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Update: DOC Easter Vigil

Monday, April 13th, 2009

While working on something else I found a liturgy for Easter Vigil in Chalice Worship (A worship manual for the Christian Church Disciples of Christ).

It follows very closely with what I found at the Catholic liturgy this past weekend. There is the liturgy of light, word, baptism, and Eucharist.

I will be examining it, and pray for me – perhaps even celebrating it in the next Easter season when I am serving a church.

How exciting.


My First Easter Vigil

Monday, April 13th, 2009

This past Eastern Triduum I had the opportunity to attend my first Easter Vigil. It was remarkably beautiful.

The evening began with the service of light, unfortunately I wasn’t able to find a candle. The Christ candle processed down the center aisle and those closest to it lit their candles from it and passed it along to the fellow worshipers. By the time the Christ candle made it to the front of the worship space the entire sanctuary was full of light. It was a sign of Christ in and spread throughout the world.

Next came the liturgy of the word. It began with creation, then told the exodus story, the prophets and finally the story of Jesus’ resurrection. It was a retelling and even a reliving of all salvation history. In particular I remember the Exodus reading. Someone from the church sung it and the congregation responded. It was like being part of a divine opera.

Fifteen people were baptized that night. There was one infant with her mother, two children and eleven others. As each person received the waters of baptism the entire congregation burst into song singing “Blessed be God!” I could feel the Body of Christ get larger with the reception of each new member. Following the baptisms were confirmations on those newly baptized and those not yet confirmed.

The evening concluded with a celebration of the Eucharist. With the retelling of our salvation history and the reception of new Christians, the community gathered for the climax of the evening in Eucharist.

It was a beautiful. The choir led worship wonderfully, but they did not sing to us; it was a community event. The telling of our history was done so well and vividly.

I wonder why Protestant Christians so readily adopted the Christmas Vigil (Christmas Eve service) but not the Easter Vigil. I feel like I have been missing something significant all these years.


Sunday Evening Sending (final service)

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Setup:

We split the room into two halfs with a small aisle down the center. Each half had rows of chairs which faced each other. Setup instruction: “Let us prepare this space as we prepare our hearts for worship.” The campers and counselors began outside in “family groups.”

Outgoing instruction: As we continue our worship we are going to go outside and gather in family groups, just outside these doors and in front of the dining hall. Pray with each other a final time as a family group. Brandon will come around to each group and send you back in to our worship space; enter single file and find a seat. Go and gather as family groups outside.


Liturgy

Entrance Song (Paul): Come Let Us Worship [playing as people were coming in single file]
After all have gathered:

Chalice Worship #707 (p.430)

Go now, remembering what we have done here.
Go now, remembering what God has done for us.
Go now, into the world where apathy and half-heartedness are dominant,
Where love too often is hard to find.
Go now, walking with each other
And working with each other in the spirit of love.
Be awake, be alert, be alive to the needs around you
And to the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
And May God’s peace and joy be with us always.

Music (Paul): Get Up & Go.
Scripture: 1 Cor 12:14-26 (one body, many parts)
Prayer: We have gathered on this mountain as individuals, churches, and the Body of Christ. Let us come together as the Body to pray in our own way. I invite each of you to pray out loud as the spirit leads you. Pray for your fellow campers, your church, and that you can carry the love of Christ with you when we depart. We will gather again to pray the Lord’s Prayer. Let us pray
[a time of self-led prayer]
The Lord’s Prayer. [after a time]

Instruction: We are going to send out in the same way we came. You will be dismissed by row to exit this place, single file. Stay in the main camp area and wish your fellow campers and counselors fair-well with a sign of peace.
We are gathered here now as one Body with one voice, though we are many. From this place we scatter, not to leave this Body behind but to carry it with us – down the mountain, back into the cold; to our churches, to our homes, and to all we encounter.

Music (Paul): Get Loud
Sending


Commentary.

The same campers that helped plan Saturday evening’s service also worked on this one (plus two more). Andrea helped me on the counselor end at both planning sessions.

Originally this service was just going to be another evening service. So, the campers wanted to continue the Pentecost account which we began the night before. Due to the weather, however, it had been decided that program would end that night and this would be the final worship wervice. We got this news about 5 minutes into our planning meeting and adapted.

Since it would be the last one, I put out the idea that the entire service should serve as a benediction – a sending out. The campers went with it and picked a dismissal litany to serve as the call to worship. Another camper came up with the idea of praying out loud for one another in order to fit with the Pentecost scripture from the day before. It would be many-voices/one-voice in prayer. To facilitate this, we decided that people should face one another.

