For churches in the United States of America, there seems to be some creative tension between the winds of the Spirit and the President’s order for churches to reopen. There’s something about the hot air coming out of the White House that contrasts so powerfully with what the church is called to be and do. It’s something I feel like I missed in that Invitation to the Offering last week. It’s something I’m trying to illustrate from my own isolation bubble and something I’m wondering about how to teach to my children.
Going to church has become the moment where Mommy grabs her iPad and we settle onto the couch. It feels like a gift each and every time and I wish that my littles allowed me to bop around to the many worship services I’d like to attend virtually, but I shudder that my sweet girls might think that church is something on a screen. (Will they remember this time? How long will this actually go on?) I want them to know that the church is an action. It’s a movement. It’s a response to the world’s deepest need and a desire to dream of of God’s greatest love in every living thing.
I confess I’ve been uncertain that the world will look any different after this is over but if the church is the church, then change must come. It must be the change in our prayers.
I don’t know how many churches are embracing this season as an interim time. I thought these were wise and wonderful words about that possibility. Embracing this interim pandemic season might mean delving into that wide and curious of what makes the church the church. Worship could begin with individuals sharing a testimony of what this church has meant in their life or those same two or three voices could speak to the ideals of what brings them to be part of a worshipping community before concluding this opening with Acts 2:16-21.
Worship could instead begin with a familiar hymn and an invitation to consider our breath. The liturgy I wrote last year for my Texas church began with words adapted from Walter Bruggemann’s To Make Things New That Never Were from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth which would follow this hymn nicely. Another possibility follows.
Gathering Our Breath
Breathe on us, Breath of God.
Fill our lungs
with courage and hope
so that your life
beats through our veins
and urges us toward
justice and peace.
Breathe on us, Breath of God
because “I can’t breathe”
was heard again
and we’ve whispered too often
that we don’t know what to do
to put an end to racism.
Breathe on us, Breath of God
and remind us what the church is called to be.
Fill us with the fire of your love
and the promise of your peace.
I also really like the Call to Worship by Julia Seymour in the RevGalBlogPal’s Worship Words this week.
Passing of the Peace
In the limited church hopping that my children have allowed me, I haven’t yet seen a passing of the peace happen on Zoom or Facebook Live. I suppose it would be super awkward if you record ahead of time but especially if you use the above Gathering of Our Breath or if you plan on preaching on the Gospel Lesson, it seems like this should be the Sunday to try it.
It could be a moment of Pentecost wind where everyone is unmuted and the whole host of angels greets each other in the name of Christ. It could hurt your ears or you might opt for something more structured.
Maybe you prompt your community to bring a pen and paper to worship. When this moment of peace approaches, the congregation is invited to name one thing that brings them anxiety to share in a word or two on the paper. Hold that paper up and then someone leads this Breath Prayer for Anxious Times. That prayer time might conclude with everyone ripping up their paper and throwing it in the air like confetti. (Sorry for the mess.)
Or instead, invite a youth who would have been confirmed this year on the chancel steps if it were safe to gather for worship to share one thing that has brought her peace in these pandemic days. Maybe she shares something in particular about the beloved community in her youth group experience. Invite her to conclude that thought by saying something like a blessing.
May the peace of Christ also be with you.
May the Spirit of God bring you hope.
May you feel the love of God
in every breath. Amen.
That’s all I’ve got for this week.
Dear pastors, liturgists and musicians, I’m praying for you, as always.