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  • Free Church Liturgese

    Or, words that those of us who grew up in free churches probably know, have forgotten, and occasionally confuse other people with.

    This came to mind from following a thread on Glen's blog, where he alluded to a 'scriptural call to worship' an example of free church language that I understood (and use) but is completely opaque to many within, never mind outwith, the church.  It made me start thinking about some of the words/phrases and even elements of services that we have - or used to have - and realising what a lot of insider language we employ.  Casting my mind back over 30+ years of URC, Methodist and Baptist experience I came up with these examples, some now rarely used, and wonder what people would choose to add?

    Introit - a song or verse sung (by the choir if there is one) before any other word is spoken

    Moment of silence - does what it says on the tin!  Stop chatting to your neighbour or reading the notice sheet, the service is about to start

    Call to worship - some words of scripture or liturgy used at the start of the service to help people to focus Godwards

    Lesson - I still hear this in some older congregations - the Bible reading(s) for the day

    Children's address/talk - the bit aimed at making those under 12 feel like they are part of proceedings and may be followed by...

    Children's song/chorus - usually chosen by adults and meant to be something younger children can enjoy and engage with.

    Anthem - so far as I can tell this means a piece of SATB choral music that would sound wonderful in a cathedral but, alas, is often beyond the capability of the chapel choir who attempt it.  Comes between the reading(s) and sermon in my (limited) experience, and I guess is aimed at helping one to prepare for that.

    Notices/announcements - classic interruption to many services, though often now precedes the call to worship, where dates of upcoming events are listed.  Is it part of worship or not - answers on a post card, opinions vary!

    Offertory/Collection - money gathering exercise; nowadays often resulting in visitors fumbling embarrassedly for loose change while regular members smuggly pass the plate/bag on because they use direct debit...

    Vesper - a song sung at the end of the service, usually the evening service in my experience, to mark its ending.  May be instead of or as well as ...

    Doxology - a blessing, sung or spoken.  Often either 'Praise God from whom all blessings flow' sung to 'Old Hundredth' or 'May God's Blessing Surround You Each Day' from Mission Praise.  Elsewhere this is replaced by...

    The Grace - a recitation of 2 Corinthians 13:14 which may take place with eyes tightly closed or with everyone looking around trying to catch (or not) the eyes of other people as they do so.  And or...

    The Blessing - a prayer spoken by the preacher that may sum up something of the sermon and seek God's protection 'until we meet again


    So, any revisions to definitions or obvious omissions (apart from things like 'sermon' that are common across most traditions)...


    PS I realise SATB is another kind of insider language - sorry.   It means four part harmonisation for a choir of soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices.

  • Challenge Your Preacher...!

    This Sunday is our 'Family Favourites' service.  All the hymns and songs have been chosen by church folk, as will be the two Bible readings.  I have also been asked if we can launch our annual shoebox campaign, which we are doing a bit differently this year: rather than waiting for people to fill shoeboxes at the last minute, in good Dibley fashion, someone has offered to oversee collection and packing of boxes with individuals contributing items of their chossing over a longer period of time.  I have just printed off copies of the Operation Christmas Child knitting patterns so that those who knit can contribute in that way.

    The challenge is that I have to provide a 5 minute reflection or meditation and I won't know for certain what the readings are until they happen.  For a lover of order rather than chaos this is a really good challenge!  I do know that one reading will the feeding of the 5,000 because the person has told me (though whose/which version I won't know until she reads it) but the other one could be anything at all.  Having failed to find anything suitable (e.g. on sharing or generosity) in my various books of poems and meditations I am just going to have to trust that inspiration arrives on the day.  Good challenge.

  • Rising Fives

    It is now just over five years since I left the Baptist college where I trained - the date on the book plate in my NIVi (the book I chose as my leaving gift) says 17th June 2003, a date also recalled as the second 'no' vote after a preach with a view in an ancient university city notable for its lack of a Baptist college.  A lot of water has flown under bridges and down baptistry plug holes in that time, and I have been in my little church in Dibley for a little over 4.5 years.  Where did the time go?!