The “pair-prayer” came naturally out of these themes. It was a bit difficult to read from the power point because it took the attention off of the patner and put it on the screen. It may have been better served as a “repeat-after-me” prayer.

We wanted to convey the message of the gathering in this weekend and then sending out. That is why we had people come in single file so that the voice could grow as more people were gathered in the worship space. We also sent out single file to convey the message that even though we left the weekend, there are those who are behind that continue to sing (in a metaphorical sense). The weather had started to pick up at this point and we had to send everyone straight to their cabins instead of mingling/prayer time. But this did not hinder the worship experience.


Sunday Morning Communion Service

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Setup

Chairs in a semi circle with a center aisle. The focus was on a table. The chairs were arrange in four sections to facilitate the reception of communion at four different stations.


Liturgy

Opening Prayer/Call to worship (Joel)

#66 (p. 248) from Chalice Worship

Let us praise our God, Holy Mystery, Source of all being, Word and Spirit. Let us Praise and exalt God above all, forever.

Song: Highest Glory (Paul)

OT Reading: Isaiah 53:2-6 (Camper)

Responsorial Ps (Camper/Paul) Psalm 118

Choral Response: Asalam Shalom
Verses 5-7: When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
He brought me into a spacious place.
The Lord is with me;  I will not be afraid.
What can human beings do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies.
Choral Response: Asalam Shalom

NT Reading: Acts 17:16-23a [stop at "to an unknown god"] (camper)

Song: Alleluia

Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:13-16 (Camper)

Reflection on the reading from Acts with the Gospel as a response.

Summary: We live in a world which is spiritual but not religious. Many claim that they cannot know God. We, as Christians however are able to call our God by name, and we know him as Jesus Christ.

Prayers of Intercession (Tamara)

Confession/Pardon

Communion Song: Let’s Break Bread Together (Paul)

Procession of Gifts (2 Campers)

Eucharistic Prayers (Tamara)

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

Prayer over the elements

Song: (Paul)

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.

Words of Institution (Tamara)

Song: (Paul)

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

Song: Lord’s Prayer (Paul)

Peace (Tamara)

The peace of the Lord be with you always
And also with you.
Let us offer each other the sign of peace.

Song: (Paul – Sung during peace above)

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world have mercy on us (x2) Lamb of God you take away the sins of the word, grant us peace.

Instruction (Joel):

Come forward, down the center isle, one row at a time. Take a piece of bread, and dip in cup. Receive the Lord and each other in this meal.

Reception

Dismissal.


Commentary

The common practice at this camp is to celebrate communion at the final worship service on Monday morning. However, in Disciples tradition it is (nearly) universal to celebrate communion at least every Sunday. I presented the idea to celebrate communion at both the Sunday morning service as well as the closing Monday morning service to honor both traditions – that of the camp and that of the Disciples whom we serve at camp. This proposition was accepted and we celebrated communion on Sunday morning. Due to the weather camp ended early and we did not have the final worship on Monday morning as originally planned, so this was a good change given the circumstances.

I used the following resources as a guide:

I went more “high church” for several reasons:

  1. To fit with the co-exist theme of the weekend. There is a great deal of diversity within Christiandom, and I felt it was appropiate to show that here.
  2. I have always been critical of our denomination’s weak Eucharistic Liturgy. The one found in our ecumenical order of worship is more rich and full, and I wanted to expose the campers and counselors to it. For those who may not be aware, a Disciples’ Eucharistic liturgy often consists of only the Words of Institution.
  3. Admittedly my personal preference leads me to desire a full Liturgy of the Word with a Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Paul was very talented and composed original arrangements for many of the Eucharistic songs.

There were a few technical/communication problems which may be due to the lack of familiarity with the liturgy. If I were to do something similar in the future I would insists on a quick run through with the musician and minister. I do admit that it can be somewhat complex. On the other hand, again due to the lack of familiarity, no one noticed that anything was out of order.


Saturday Evening Worship

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

Setup

The chairs were arranged in a large semi-circle with many rows, directly adjacent to the stage. There was a small center which the leaders spoke from. “Let the preparation this room be an act of worship in itself.”


Instructions: We are going to enter our worship with a meditative song. Meditate on these words and let them guide your worship this evening. Even if you know the words, I ask that you remain silent and hear them anew.

Meditative Song (Colin & James):  We Are the Body.

Instruction (Brandon):  Turn in your seats and pair up in twos. The person on the left will pray the first part to their partner, the person on the right will pray the second part in response, everyone will respond “Alleluia.” Pray with me.

