Ashley Goff – Liturgy as Improv

Ashley Goff on Liturgy as Improv [Part of the 2013 NEXT Church National Gathering in Charlotte, NC.]

Jessica Tate and Casey Fitzgerald – Opening Worship (Charlotte 2013)

Jessica Tate (preacher) and Casey Fitzgerald (biblical storyteller) in the opening worship on Monday. [Part of the 2013 NEXT Church National Gathering in Charlotte, NC.]

Liturgy from 2013 National Gathering

We offer here the liturgy used at our 2013 National Gathering. See here for a complete list of music, and here for information about “the ritual of the ribbons.”

Many thanks to Theresa Cho, Adam Fischer, and Corey Nelson for their vision and leadership.

Monday, March 4


Confession: God of birth and renewal, too often we are like Nicodemus. We doubt that anything new can come out of your church. We dwell in houses of worship, echoing songs of ancestors trumpeted by organs loud enough to drown the sound of your voice.  Through our arrogance, we have built elaborate houses of worship, glorious and beautiful, but sometimes lacking in Spirit. Now we seek your renewal as we turn to listen, to discover what is next. Open our minds to your vision. Inspire our slumber with dreams of the future.  In our return let us see you afresh and work to make your kingdom a reality on Earth. Come, dwell with us once more as we confess and let go of all that keeps us apart from you.

Assurance: Let this fabric remind you, you are part of a larger whole. Our confessions can feel like we are being torn apart, separated from one another and banished to an apocalyptic wasteland, yet even though we are torn, we shall be restored in Christ. All:  God has blessed us with all we need. Truly God is at work in our lives to bring wholeness and restoration, even when it feels like we are being torn apart. Hear and know the good news, In Christ we are born again: made whole, restored and forgiven.

Monday, March 4


Blessing of the Waters: 
one:                On that first day, when time began:
all:                   you gave birth to creation; light danced through the darkness; the waters of hope flowed free and clear.
one:                On that first day at the Jordan, when redemption began:
all:                   you spoke of life for all your children, as your Child stepped into the waters of forgiveness, dancing in hope with his cousin, John.
one:                On this first day, gathered together, when we begin anew:
all:                   you call us to faithfulness, as we open our hearts to you, your voice claiming us as your own.  

one:    You and I are now the ones who step forth out of the cleansing waters of baptism, to bring hope, to share a word of grace, to carry healing into the brokenness of our lives. Let us confess how we still struggle to follow in faith wherever Jesus leads us. Join me as we pray; Timeless God,you cast light into sin’s dark placesand call us your Beloved.
all:       Forgive us:             when we still linger in the shadows;             when we treat others in hurtful ways;             when we speak ill of your friends.
one:   As he knelt in the waters of Jordan, you proclaimed Jesus as your Child, pointing to him as the way to you.
all:       Forgive us: when we put ourselves ahead of him;             when we think he is no longer needed;             when we fail to see him in the broken of our world.
one:    Baptized and blessed in your living waters, you would have us be your servants in our time.
all:      Forgive us:
when we fail to welcome the stranger;             when we refuse to forgive as we should;             when we believe we are too good to kneel down             and tie the shoes of the lost, the least, or the last.

one:    Touched by the waters of life, fed at the feast of grace and hope, embraced in the warmth of God’s love and hopes – this is good news for all of us!
all:       Blessed by baptism’s tears, called to servanthood by the Beloved, filled with the peace of the Spirit, we are indeed God’s people – redeemed, restored, refreshed to serve. Thanks be to God!
one:    The peace of Christ be with you.
all:       And also with you


Tuesday, March 5


Confession: (Theresa Cho and adapted from 2005)
Facing the unknown, Mary and Joseph journeyed to birth hope.
Facing the unknown, we too often squash that hope.
Facing acceptance, God claimed Jesus as God’s own Son.
Facing acceptance, we too often forget God’s claim on us.
Facing temptation, Jesus refused to turn stones into bread.
Facing temptation, we too often turn bread into stones.
Facing temptation, Jesus refused to use power for its own sake.
Facing temptation, we too often take power that belongs to someone else.
Facing temptation, Jesus refused to test the promises of God.
Facing temptation, we too often want God to do what we should do ourselves.

Assurance: You are forgiven! God loves you. God blesses you with new beginnings and new life. Put aside your old ways and become new! God gives a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning. Sing, dance, rejoice! Never forget the gift of God’s redeeming grace. Amen.

Tuesday, March 5


Call to Worship: (
With tongues of flame, the Holy Spirit descends to burn in our hearts anew.
Unite us, Holy Spirit!
Like the rush of wind, we sense God’s presence blowing afresh throughout the world.
Unite us, Holy Spirit!
Across the barriers of language and culture, Christ’s message of love and grace is heard.
Unite us, Holy Spirit!
Divine Advocate, we seek your guidance as we search for the Spirit of Truth.
Unite us, Holy Spirit! Amen.

