For Ordinary time

One: With our lips (touch lips)
All: we give thanks!
One: With our hearts (touch heart)
All: we give thanks!
One: With our minds (touch head)
All: we give thanks!
One: With our lives (swish from head to toe)
All: we give thanks!
One: For our lives within – (both hands to centre)
All: for the world around – (big round earth)
One: We give thanks, (cupped hands)
All: Loving God! (crossed arms)
Alleluia, ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA!
AMEN!

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Handedness – Romans 14.3-4

(Start by asking who in the congregation is left handed, and who is right handed.)

I’m going to ask you to do some pretending with me, today.

Once upon a time, long, long ago and far, far away there was a church. This church was quite a bit different from our church, in lots of different ways – but one thing was the same – it was made up of people! Now, some of these people were right-handed (Right-Handers, please wave.) Some of these people were left-handed (Left-Handers, please wave.) For the most part, they got along pretty well.

Except… except… well, except that each group believed they were better than the other.

The left-handers would pat themselves on the back and say, “We’re much better than the right-handers!” (Left-Handers, please pat your back.) The right-handers would pat themselves on the back and say, “Oh – WE are the best handers in the whole wide world.” (Right-Handers, please pat your back.)

When they would pray, the right-handers would put their right hand up, so that it would be closer to God… ’cause they thought God was up. (Right-handers, please put your hand up to pray). When they would pray, the left-handers would put their left hand up, so that it would be closer to God… because they thought God was up, too. (Left-handers, please put your hand up to pray.)

After a while, someone noticed that the other group was doing it differently. (Can everyone say, “Hey, that’s different!”) After a while, someone decided that it wasn’t just different… it was wrong. (Can everyone say, “HEY! THAT’S WRONG!”)

The left-handers shook their left-hands at the right-handers. The right-handers shook their right-hands at the left-handers. The right-handers said, “God likes us better, because we’re doing it right.” The left-handers said, “God likes us better, because we’re special!” And everybody got very, very angry.

One day, while the people in the church were shaking their “special” hand at each other, visitors came to visit. The visitors watched. The visitors listened. The visitors wondered.

Then the visitors put both of their hands in front of their faces and looked carefully at each of them – the right hands and the left hands.

Then the visitors put both of their hands in their laps and prayed.

Then the visitors sat on their hands and prayed.

Then the visitors brought both of their hands in front of their face and looked carefully at each of them – the left hands and the right hands.

As the visitors did this, things got quieter, because the right-handers and the left-handers were wondering what was going on. When the visitors realized everyone was staring, they said, “Oh.. hi. We don’t get it. God made our left-hands and God made our right-hands. They look very much the same. They can do similar things. I’m glad they’re a part of my body. don’t you think God is glad, too?” And they raised both their hands in the air, singing a song of thanksgiving and celebration.

Slowly, people began to join them… singing, celebrating… and raising both of their hands.

The apostle Paul met a congregation like that. They weren’t worried about hands, but about what people were eating. Here’s what he had to say: “Those who eat meat must not despise those who don’t, and those who don’t must not pass judgment on those who eat, for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for God is able to make them stand.” (Romans 14.3-4, NRSV)

What do you think?

(First printed in “gathering: resources for worship planners” Summer/Autumn 2007)

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A retelling of 1 Corinthians 1.10-18

Now… I appeal to you, sibs, by the name of our Head, Jesus the Christ –
that all of you be in agreement, and that you not be divided,
but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose!
I’ve been told by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you…
my sisters and brothers!

What I mean is that one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” another, “I belong to Cephas,” and someone else, “I belong to Christ.”

Has Christ been divided?

Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised in my name?

I thank God that I baptized NONE of you… (except Crispus and Gauis)… so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name.

Oh.

I did baptize also the household of Stephanas – beyond that I… do not know whether I baptized anyone else.

Christ did not send me to baptize, but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power – for the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved it is the power of God!

