the Church often wonders about its mission. For years we’ve said the Church doesn’t have a mission but is God’s mission in the world – and then we struggle to articulate what that might mean for our life together! Many churches try and discern their work using the Five Marks of Mission (but forget what they are!) and these, oddly, don’t mention worship. Whatever else the Church does, worship is key to our life together. Worship gives us the energy to serve our communities, the strength to witness to our faith, the passion we need to evangelise – or at least it should!
The biggest changes Christians saw in the Reformation era were about worship – most Christians probably didn’t follow the theological arguments but saw the pattern of worship change; the move to the language of the people instead of Latin, congregational instead of choral singing, along with the exposition of Scripture (which itself had been read to them in their own language) in (longer) sermons and more frequent reception of Communion were startling changes – along with the physical changes to church buildings. In the Catholic reaction to the Reformation, changes to worship were key.
Worship matters. Not for nothing to we name our clergy “ministers of the Word and Sacraments” and expend a large part of our resources in training and sustaining them. Similarly we give a lot of resources to train lay preachers so that the people of God are themselves nurtured and sustained in worship. My role was created to give tangible expression to our commitment to worship and to focus, in particular in helping resource ministers, lay preachers, elders and local churches as the new digital technology gives us opportunities not seen since the invention of the printing press in the 16th Century.
We now provide Worship Notes which assist in the careful preparation of worship. They offer all the prayers needed (and some that might not be!), notes on the readings that could be built into a sermon, and suggestions for hymns (which might be used or might stimulate the thinking of those who lead worship). They are used by hard pressed Elders who haven’t been trained to lead worship as well as busy Lay Preachers and ministers. Sometimes they spark thoughts, other times they can be used in their entirety, most often selections from them are used to enhance the worship leader’s own ideas. The notes can be found here https://urc.org.uk/your-faith/prayer-and-worship/worship-notes/ They are always produced at least a month in advance, often longer.
This week our notes have been provided by the Rev’d Fiona Bennett, Minister of Augustine United Church in Edinburgh. As you know Fiona served as Moderator of Assembly until July this year. Fiona offers an all age activity based on the idea of family resemblance as a way in to thinking about the Church as God’s family. In her sermon notes Fiona suggests we can find some comfort in the fact that a hero of the faith like Moses needed some encouragement and muses on how, just as in Jesus’ time, it’s hard to avoid systems and structures which deny God. All the prayers needed for the service are there as are a range of hymns to explore.
This resource is designed to help plan worship locally. We also offer services by PowerPoint (which can be adapted) if you’d prefer to facilitate worship that way as a form of pulpit supply. Our preachers video themselves giving the introduction, sermon, and blessing and, at least once a month, presiding at Communion. These videos are placed into a PowerPoint file along with audio recordings of the prayers. The words of the hymns and recordings of them are also placed into the file too. We provide an Order of Service too. Some churches want to change the hymns, or strip the sound file out so they can be played locally. Others want to just use the videos and use the script we provide to lead the prayers and readings locally. All this is possible with this resource. Sign up here if you’d like to access those materials and drop me a line so I can send you the current set of PowerPoint material for pulpit supply along with the audio and print versions to distribute locally to those who can’t get to church and don’t have access to the Internet.
We are building up a bank of prayers that can be useful as people craft worship or wish to use in their own prayer life. We’ve arranged the material by season on the website – click on the Your Faith tab, then Prayer and Worship, then Prayers for Church Seasons or click here. This resource is being expanded all the time and is another way in which the church is hoping to equip leaders of worship.
Finally, each week we provide sample prayers of intercession. Worship leaders for the Daily Devotion services prepare their material months in advance and so we like to also offer intercessions which reference the readings but also draw in current events. This week’s prayers have been written by the Rev’d Helen Everard. They can be downloaded here.
I hope you find them useful – do let us know your thoughts on these resources as you use them.
with every good wish
The Rev’d Andy Braunston Minister for Digital Worship