Confession: (Nolan Palsma and Phyllis Palsma)
Our God, we come in humility, confessing who and what we are. We are often unresponsive for we are afraid. When your Spirit speaks, we turn deaf ears, for we fear what you might call us to do. When your Spirit touches our lips, we close our mouths, embarrassed to speak your Word. When the wind of your Spirit blows, we close the windows of our hearts, afraid the breeze will disrupt our ordered lives. When the fire of your Spirit touches us, we quench the flame, afraid of the new life it might bring. Forgive us, O Lord.

This is the good news we have declare: God leads us out of the shadows to walk in the light of Christ.
This is the word we have heard: our faithful God forgives our sins and raises us to new life. Thanks be to God. Amen.

“What Really Matters” — Why I Am Attending NEXT

by Chris Chakoian

At a time when many of us feel pressured to grow numerically, find money for budgets, keep the older generation happy but fill the pews with young people, it’s easy to lose sight of the point of being church. NEXT helps me focus on what really matters. Like the gospel, for instance.

And at a time when we’re discouraged by religious trends, it’s easy to focus on disheartening statistics; Pew Research cites 1/3 of young adults among the “nones.”  NEXT reminds me that it’s possible for the church to be creative, young, connected, entrepreneurial, inspired.

And at a time when our society expects everyone to fall into tribal alliances (Republican/Democrat; progressive/conservative; FOX News/MSNBC), it’s easy for church leaders to mimic the culture. NEXT brings together diverse approaches –denominational leaders/inventive outliers;  older/younger; ruling elders/teaching elders/YAVs/deacons/other.

And at a time when we’re used to church meetings being boring, NEXT isn’t. That’s reason enough for me.

– Chris Chakoian, Pastor, Lake Forest Presbyterian Church, Lake Forest IL

5 Questions with Bill Golderer

This series highlights participants at the national gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 4 – 5th, 2013. Presenters, preachers, teachers, and leaders were asked the same five questions and their thoughtful responses may be found here every week. The goal is to introduce you to people you’ll hear from in Charlotte and prime the pump for our time together. Hopefully, something here will spark an idea, thought, or question for you. We encourage you to reach out and initiate conversations that you can later continue in person. 

Bill Golderer and his partner in crime, Julie.

1. Tell us about your ministry context. 

In 2005, I responded to a call from a group of (mostly) suburban mainline protestant clergy from the Philadelphia region to breathe new life into a dormant landmark church in Center City that in the last century was an important part of a vibrant urban landscape. That response led to my founding of the Broad Street Ministry (BSM) in Philadelphia in what was once the historic Chambers-Wylie Memorial Presbyterian Church along Center City’s Avenue of the Arts. BSM is an innovative Christian faith community that emphasizes the Gospel imperatives of extending generous hospitality, demonstrating justice and compassion, and providing a ground for artistic expression. Beginning with less than $8,000 in seed capital and no existing congregation, BSM has grown into one of Center City Philadelphia’s most dynamic and largest worshipping congregations. It is diverse in every way, and has worked aggressively in its common life to be hands-on in addressing issues that detract from people’s ability to experience the abundant life that God intends.

In 2008, I extended my pastoral ministry in Philadelphia when he became the Pastor of Arch Street Presbyterian Church (ASPC).  Since 1851, Arch Street Presbyterian has been a worshipping congregation in the heart of Center City Philadelphia. When I arrived, this congregation was on life-support.  But after assembling a dynamic team of lay and professional leadership, ASPC has undergone a rapid and dramatic revitalization. Collectively, this community has taken up its mat and is walking boldly into the future that God has prepared for it.  The congregation is now a dynamic Sunday morning worshipping community, a church that welcomes children and families of every configuration, and a church that struggles alongside the people who work in the skyscrapers around it (and those who wish they were employed there) who aim to integrate their faith and work.

2. Where have you seen glimpses of “the church that is becoming”?

It is a core conviction of mine that God is already dynamically at work in the world and the priorities of the Kingdom are on view everywhere.  I like to think that when we are at our best, Presbyterian leaders are like archeologists who are uncovering in the most unlikely places where God is up to something exciting and challenging.  Specifically I have seen this wherever the church is taking risks that are real and scary.  When we are not at our best, we tend to be the kind of people who want to know our ministry experiments will work without the risk of failure.  Two women who are forging ahead with an attempt to be the church in a new way–who are sort of “alumnae” of BSM’s pastoral leadership program–are doing something that is really exciting (and fraught with risks).  Rev. Karen Rohrer and Becca Blake are a couple of committed and talented seminary grads who have tried to be the church in a neighborhood that is rife with tension between those who have lived in the neighborhood for decades and a recent influx of hipsters and other young people whose presence is gentrifying the neighborhood.  Through creative worship and a commitment to be the church that brings these divergent populations together, they are up to something really powerful but also very fragile.  God is unmistakably present when those two elements are in place.  Check them out!

