October 13, 2016

Wonderful Worship

Who doesn’t like a good worship service? Fortunately our Episcopal liturgy allows us the flexibility to be very creative in our worship expression. While our clergy has the primary role in designing and delivering these worship experiences, there are many roles for the laity in enabling our weekly and special services.

A real concern for many lay leaders is how to have a lively spirit-filled worship when there is no permanent clergy presence. And if there is clergy how do you provide input without the feeling of overstepping boundaries?

One way in which the laity can contribute is through a worship committee. This committee would provide the forum to work through additional ideas from the congregation or elsewhere. They could also coordinate with existing church organizations, for example ECW for their Women’s Day service. Worship committees already exist in some congregations; I am recommending that they become more prolific within our church.
At my home church, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church Asbury Park, we created a worship committee while in transition after a daylong retreat where worship was identified as a top priority. This committee’s mission is simply to enhance spirituality within our church. Six volunteers came forward to begin this effort.
Some of the ideas implemented were:
  • Veteran’s Day Service: We honored the veterans who were members or relatives as well as the VFW and American Legions within our community. We presented them with a gift and certificate and had sermons that honored their sacrifice and also included patriotic hymns. 
  • Lenten Retreat: Over six weeks with a theme developed, we began each Tuesday evening with a delicious meal, followed by a spiritual reflection by a member of the congregation not usually heard from, and ending with Evensong by a Lay Eucharistic Minister 
  • Pentecost Celebration: In addition to sharing the lessons in a variety of languages, and the appointed sermon in English, we decorated the church with red balloons for our birthday celebration and had a special coffee hour with cake and ice cream 
  • New Year’s Eve Service: We had an early service at 3:00 pm at the request of our seniors who wanted to minimize night driving. The service was followed by dinner, games, and dancing. Great fun was had by all including members of our soup kitchen to whom we extended an invitation. 
There are a number of ideas for worship across our congregations such as Church Revivals, Service in the Park, anniversary celebrations, honoring first responders, firefighters, and law enforcement officers, honoring those in the health and education fields, honoring cultural and national holidays and celebrating our seniors, youth, and young adults. Do consider implementing some of these ideas in your own congregations using the worship committee model!! 

To summarize: Our worship committee looks at all our services holistically, prevents the proliferation of ad-hoc committees for special occasions, and builds great collaboration between clergy and laity. Most important it offers us another wonderful opportunity to connect with our neighborhood and communities with joyful services.

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