2017 National Gathering Closing Worship Liturgy

A video recording of the worship service that closed our 2017 National Gathering will be made available soon!

In the meantime, here’s the liturgy from the service. We hope it provides inspiration for you in your own setting.

2017 National Gathering Opening Worship Liturgy

A video recording of the worship service that opened our 2017 National Gathering will be made available soon!

In the meantime, here’s the liturgy from the service. We hope it provides inspiration for you in your own setting.

2017 National Gathering Closing Worship Confession

During the closing worship service of the 2017 National Gathering, Slats Toole read a powerful prayer of confession about humanity’s tendency to build up walls. We asked God to knock those walls down. The guiding scripture for the entire National Gathering was John 4:1-42; the scripture passage for this service was John 4:19-26. The prayer itself was written by Shelli Latham. Here is the text of the prayer for your own use.

Lenten Devotional Ideas

Highland Presbyterian Church is introducing the idea of photography as a form of contemplative prayer during the Lenten season. The photos will be taken around the theme of their Lenten devotion and will be used as a part of their congregation’s devotional book. They will use The Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice by Christine Valters Paintner as they begin this practice. It has prompts and ideas about new ways of thinking.


Work of the People has a 12 session film series called “Covenantal Restoration” that could be used to prepare oneself for Lent or during Lent. It looks at racism and intolerance from across the board and includes interview videos with discussion guides. It could be used with both youth and adults.

A Lenten Worship Series

Oaklands Presbyterian Church did a worship series through Lent that invited congregation members to be a part of the visual arts in worship. Each week’s service was formed around a theme word. Members of the congregation were asked to send in photos that went along with the theme word. Music was selected that highlighted the theme and a photo slideshow was shown after the sermon.

While those videos are not available online, here is the email sent out to church members the first week of Lent to prompt submissions and to encourage people to incorporate the theme in their weekly Lenten practices:

The words used for lectionary year A were:

Week 1—Wilderness
Week 2—Wind
Week 3—Water
Week 4—Darkness
Week 5—Hope
Week 6—Fear
Easter—Alive

Ash Wednesday on the Road

Looking for new ideas for Ash Wednesday worship?

East Brentwood Presbyterian Church did drive thru ashes last year, allowing people to drive through their parking lot to receive ashes on their way to work.

The church also offered a podcast that was about 20 minutes long (to cover standard commute time) with music. They did this in addition to an Ash Wednesday service, but the podcast reached over 1,000 people.

The podcast and accompanying liturgy is still up on their website and can be found here:

A Lenten Book List

This book list was compiled during our Lent/Easter planning Church Leader’s Roundtable on January 10, 2017. We hope you will find these resources to be fruitful for prayers, liturgy, sermon inspiration and more.

A Pilgrim People: Learning Through the Church Year — John H. Westerhoff

Stages on the Way — Wild Goose Worship Group

The Awkward Season: Prayers for Lent — Pamela Hawkins

God is on the Cross — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Forgiveness: A Lenten Study — Majorie J. Thompson

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World — Brian D. McLaren

Christ on Trial: How the Gospel Unsettles our Judgment — Rowan Williams

Lectionary Liturgy — Thom Shuman (there are several options based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year)

Immortal Diamond: The Search for our True Self — Richard Rohr

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life — Richard Rohr

Choral Speaking for Advent Readings

This information about choral speaking came from Gerry Hendershot during our October 2016 roundtable on Advent and Christmas planning resources.


My contribution to the discussion of Advent planning was “choral speaking” of lectionary readings.  I learned about this liturgical practice in a course at Wesley Seminary in DC taught by Frederika Berger, then a professor of liturgical arts.  It was once very popular in schools and churches in the U.K., and is still popular in some parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia.

There are many styles of choral speaking, but all comprise scripted and rehearsed performance of a poetic text by multiple readers. Here is a short example:

As the example shows, a few readers with a little practice can create a dramatic effect.

We have done choral speaking of Advent scripture at Pilgrims (www.churchofthepilgrims.org) about eight times since 2001.  I have been the director during those years and have honed a process that works for us. Here is a script that illustrates how the lines of scripture passage can be divided, assigned to speakers, choreographed, and spoken.  The format is cryptic, but I explain it to the readers.

I have found that we can do successful choral speaking at Pilgrims with as few as four readers, and as few as two short rehearsals—one after worship the week before, and another before worship on the Sunday of performance.  If your congregation is small, like Pilgrims, it may be difficult to line up readers the first time.  But my experience is that once they do it, they are eager to come back.  After doing it a few years, we have a “stable” of willing readers.

Choral speaking is one way to include poetry in liturgy.  With my partner Nancy Arbuthnot at Western PC in DC, we promote use of poetry in liturgy, education, and spiritual formation.  Our web site is www.verseandvision.org and we have a Face Book page.

A Community Knit Through Song

This month, our blog series is actually a vlog series – a video blog, that is! We’re calling it “The NEXT Few Minutes.” Over the next several weeks, we’ll share with you short, 2-3 minute videos from a variety of folks around the country with the hopes they spark your own imagination. We hope you’ll learn about some trends, ask questions, and think deeply about the practice of ministry in your own setting.

Eric Wall, assistant professor of sacred music and dean of chapel at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, reflects on the role of music in church. What do you believe God is doing through song? Join the conversation by commenting on this blog post or on our Facebook/Twitter pages!

To see all of our videos in our “The NEXT Few Minutes” series, check out our playlist on Youtube.

Holy Ground: Thinking About the Spaces We Worship In

At the 2016 National Gathering, Jess Fisher led a workshop called “Holy Ground: Thinking About the Spaces We Worship In.” Below you will find the description of her workshop and a PDF of the slides she used.

The places where we worship affect our bodies, minds, and hearts, yet we often neglect to think through the space’s impact on us and miss looking for new ways to engage it. Come hear about how two churches engaged their sanctuary space during lent, incorporating the visual arts and movement into their worship. Then, create a map of your worship space to start thinking about how you can engage it to deepen worship.