3. What are your passions in ministry? (And/or what keeps you up at night?)

My passion in ministry is connecting the core commitments of the congregations I serve with the concerns and dreams of people whose work and lives are in deep alignment with the Kingdom of God but who have–for whatever reason–been disaffected or disappointed by the church.  I love to mix it up with “lowbrow” artists and the societal shot-callers who are often surprised by the passion and conviction of the people who call BSM or ASPC their church home.  I love challenging the assumptions held by some that the church is limp, inert and overly concerned with comfort, safety and institutional survival.  I like to get into the deep end with people who are trying to make a splash in society that could result in a more just Philadelphia.

4. What is one thing you are looking forward to at the NEXT Gathering?

I relish conversation with people who are looking for the courage and the company to be the church in a more generous and bold fashion.  I met quite a few folks like that at NEXT last year.  I tend to shy away from conferences but this feels fresh to me.

5. Describe NEXT in seven words or less.

I have high hopes for NEXT but I am not sure we know yet what it will be.  If I were to sum up my hopes for what NEXT will be is:Community for those who believe restlessness, courage, and relentlessness are spiritual qualities worth cultivating. (That’s more than 7 but that’s what I’ve got.)

Questions … and answers!

We are launching a new series this month that highlights participants at the national gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 4 – 5th, 2013. Presenters, preachers, teachers, and leaders were asked the same five questions and their thoughtful responses may be found here every week. The goal is to introduce you to people you’ll hear from in Charlotte and prime the pump for our time together. Hopefully, something here will spark an idea, thought, or question for you. We encourage you to reach out and initiate conversations that you can later continue in person. So without further ado …  

Steve easonSteven Phillip Eason


Dr. Eason has been the Pastor/Head of Staff of the Myers Park Presbyterian Church since August 2002. Prior to serving in this position he served the following churches; Moyock United Methodist, Moyock, North Carolina (‘79-81); First Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Virginia (‘81-88); First Presbyterian Church, Morganton, North Carolina (’88-97); and Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (’97-01).

Steve is the author of Making Disciples, Making Leaders (Geneva Press) and has also written for other publications. He served as a trustee of Union Presbyterian Seminary from 2003-2011.

After 32 years of ordained ministry, Steve’s major focus in ministry is discipleship. He comments, “If the word disciple means student, then we are called to be students of Christ. If we are students of Christ then where is our classroom and what are we learning from him?” 

1.  Tell us about your ministry context.

I’m in my 11th year as serving as senior pastor of Myers Park Presbyterian Church. We are a 4,500 member congregation that has been here for since 1926. The congregation is diverse and yet very similar. Our congregation has had a deep commitment to local and global outreach. In the last $30 million capital campaign, they committed $11 million to outreach. Not only do they provide funds but it is also relational ministry.

2.  Where have you seen glimpses of “the church that is becoming”? 

I don’t know that I have seen it. I know that’s an odd response but I’m not sure any of us us have seen it. We have made stylistic changes in worship but I’m not sure that’s it. We’ve tried satellite churches, but I don’t know that that’s it. We seem to be in a time of experimentation, as if we’re waiting for something to happen that is outside and beyond all of us. That would be in keeping with the biblical record. Part of what I see is a pruning of the Church. Pruning can be painful and it often looks like death. We may have to wait awhile before we see the sprouts!

3.  What are your passions in ministry? (And/or what keeps you up at night?)

Nothing keeps really keeps me up at night! I fully trust in the sovereignty of God. I don’t mean to be glib with that response, but anxiety is diminished when you consider who you’re dealing with here. The Church belongs to God. We all belong to God. As hard as we’ve tried to kill the Church, we just can’t seem to do it!

My passion lies with wanting people to “get it.” Jesus Christ changes people’s lives. Following him means you have to move. I get excited about the transitions, the possibilities, the biblical stories that are being written today. They are far and few between. It’s easy to run out of gas before you get to the next one. But this passion keeps me coming to work.

4.  What is one thing you are looking forward to at the NEXT Gathering? 

I went to the Dallas conference and I really enjoyed the fellowship. I also enjoyed being a part of a group that wasn’t discussing homosexuality. It’s an important topic but it has dominated our time together. I particularly appreciated hearing younger pastors who are trying new things and being honest about what’s working and what’s not. That gives me some hope.

5.  Describe NEXT in seven words or less. 

Something God is going to do.