This provides a framework for those involved in preparation for Sunday worship at Seekers Church. Guidelines for Selecting Music”, “Guidelines for Preaching, and Guidelines for Liturgists were prepared by Celebration Circle; The Children’s Word was prepared by the Children’s Team. All are based in the experience of the community, and are offered with love and with the understanding that sometimes the Spirit of God moves us to ignore all rules and guidelines.
“In the metaphor of centuries of hymnody, ancient and modern, we discern that God is always more than our human words are able to express. Our reverence for the mystery of God’s being invites humility as we seek language that opens human hearts to the good news of God’s love for all creation. We acknowledge the limitations of our words while we confess that in Jesus Christ the Work of God became flesh and lived within history.
Where language fails us, we live with confidence that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. Our hymns are a testimony to this ministry of the Holy Spirit. Hymns are far more than the sum of their parts. They become for us a language that transcends human speech. They are the poetry of eternity within time. They are signs of grace that comes from beyond ourselves.”
from the Forward to The New Century Hymnal
In Seekers Church, we understand that the Holy Spirit speaks to each of us in different ways, and some of us are called to share what we hear through word and music in worship. That’s why we have a different person preaching each Sunday, and different musicians offering music for worship. This diversity of leadership offers wonderful variety – and also needs a bit of coordination.
Based on the experiences of those who have selected music for worship at Seekers, the responses by members in the congregation to that music, and ongoing conversations with other interested Seekers, Celebration Circle offers the following guidelines to those who will be selecting music in the future.
Music usually should undergird the season’s theme, the week’s lections and/or the sermon. Preachers should be consulted when selecting music, but the core group of musicians who select music need to keep the larger picture of Seekers worship in mind, and should at all times be guided by the Holy Spirit, who grants them authority at the point of their call.
Consider the variety of hymnals available:
- New Century Hymnal (UCC)
- Rise Up Singing
- The Faith We Sing
In addition to hymnals, we someetimes use bulletin inserts with lyrics or music from other sources. These inserts are printed on half-sheets of regular letter paper, so that they fit inside the bulletin, and should include the appropriate indication of copyright permission from CCLI, GIA, or other copyright holder.
Remember that the hymns are what people are praying. Teach any new hymns during Circle Time, so that people will have a chance to enter fully into them during the rest of worship. Remember, though, that Circle Time is not choir practice.
Consider the timing and function or place of each piece of music in the liturgy:
- ~3 minutes
- bring us to a common, worshipful state
b) First hymn
- understood as part of the Call to Worship
- spirituals or other songs easy for children to learn
- worshipful, theological content appropriate for both children and adults
c) Second hymn
- preparation for the Word
- related to sermon, seasonal theme, or lectionary readings for the week
- ~2 to 3 minutes
- bring closure to the Word
- match tone/complete images
e) Third hymn
- bring closure to the service
- send us forth to action/mission
- not the place to try new hymns
In general, we will strive for live music rather than recorded music to be used for the Prelude and Offertory. But as in all musical matters, the judgment must be case-by-case.
The degree and precision of the music’s connection with the sermon, lection, season, etc. must be tempered by other musical and spiritual considerations that are impossible to codify. We trust that our musicians will take on this task prayerfully and sensitively each week.
Language and style considerations for all hymns:
Style may be contemporary, classical, traditional, folk, etc. as fits the occasion.
Language should reflect the theology of Seekers as found in the Stewards Commitment Statement:
“We worship God as triune being. We believe:
- that the Creator – father and mother to us all, ground of being – loves, sustains, and calls us;
- that Jesus Christ, who for our sake lived, was crucified, died, rose from the dead, and now bids us to a ministry of love and justice;
- that the Holy Spirit, as the empowering presence and breath of God, confronts and inspires us to do God’s work in the world.”
- be inclusive – speak to and for all God’s people
- be mindful that people come from a variety of traditions and differ over theology
“Our interest in singing hymns is not antiquarian but communitarian – singing to God from where we are. . . . It is traditional for hymn-texts to be altered. . . . Language, like music, has formative power . . . [like] invisible mending, elegant changes [are] close to the spirit, language, and theology of the original.”
from “Why Do They Keep Changing the Good Old Hymns” by Brian Wren
Remember, always leave room for the Holy Spirit!
The Children’s Word at Seekers Church is a time when we intentionally communicate our Christian perspective with the children of our community. We hope that the following points will help you in your preparation.
- The Children’s Word should be geared primarily towards the children even though adults always enjoy listening too. Consider your audience to be the five- to six- year-olds and use words and concepts that they will be able to understand. Try to keep it simple. If they understand then you know that everyone will understand.
- The time allocated for the Children’s Word is five minutes. Because of this time limitation it is best if you have only one or two ideas that you want to cover. Stories, concrete examples, or using objects are good ways to build interest and communicate your ideas.
- Try to consider the lectionary scriptures in what you prepare to share with the children. If you wish you may want to coordinate with the preacher for that Sunday.
- Seekers Church intentionally uses inclusive language when referring to “God” or “Christ” or “Holy Spirit.” Please do not use masculine pronouns and adjectives for “God” (e.g., do not use “he” or “him” or “his”) or “God the Father,” especially because the Hebrew Scriptures sometimes refer to the feminine aspect of God and the Holy Spirit. Masculine pronouns and adjectives may be used when referring to Jesus but not when referring to “Christ” or “the Word” (in John’s Gospel). Generally, use “Sovereign” instead of “Lord,” “Child” rather than “Son” and “the Human One” rather than the “Son of Man.”
