Worship Planning

Ever since I read this article on Fidelia’s Sisters, I have dreamed of worship planning with my congregation in this very prayerful manner. Last month, we began the experiment at The United Churches. The first worship planning group met. Eight were invited. Seven showed up. (I was pretty amazed at that fact alone.) And then, we set about the courageous task of planning for Lent. As suggested in this article written by my friend Ashley, there were multiple layers to this planning process.

First, we remember those moments in worship that have really resonated. All of those ideas are scribbled onto big paper on an easel. Then, we sing some songs from the season. And then, we jump into talking about the lectionary texts for the season. Before we gather, each person is sent all of the readings — Hebrew Scriptures, Psalms, Gospel Lessons and Epistles — that carry us through the season. They are each asked to pick out one passage that really spoke to them and highlight an image, a phrase, a word, the social context from that passage that really stood out. We scribble all of those ideas on more easel paper. Then, we talk about what’s going on in our church, in our community and in the world. You can see those notes to the right.

And then, with all of these papers around us, we try to notice what themes jump out — and what we’d like to do with them. There were a couple of things that stood out for this first group. They all loved the Psalms. We kept returning to this idea that these were words you could take with you. They were words to carry. They were words for the journey. That was an important thing for this group. They were ready to move. They wanted to go somewhere — and they wanted to move in the worship space as we did it. Somehow this introduced the concept of purging or that ritual act of letting go in this holy season of Lent. The youth among us described it as showering after a really good run. You need to wash off all the grime. That’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to let go of things so that we could make room for resurrection. It would be a journey toward hope. But, there was one more key element to this letting go. It involved boxes — moving boxes specifically.

This group was invited to dream. Their charge is not to implement. So, with all of these wonderful daydreaming, I set about trying to imagine what our worship might look like as we moved toward hope with moving boxes. I’m still not totally sure of the result. The worship order for the season has been created. The bulletin is printed for Sunday. All of the boxes are in place, but I don’t really know what will happen as we share in this ritual purge of a different item each week. This week is shoes. Next week, we’ll collect dreams deferred. The following week we’ll gather non-perishable food. I’m not really sure how this will all work, but I hope that God will go with us and truly lead us toward hope.

In the meantime, I really like how the chapel looks. It truly looks like we’re ready to move.

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