Brandon (left) : The Lord said you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witness to the ends of the earth.

Andrea (right): Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of God’s love.

ALL: Alleluia!

Scripture (Michelle): Acts 2:1-12 [skipping people names]

Song (Colin & James): Rising From the Ashes.

Prayer (Trevor)

Continue song (Colin & James)

Chorus (Paul)

Benediction (Brandon): Let this song be our benediction.

Continue song (Paul): Get Up and Go!


Commentary

This worship experience was designed with the help of campers and a fellow counselor during free time earlier that day. The planning experience was not only planning but also partly instruction on what it means to worship: How do we enter and exit worship time and space? It is not about what happens up front, but rather we should ask “how can we lead our fellow campers to worship where they are?”

A camper suggested the reception of the Holy Spirit as the focus of the evening worship. Earlier that day the keynote speaker talked about different names for God. In the scripture we read how many people heard about God in their own language.

I asked how we might set up the space convey this message and a camper suggested that we avoid the traditional center aisle as it might show division whereas the scripture conveyed a unity. We went a step farther and created the semi-circle to better foster the unity and community expressed in the Scripture. Worshipers were able to look at each other.

Two campers happened to be gifted musicians and offered a song they had written themselves which was most appropriate. They allowed for a time of prayer in the middle of the song. It was titled Rising From the Ashes. The campers acknowledged how this fits with the fire imagery of Pentecost. The verses of the song were wonderfully Christ-centered. This helped to balance the largely horizontal focus thus far with a vertical (direct praise of God).

The “pair-prayer” was another camper’s idea, again to convey unity and also a commission. It may have worked better as “repeat-after-me” as opposed to reading form the screen (which took the focus off of one’s peer).

Paul had a great sending out song, Get Up and Go. Which we felt stood on its own as a benediction.


Saturday Morning Worship

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Setup

Simple rows facing forward with a center aisle.


Liturgy

Call to Worship: Deut 6:4-9

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (tNIV)

Responsorial Psalm (with choral refrain): 104

Choral Refrain: A Salam Shalom (Paul)

Bless the LORD, O my soul!

O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!

You are clothed with majesty and glory,

robed in light as with a cloak.

Choral Refrain

All creatures look to you

to give them food in due time.

When you give it to them, they gather it;

when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

Choral Refrain

If you take away their breath, they perish

and return to their dust.

When you send forth your spirit, they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

Song (from the refrain)

Silent prayer/journaling With the Shema on powerpoint give the worshipers an opportunity to “write the words of the Lord.” Carry this with you in a pocket throughout this day.

Song: (Paul)

Dismissal inspired by Chalice Worship 708 (p.431)

God has planted his word within our hearts. Our God sends us forth this day to carry this word where-ever we go. Enter this day with his word as our guide. Let us continue to worship the Lord our God in all we do this day. Amen.


Commentary

The theme for the weekend was “coexist.” I did not feel comfortable to go too far outside of the Christian tradition when it came to worship. However, I believed that the Shema and a responsive psalm fit well. The focus on the Old Testament aided the theme as well as looked at an often neglected portion of our Scriptures.

There was a balance between the community and the individual. We responded to the psalm together as a community, and the journaling allowed for a private response. Unfortunately I was not able to get the words on power-point in time and instead I read the Shema several times. On the other hand this may have fit with the text “Hear, O Israel.”


Friday Gathering

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Setup

The room was cleared of all chairs so that we had open space. I asked everyone to spread out as far as possible.


Liturgy

Call to Worship:

Come, let us worship the Lord our God. Let us praise him in song and prayer as we gather this evening to commit ourselves and this camp to his Holy Name. Amen.

Leader:

To begin our worship, I invite you to pray silently, by yourself, asking God to guide you as we seek him this weekend.

30 seconds silent prayer.

Song: I Will Worship My God (Paul)

Leader:

Now, find those who you came to camp with, the people from your local church. Hold hands as

you gather together in a circle. Pray with your fellow church members that as a local community you may come closer to Christ and each other this weekend.

1-2 minutes for small group prayer.

Song: Come Let Us Worship Our God (Paul)

Leader:

We come together not only as individuals and local churches but also as the Body of Christ. Look for other churches near you and open your circle to include them. As your circle grows, find other groups around you and include them in your circle as well. Continue growing the circle until we are all gathered together in one large circle.

1-2 minutes for the gathering into one large circle.