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Closing the Covenant of the Pastoral Relationship

As I prepared to move to a new pastoral relationship, I wanted a ritual way of bringing the current one to a close. Because, in The United Church of Canada, the pastoral relationship is a three-way covenant between minister, pastoral charge and Presbytery, overseen by God, I felt it important to connect the closing of the covenant with its opening.

This was shared at the end of my last service with the congregation:

Minister:
Something special happened in this place, in the middle of (Liturgical Season and Year). It was then that we began to share in ministry together. A few months later you, me and Presbytery
officially recognized that new beginning, in the eyes of God, through a service of covenant.
Over the last ( ) years and ( ) months we’ve had some times of joy and some times of frustration. We’ve challenged each other, we’ve learned from each other, we’ve done a lot to care for each other… and we’ve worshiped God together. There is nothing that can take away the memories and learning from the relationship we have developed.

However… as the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is a time for beginnings and a time for endings. I will hold each of you – St. Marys and this congregation, dear in my heart – in friendship and in love.

But, after today, our relationship as Enabling Minister and congregation ends. I move to a new pastoral relationship, with a different congregation who have other difficulties and celebrations. With the support of (supply minister), you will have time to prepare yourselves for a new pastoral relationship with a new minister – someone who has new skills and gifts – and that’s good.

As a denomination, we’re often good at celebrating the beginning of new relationships, but not quite as good at marking their ending. I would like us to take a moment to think about our sorrows and our joys together… and to say goodbye.

(Some silent time)

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Litany for a celebration of a bequest

In 2007, St. Andrew’s (Haney) United Church received a bequest from the estate of a long-time member of the congregation. This was the first bequest received by the congregation. As the Trustees worked on the best stewardship of this gift , I was asked to create some kind of ‘liturgical celebration of the gift’, to be part of our Sunday morning worship.

This is what came together.

St. Andrew’s (Haney) is used to a weekly “Minute for Mission” or “Minute for St. Andrew’s”, in the response section of the liturgy, just prior to sharing in the offerings.

It made sense that the ‘celebration of the gift’ would go there.

A photograph of the person who made the gift was posted to the screen, along with her name and years of her life, followed by an ellipsis. (eg. Richard Bott 1968-2069-…)

I apologized to the guests who were present that morning, saying, “I hope you don’t mind if we take a few minutes to remember a person in the congregation who shared quite a bit of her life with us.”

Part of this individual’s joy was making people laugh, by wearing the strangest of hats… so I threw on my M&S “Cat in the Hat” hat.

Because she was well known to the congregation, I asked if they would share some of the things they remembered about her life. We took about 10 minutes, with stories about her love and connection being shared. (If she had not been as well known to the congregation, I would have asked someone who knew her to prepare and share a short ‘bio’, including the individual’s connections with the congregation.)

Then the convenor of the Trustees rose to explain that, in her will, the individual we were remembering had decided to give a gift of $X to the congregation, believing that it would help us to continue to live out our mission “to worship God, educate and serve in Christ’s name.”

After a moment of (somewhat stunned) silence, we entered into a prayer of thanksgiving, which included a congregational response.

One: For the gift of X’s life…
All: We thank you, God!
One: For the gift of your love through X’s life…
All: We thank you, God!
One: For the (here I picked out some of the things I had heard in the storytelling)
– hats
– jokes
– hugs
– smiles
– wisdom
– …
s/he shared with us…
All: We thank you, God!
One: For this gift, that will help us to continue
the ministries to which you Call us…
the ministries in which X shared,
the ministries in which she continues to live…
All: We thank you, God!
One: We ask you to help us to be wise in our use of this gift,
just as we ask you to help us to be wise
with all the gifts you have given.
All: In your love,
in Christ’s name,
in the communion of the Holy Spirit,
we pray… amen.

