandable. It is also a good practice to name the translation of scripture being used, especially if it is other that the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) that is often used in this congregation.

* Dramatic reading
Prepared readings, adaptations of scripture, stories appropriate to the theme or scripture of the worship can be wonderful additions to the experience of worship and can use the gifts of people in our midst.

* Children’s Story
Children should be kept in mind in all parts of worship for which they are present, since worship is an act for all the people of God to participate in. But the children’s story is a special time of relating especially for them. Many adults find this to be a time for learning as well since object lessons and a simplified explanation of the theme are useful to everyone.

It is important to pay attention to microphones and sound during this time since wireless or hand-held mics are often used. Speak directly into the hand-held and if it’s used for the children, have them do the same.

Remember to pass around the fish for the offering.

* Sermon or Meditation
The sermon is a time of teaching and sharing for the congregation and has many different presentation styles. Often but not always the sermon is offered by a pastor. There are many capable and interesting people in the congregation who are also skilled at preaching and storytelling.

* Silence
It is often appropriate to have a time of silence for reflection or prayer related to scripture, a theme, prayer, or the sermon.

* Prayer
There are many reasons to include prayers: related to the theme of worship, calling on God’s presence in worship, blessing for special occasions, commissioning people for a particular work, inviting blessing on a particular event, interceding on behalf of the congregation, persons, the community etc.

* Confession
Confession has two forms. Confession of faith is a statement of belief by the congregation or an individual. Creeds are a form of this type of confession. Confession of sin is a statement of wrongdoing and seeking God’s forgiveness. Psalm 51 is a classic example of confession. (“For I know my sins and my transgression is ever before me…” Ps. 51:3)

* Communion
Also known as Eucharist (thanksgiving) this is a celebration that memorializes Jesus’ last meal with his disciples in which he offered them bread and wine and asked them to remember his body that would be broken for them, and his blood which would be a new covenant. We continue to celebrate communion to remember Jesus’ life and death and resurrection, and to be together as a community of believers.

We celebrate communion in many ways: around tables in groups, passing the elements to each other while seated, coming to stations around the congregation to receive the elements from servers and more. Children are welcome at the table.

* Offering
There are baskets to collect the offering that are usually kept either in the podium or in the worship storage room. It is appropriate to say a prayer for the offering either before or after it is collected. The baskets can be started in the front and collected by the worship leader when they’ve worked their way to the back. Alternately, people can be invited forward to make their offerings. They may be placed on the alter or back under the podium. Music during this time can be provided by the pianist or another musician.

* Special Music
There are many gifts for music in our congregation. There may be someone that can use these gifts for the movement of worship. An offering of music does not have to be explicitly religious in nature in order to be worshipful. Often the offering time is used for special music.

* Prayers of the People
A member of the pastoral team offers these prayers each week.

* Sharing
The second Sunday of the month is for open sharing. It is helpful to remind people to say their names and to speak directly into the mic.

* Passing the Peace:
This could be as simple as saying: peace be with you / and also with you, or it could be expanded into a short time of greeting and sharing with neighbors.

* Other Rituals:
Anointing, foot washing, bringing forward of gifts, laying on hands, love feast are just few examples of other rituals that could be used in worship. It can be meaningful to create rituals that fit with the service as a way of allowing people to embody their worship and connect to God and each other.

* Benediction
A benediction blesses the congregation on their way. It often begins “May you…” or “May we…” or contains a blessing. For example: “May the Spirit of God go with us from this place.” Or: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

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