After all are gathered…

Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, we ask that you be with us now. We come to this mountain top as individuals, as churches and as your assembled Body so that we may grow closer to you. Bless us and guide us in this quest. Be with our speaker, our counselors, our leaders, and each one of us that our hearts may be opened to receive your word for us this day, on this mountain top and for the days to come. Amen.

Song: Come Let Us Worship Our God (Paul)


Commentary

This service was intentionally very horizontal in nature. That is, it was focused on the worshiping community and their commitment to God and the weekend rather than explicitly vertical (address to God).

I understood that the youth culture is very individualistic. I didn’t want to attack this, but rather use it.  Still, I wanted to convey the message that while we are individuals, we still come together as a community.

The actions within the worship (standing individually, as a local church, and as an assembled body) helped to define what was happening at the retreat and the purpose for it – to gather as a church. Each phase did not overshadow the preceding one, but allowed for individualism within a local community, and local communities within the larger church.

There was also a transition from I language to We language in the music and prayers. This also helped to accomplish the sense of gathering and community.

The song was an original work by Paul. It did present a problem when all were gathered in a large circle that some people had their backs to the projector screen and could not see the words.


FebCamp Worship

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

This past weekend I attended FebCamp, a regional high-school youth retreat co-sponsored by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. I had the privledge of designing the worship experiences for the camp. Special thanks to Paul Svenson who led the music.

I will be sharing the liturgies here along with commentary on how I developed them. There were five worship services:

  • Friday evening gathering.
  • Saturday morning.
  • Saturday evening (youth planned & led).
  • Sunday morning communion service.
  • Sunday evening final service (youth planned & led).

I certainly welcome your comments, questions, improvements etc. If you were present for these worship experiences, I would love to have your input.


The empty sacrament

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

I went to my church’s regional (like a diocese or synod) gathering. There were several worship opportunities throughout the event in which communion was served. (We celebrate communion in every worship service)

There was no clear mark which signified an entrance into holy time – that worship was not set apart from our everyday lives. The worship leader just began to sing a song while everyone else continued their conversations. A sermon was given and someone came forward to introduce communion.

They emphasized how all are welcome, with no precondition. Neither sin, creed, nor status of baptism were reasons to separate one from the communion table. That it is a table of hospitality.

As the elements were passed I took and ate. I normally cross myself (as I learned from the Catholics) after I partake in order to mark the holy moment. But, I could not bring myself to do it this time because it felt so very profane. Not profane in the sense that it was irreverent or unholy, but simply ordinary. By the introduction to communion and a stress on symbolism, it was clear that this meal was only bread and juice. It tasted empty.

Do not misunderstand me. I believe communion is for all, invited by Christ. But it is not an ordinary meal like we eat in order to sustain our physical bodies. It is a spiritual food which nourishes the souls of those already united with Christ. It is certainly not a meal which one can approach on one’s own terms – for it is Christ’s table, not ours.

Emptier still.
Saturday morning we worshiped again. This time the communion elements included pretzels and gold fish crackers. I cannot recall the justification for this practice at this time because I remember feeling so empty at the thought.

Granted, nearly all Christians in this tradition believe communion to be symbolic only. But what happens when you tamper with the symbol? When I approached the communion plate and saw the pretzels and gold-fish crackers I did not think of Christ’s last meal, but rather a children’s party. For that is what those elements symbolize.

I did not partake. I had to leave the worship service at that point because I was so angry and I took a walk until lunch.

The church said “look how hip, cool, and open WE are that we can do this.” I believe Christ was overshadowed by this novelty. It is a feat in mental acrobatics when we attempt to force a new symbol to mean what the bread and wine once meant.

Symbol or not, let us not profane (make ordinary) the Table of the Lord.


How can I share communion with my wife?

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

The biggest spiritual hindrance to our marriage is that we are not able to share communion at the same table. My wife is Roman Catholic and I am not.

I have approached our pastor and asked to receive and was told that if I want to commune with my wife I would have to become Roman Catholic.

So that means, even though we are united in the sacrament of matrimony and we both have faith in Jesus, we cannot share that faith together at the table – the source and summit of our spiritual lives.

A proposed solution:

I could take some bread from the communion table at my Protestant Church with me to mass. And then my wife could take her communion at Catholic Church back to the pew with her, and then both her and I could communion together.

Or maybe I could just eat the “bread” as she goes forward. As far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, I’m just having a snack. While of course, I do understand the bread to be the essence of Christ and is thus communion for me.

What do you think?
What do you think? Good idea, bad idea, got a better idea? What are some theological implications of this solution? What are the theological implications of a husband and wife who do/can not share the Eucharist?