We then joined in singing “I, the Lord of sea and sky” (VU#509) (Lyrics & Music: Daniel Schutte, ©1981 Daniel Schutte & New Dawn Music)

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Worship service focused on interactive & communal exploration of scripture

I’ve tried this… and it worked for us – a congregation with about 90 people out that Sunday.

Resources needed: copies of scripture reading for each triad; bulletin board (or wall); tacks / stick-tack / tape; pens/pencils; paper;

• Call to Worship; Prayer of Approach; Opening Hymn (6 minutes)
• Ground-rules explained:
o respect of person, especially when we disagree!;
o This is about learning together – not about trying to convince others in the group that my understanding is more right than your understanding;
o the Facilitator is responsible for maintaining community; we agree to abide by their direction;
o We’ll keep to time. (3 minutes)
• Congregation breaks up in to triads. (3 minutes)
• Focus scripture is read, slowly and clearly! (It would be helpful if each triad had a copy of the scripture.) (3 minutes)
• Worship leadership explains some of the historical context of the passage. (“Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”… ok… as best we know them.) (5 minutes)
• Hymn (4 minutes)
• Ask triads to come up with one question that the passage raises in them. When they come up with their question, they print it on a sheet, and post it on the board. (5 minutes)
• Worship leadership tells the triads that each of the questions are going to be read out loud. Each triad is invited to choose a question to which they would like to give a response. (Not every question will be responded to. That’s ok! Multiple triads may choose to respond to the same question… that’s ok, too!) (5 minutes)
• Ask triads to put together their thoughts on the question they’ve chosen – trying to keep the responses to 2 minutes! (7 minutes)
• Invite people to write down their own responses or thoughts as they hear the triads share their responses. If responses cause more questions, write the questions on the paper and post them on the board. (10 – 20 minutes)
• If people have responses to what they’ve heard that they would like to share with the congregation, they are invited to do so… remembering to keep to the 2 minute time limit. (10 minutes)
• Offering (5 minutes)
• Triads are asked to share within their group one thing they’ve learned and one thing they want to do with what they’ve learned. (9 minutes)
• Focus scripture is read again. (3 minutes)
• Prayers of the people; Closing Hymn; Commissioning / Benediction (7 minutes)
• Total amount of time… ish!… (1hr15min to 1hr25min);

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For a “Church School Startup” Sunday

Preparation: Place two slips of paper in the bulletin – first slip has on it, “I ask you to pray for me, each day, as I work to learn of Christ’s teaching, God’s love, and the Spirit’s guidance in my life. Thank you for accepting this important task. God’s blessings be with you. ___________________ (Please print your name here)” On the back of that same slip should be written, “God of heaven and earth, thank you for the blessing of ____________ in your world. Hear my prayers for her/his life and growth. May s/he be open to your guidance and the teaching of those you have sent to him/her. Fill her/him with your love and grace, so that s/he might share your gifts with the world. Amen!” The second slip has on it “_________________ (place for another’s name). You are in my thoughts and my prayers. God’s love and my love are with you. _____________________ (Please print your name here.)”

Instructions to the congregation:

Today we start another year of Christian nurture and learning in our congregation. Sometimes it’s hard for us to remember that, while some of us take special responsibility for teaching or learning, all ofus are both students and teachers when it comes to growing in faith.

Many of the children of our congregation will be taking part in our Sunday school program. Some will also be taking part in our Junior Youth Group. many of the adults in our congregation will be taking part in our various faith nurture times. All of us will be learning in our day-to-day lives.

Let’s take a moment to pray for learning:

God… we give you thanks for the gifts of curiosity and learning. Than you for guiding us and teaching us by your Spirit. Thank you for the blessing of others on the journey. We pray for our learning and for their learning. We ask that you would help us in the difficult times, and celebrate with us in the joyful times. Help us to be open to learning in all that we do. Amen!