- In the children’s annual commitment statement to Seekers Church they promise “To take care of the air, water, and earth, and to love the animals, birds, and fish in it…” To support this, when the lectionary scriptures speak of sacrificing birds or animals, please either omit this from the Children’s Word or state that Christian churches don’t make such sacrifices. You might also mention that many Christians have become vegetarians or vegans.
- Have a brief prayer before dismissing the children.
Thank you for being willing to share with our children.
These are guidelines, not rules. Each of us who offers the Word to the community during worship must, in the end, be guided by God’s Spirit as we prepare and present what we have to offer. Celebration Circle seeks to encourage your creativity, while maintaining a sense of our faith journey together as a community.
As you select the form of your preaching offering, consider the variety – teaching, prophecy, visioning, participative, non-verbal, etc. We encourage variety, and want you to use a form that empowers you. If you want to talk over an unconventional approach, call Celebration Circle. As you prepare, consider how:
- your sermon can be related to the theme for the worship season;
- your offering is grounded in your personal theological understanding: use your own story as one part of our story as a Christian community;
- your offering can build the life of Seekers. Encouragement, teaching, and prophetic confrontation all have a place, but the goal is to engage with us as a community and help us be on our journey;
- you can invite us to an encounter with God, and a relationship with Christ;
- you can invite each of us into a deeper connection with Seekers’ Church;
- you can invite us to an outer journey in mission as well as an inner journey of spiritual growth;
- you can link us to our Christian tradition;
- you can shed light on the meaning of Christian discipleship in terms of our heritage within Church of the Saviour – servant leadership, committed membership, mission, call, gifts, etc.
And don’t forget to Leave room for the Holy Spirit!
These guidelines are an attempt to capture our 30 years of experience in this approach to facilitating worship. They are not rules, but those of us who frequently serve as liturgist have found them useful as a reminder of what we have found that works for us.
To model gender balance in leading worship, when a woman preaches we have a man serve as liturgist, and vice versa. Most of the time our liturgists are members of Celebration Circle mission group. Occasionally we invite other members of Seekers Church to serve as liturgist.
In our worship, the liturgist carries these key functions:
- Hold the space so all who are worshiping can feel safe to open to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
- Lead the community in prayer by offering poetic bidding prayers that hold up images for praise, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession, images that are grounded in the lections for the week as well as events in the world and in the life of the community.
- Allow for and honor opportunities for improvisational response to the movement of the Spirit.
- Bridge any gaps in the flow of worship to minimize disruptions for those worshiping.
- Gently bring our worship to completion within the expected time.
It is a tall order, and we often fall short of the mark somewhere along the line.
All sit in silence through prelude
Liturgist stands at lectern as people settle down
Liturgist reads the reflection paragraph
Candles are lighted after reflection reading
10:10 CALL TO WORSHIP
Invite all to stand as they are able for call to worship; acknowledge that some may not be able to stand physically
If two voices, identify them before beginning call to worship
All remain standing for Invocation
Addressed to God
Acknowledge presence of God
Lead us into awareness of God’s presence
Include some Trinitarian reference
Liturgist announces hymnal, hymn number, and title; repeat number
All remain standing as able for first hymn
WORD FOR THE CHILDREN
All sit for word for the children
Liturgist stands while children and teachers leave
Liturgist starts singing “Jesus Loves Us…”
Liturgist stands for silence
Invite time of silence and reflection
Hold silence for reflection (~two minutes)
Liturgist stands for prayers
Liturgist should hold the space and avoid offering personal prayers aloud
Liturgist invites all to continuing prayer, and common confession
If two voices, identify them (or remind people) before beginning
All say common confession
Liturgist invites individual confession; holds space
Liturgist offers assurance
Liturgist invites prayers of praise and thanksgiving
Invitation prayer opens breadth of things to pray for
Invitation prayer is long enough to let people enter in more deeply
Include references to lectionary readings when appropriate
Liturgist invites individual prayers of praise and thanksgiving; holds space
Liturgist invites prayers of petition and intercession
Use same pattern as for praise and thanksgiving
Liturgist invites all to pray the prayer of commitment
10:35 SECOND HYMN
Announce hymnal, hymn number, and title; repeat number
Liturgist invites all to stand as able
Liturgist invites all to be seated
Liturgist announces readings; invites readers by name
Liturgist remains standing at lectern
Readers offer lections from within congregation
Pause between readings for short (15-30 second) silence if time permits
Generally, the person who reads the Gospel stands at the front of the room, near the altar. After reading Gospel, reader brings Bible to altar table
Liturgist introduces preacher, noting their role in the community
Liturgist sits down as preacher comes to lectern
11:05 SILENT REFLECTION
Liturgist remains seated; holds short silence
Liturgist stands and invites giving gifts to God
Liturgist hands offering plate to designated offering gatherer
Liturgist watches for timing clues while offering is gathered
Liturgist stands at lectern after offering gathered (and music finished if possible)
Liturgist silently invites all to stand as offering is placed on altar table
Gatherer offers prayer/movement as desired
Liturgist introduces reflection time, inviting people to reflect on their work with the lectionary, our time together, or their own journey
Liturgist calls on individuals by name, if possible
Liturgist actively monitors time remaining
Begin with any special ribbon blessings as scheduled
Liturgist introduces as part of worship “…our ministry beyond this place…”
Liturgist monitors time
11:15 FINAL HYMN
Announce hymnal, hymn number, and title; repeat number
Liturgist invites all to stand as able
All remain standing
Invite congregation to greet one another with signs of peace