    With one of my various 'hats' I was at a meeting a couple of weeks back where someone was presenting ideas for support of ministers 'after NAM' as a part of which they told us what a massive difference the programme had made in terms of ministers surviving long enough to get the official handshake.  Ministers 'under five' are it seems the most vulnerable to drop out and the NAM scheme - and now a voluntary post-NAM scheme based on ideas from Yorkshire - make a big difference.

    Many, though by no means all, of my minister friends are also rising fives.  Some of us trained together, some of us met through NAM events or special interest groups.  Some of us know each other really well, others maybe spend an hour together once every Preston Guild.  We have a whole range of views on anything and everything, and can agree to disagree.  Some are chandelier swinging charismaniacs, some are bappo-catholic liturgists (OK I exaggerate both for effect!) a lot of us are eclectic mixtures.  Theologically we are left, right and centre. All of us are pretty passionate about mission - and respect each other's approaches to it.  But I think we all know that if push came to shove, these people would be there for us.

    We are, I suspect, all quite good at seeing what is wrong with our beloved Union (cos we aren't a denomination, no, not us!) but part of what makes it so good is that, somehow, it is a very broad church held together not by doctrinal statements but a set of principles that espouse faith, hope and love.  We get a lot wrong, a lot of the time, but overall I reckon we are a pretty decent band of pilgrims to be part of, and at least we try (yup, we're very trying sometimes).

    Enough mush - I have to get ready to speak at a ladies meeting this afternoon to say nothing of a thousand other jobs.

    To all rising five ministers out there - happy birthday to us, we made it!  And to those 'older' or 'younger' we love you too.

  • Preaching on Praying

    At our vision day a few weeks back now, my little congregation decided our prayer life needed an overhaul.  Our pre-service prayer meeting had bitten the dust and the take-up on the two alternatives was very limited.  Two people undertook to do something about it - one to set up a phone-based prayer network and another to get some study guides on prayer.  Both have been done but the uptake is still virtually nil.  So it falls to me - stalwart supporter of all the endeavours they come up with - to do a bit of preaching on prayer over the summer.  It's one of those themes I seem to have to return to at least once a year, and what I'd love to do - to set aside six weeks to epxerience different styles of prayer - would not be deeemd appropriate for Sunday worship.  Instead, I'm trying to think up some new avenues to explore and some new ways of doing so within the broadly familiar framework of Dibley sensibilities.

    So far, aside from the usual themes (such as praise, confession, intercession etc) I have come up with one avenue to explore which is the whole area of private and corporate prayer.  How does one balance Matthew 6:5ff (go into your room and shut the door) with various bits of Acts where the believers are met together praying?  Given that most of the open prayer times in deacons' meeting are filled with embarassed silence, never mind any such endeavours at church (though I can usually get a few spontaneous thank you prayers), should I also be picking up spoken and silent prayer as a theme?

    Answers on a postcard to the usual address!

  • The Big Summer Sing

    This morning I had three helpers as we set about making enough sandwiches for the 5,000.  Jesus might have had five small loaves and two fish; we eventually used seven loaves and a few tins of salmon and tuna (so more a la 4,000 really) plus cheese, ham and eggs.  At 2 p.m. some more helpers arrived at school and we set up the hall cafe style, put crisps into bowls, cakes on plates, filled the urn and lined up the bowls ready for the strawberries!

    At 3 p.m. we had 30 people gathered and singing.  Not a massive number, less than we'd hoped for and a fair few church folk noticeably absent.  Someone commented that it was a shame more lunch club folk hadn't come, especially as they'd chosen the hymns, and maybe it was.  But at the same time it was good to seven visitors, five of whom don't normally go to any church.  If a big congregation attracted a ~30% level of visitors it would be seen as wonderful, so why not when my little church does?

    Everyone tucked in to the sandwiches, gobbled the cakes and demolished the strawberries; most people took a 'doggy bag' home with them for tomorrow's lunch or tea.

    It was a good event and people really enjoyed the singing, the company and the food.  For me, it would have been worthwhile if no visitors had come ans we'd enjoyed quality time as a felllowship.  To have a 30% increase on the congregation we'd otherwise have had was a bonus. 

    Next Sunday it's "Family Favourites" and the launch of the 2008 shoebox appeal (!) giving us another opportunity to worship God together and to reach out in a different way to share God's love with others who don't have blessings we take for granted.