There will be people in our congregation who take on special responsibilities for helping individuals and groups as they grow as disciples of Christ. Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders, discussion group moderators, facilitators of all sorts. Let’s take a moment to pray for them:

Two: God, we give you thanks for the gifts of knowledge and compassion. Thank you for guiding us and teaching us by your Spirit. Thank you for the blessing of others on the journey. We pray for our teaching and for their teaching. We ask that you would hep us in the difficult times, and celebrate with us in the joyful ties. Help us to be open to sharing leadership in all that we do. Amen!

Today, we would like to make this covenant of prayer more personal. You have two slips of paper in your bulletin. Please take the green (Note: first slip) one out. Print your name on the bottom, please. Now, look around the congregation. All over! Who would you like to ask to pray for you? It doesn’t matter if they are your best friend, or someone who you’ve never met before. It doesn’t matter if they are just like you, or very different from you. Young, old, newcomer, long-timer. In a moment, I’m going to ask you to go and give them that slip of paper.

Now, take out the yellow slip (Note: second slip). Print your name at the bottom of the sheet. Look around the congregation. Who here would you like to pray for? Again, they may be someone you know, or someone you don’t. If you don’t know their name. feel free to ask (then write it down on your bulletin so you can take their name home with you).

Now, take those slips of paper to the people you’ve chosen.

(When everyone gets back to their seats…) Is there anyone who doesn’t have a yellow slip (Note: second slip)? (The minister takes yellow slips to those individuals, with the minister’s name printed on them.)

Please take these slips home. Put htem up on a place you’ll see regularly – your refrigerator, or your bathroom mirror, or above your desk. When you see them – pray! If you need some words to start you off, you’ll find some on the back of the slip.

Let’s take a moment, now, to pray for all the learners and teachers and growers gathered in our lives!

(First printed in “gathering: resources for worship planners” Summer/Autumn 2007)

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Learning Covenant

Jesus had this wonderful way of helping people to see the reign of God.
Sometimes he did it by telling stories.
Sometimes he did it by being a teacher.
Sometimes, he did it by being a student.

In this community of Jesus’ people, we try to be learners and teachers. We try to realize that every person has within them God’s gifts… and that if we listen carefully, we’ll learn something of God’s love through each and every person.

We’re at the beginning of a new season in the life of the congregation. The Book Group is meeting again. The Bible Study is meeting again. And… even though the Sunday School continued throughout the summer, they’ve geared up for even more learning and teaching!

Today, we are going to share some promises with each other – ones we’ve shared before.

Would everyone who is taking a leadership role in the Sunday School please rise, and move into the centre aisle?

(When they get there…)
Will you do everything in your power to both teach and learn from the children in our care? Will you love them and care for them, to the best of your ability, each and every day? If so, please say, “We will, God being our helper.”
Leaders; We will, God being our helper.”

Would all of the children and youth who will be taking part in the Sunday School or the Jr. Youth Group, please join the church school leaders in the aisle?

(When they get there…)
Will you do everything in your power to both teach and learn from the leaders? Will you love them and care for them, to the best of your ability, each and every day? If so, please say, “We will, God being our helper.”
Children & Youth: We will, God being our helper.

Would everyone in the congregation who is part of – or is intending to be part of – the UCW, the Book Group, the Bible Study Group, the study on Progressive Christianity, the Discipleship Group, the Prayer Exploration group, the Women’s Retreat Group, or uses the Daily Scripture and Prayer Pamphlets please join with the leaders and the children in the aisle?

(When they get there.)
Will you do everything you can to teach and to learn, to faithfully explore what it means to be in relationship with God and with one another? If you are ready to do this, please say, “We will, God being our helper!”
Gathered people: We will, God being our helper!”

Finally, would everyone who is attending worship this day please rise and celebrate that we are all learners and teachers in the household and family of God. Do you promise to live out Christ’s call, this day and the days to come? If you are ready to do this, let’s hear you say, “We will, God being our helper!”
All: We will, god being our helper!”

With our prayers and our promises, knowing that God is with us in each moment, we shout, “Hallelujah! AMEN!”
All: Hallelujah! AMEN!

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