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

Lament Service Prayers of the People

This prayer was used during the 2016 National Gathering at the Monday afternoon lament service.

God of breath and life,

who tiptoes through graveyard valleys

and sees possibility in skeletons, hear our prayer.


We are skeletons of our former selves, ancient and aching.

Can these bones live? O God, you know.

You better know ‘cause we sure don’t.

And we long to hear the whisper of your calling

to inhale your promises in our deflated lungs.


Fill us with hope, God who is our breath . . . our life . . . our past . . . our future.

We’re beyond bandaids.


So . . . Bind these bones together. Grant us healing. Make us whole.




We are deflated, O God,

cut off, dried up,

haunted by days gone by and fearful of the unknown ahead.


We are deflated by

“for sale” signs on sanctuaries,

the hospice days of Sunday School,

by our cultural abandonment of the Lord’s Day – your day – as sacred,

by the constant ache of “not enough”

not enough money, not enough millenials,

not hip enough or relevant enough or traditional enough.


We are deflated by memories of our former selves,

the tedium of website management, the necessity of branding.


We’ve had the wind knocked out of us

by the loss of cherished Saints

and sister churches to dissolution or dismissal,

and members who fear the tension of the unknown

and the hard work of discerning our future,

by gazing at budgets like crystal balls.


We need a breath transfusion.

Bind these bones together. Grant us healing. Make us whole.




God, who tiptoes through the valleys,

you have seen the carnage,

the many crumbling and dried out on the desert floor.

And we can’t deny,

it’s not just the world’s fault, or culture’s fault, or bad luck.

Our dried-up selves are often of our own making.


God of baptism,

of encounters beside wells in the heat of the day,

of creation born of watery mess,

heal us of our complicity in our drying out,

for the times we’ve worried more about self-preservation

than gospel proclamation,

for the days we’ve been chained to “used to”

afraid to loosen the grasp of how we used to look, used to be, used to do

for chasing trends – forgetting how to be in the world but not of the world.


Heal us of our complicity in our drying out

for preoccupation with who is on your naughty list,

for racism, sexism classism, and all matters of that-person-doesn’t-look-like-me-ism;

for not speaking up when the world bears down on the vulnerable,

for tiptoeing around the hard conversation,

for money mismanagement and disputes over what’s your, mine and ours,

for not being able to see the lives touched, the moments transformed, the hope infused                                 because our barometer needs readjustment

and our eyes are trained on those headed for the door.


May we die to all that makes your church a place of fear,

misplaced power,

and jadedness.

And then dust us off, O God.

Like the cool trickle of baptismal hope,

may your breath infuse us with renewed hope that these old bones may live anew.


God, who tiptoes through the valleys . . .

Bind these bones together. Grant us healing. Make us whole.




God, who sees possibility in the graveyard,

it seems dramatic to say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost;

we are cut off completely.”

And yet . . . we are . . . some are

hope-deficient and lost and alone.


And so we pray for pastors and church leaders

who feel the pressure to prophesy without the words for their mouths,

for clergy who’s well of energy and enthusiasm and imagination and love

has long run dry,

for the strain of ministry on health and relationships,

for church leaders who have crossed the line and churches picking up the pieces,

for those balancing “call” with putting food on the table,

for energetic new seminary graduates navigating vocation

while traditional ministry models are on the surgical table,

for the loneliness of leadership

even in the great company of your saints.


Put your spirit within us, O God, that we may live anew.


God, who sees possibility in the graveyard,

Bind these bones together. Grant us healing. Make us whole.




Breathe on us breath of God. And hear us as we us as our voices hold on to the tried and true prayer of our Lord, Jesus Christ.


Our Father, who art in heaven . . . .


Ashley Goff – Liturgy as Improv

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

Offering Words

I have always been impressed by the liturgy written by my friend and colleague, Jenny McDevitt. Those who attended the NEXT National Conference in Dalls (2012) will remember the beautiful and inspiring words offered in corporate worship. Liturgy literally means “the work of the people” yet I asked Jenny if she would be willing to write a blog about her process of crafting such communal experiences. I am grateful for her response and pray you receive the following as an offering. (Andrew Taylor-Troutman)

by Jenny McDevitt

I am weeks late in submitting this blog entry, in part because I have been unsure of how to respond. “Tell us how you write liturgy,” the request came. And so I have tried to put words to my process. Words that are slightly more helpful than what feels like the actual truth: I stare a blank computer screen and wait for a miracle to happen.

offering of wordsOn the off-chance the above-mentioned technique is not helpful to you, here are some additional possibilities.

Hear it

Whatever your scripture(s) for the day may be, read those words out loud. Seriously, out loud. I almost always catch something differently when I hear myself say it. Listen to the cadence. Catch unusually lovely (or just unusual) phrases. Ask questions of what is happening or being said, and let those questions shape the prayers and responses.

Tell it

Tell a story with your liturgy. Talking about grace? Remind us of moments of grace that began with creation and have happened ever since. Preaching about forgiveness? Craft a prayer with seven instances of shortcoming and then invoke Jesus’ beautiful, challenging, devastating, breathtaking words of seventy times seven. Wind the stories of the Bible with the stories of our culture and the stories of our lives. All of them speak to our experience. Not sure where to start? “In the beginning…”

Say it

Liturgy is meant to be spoken, so say it as you write it. I rarely write more than a sentence or two before reading it out loud. If a sentence is too long, if you stumble over some structure — cut it and begin again. While a complex sentence may read beautifully on paper, in liturgy it must also be easy on the ears. And take advantage of things that are pleasing — alliteration, repetition, patterns, effective uses of pauses and silence.

Say it (part two)

Has it been a hard week? Has something happened in your congregation that has broken your collective heart? Are your people angry? Does the scripture passage make no sense whatsoever? Does it seem to ask too much of us? Don’t be afraid to speak the honest truth in the liturgy. There’s nothing particularly holy about having all the answers or having the best theological vocabulary. Giving voice to the thoughts and emotions and questions running through your head may invite others to engage in the same way. It can be a gift. Careful warning: don’t forget the Good News. When lament is called for, lament away. But even the psalmist, who is a champion lament-er, always ends with a word of hope, however fragile it may be. And if it is one of those days when death is everywhere, speak resurrection. Give voice to the promise over and over. Put that hope into the air, let it hoover around you, and let it hold you (and your people) tight.

Rephrase it

Some friends disagree with this practice, but I often rephrase God’s words or Jesus’ words. Not because they need an editor, but because we need to hear them in as many ways as possible. I have often summarized the overall point (as best I understand it, anyway), and put it in my own language, even going so far as to say, for instance, “And in response, Jesus simply says, ‘Knock it off.’” Never once has someone come to me, confused about whether or not the bible actually reports it that exact way.

Related note: it’s also very effective to occasionally lift up what Jesus doesn’t say. That can be just as helpful. Case in point:

God doesn’t say, “Come to me, all you who are of perfect pedigree and rosy cheeks, you who have done no wrong and you whose hearts are entirely intact.” God doesn’t say, “Come to me, all you who have it all together, you who have never said a hateful word and you who wake up every day with all the answers.” God does not say that. What God does say is, “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” What God does say, over and over again, is, “Come to me, all you who are broken and battered, faulty and frail, disappointed and disappointing. Come to me. You will be my people, and I will be your God.”

Unpolish it

I’ve inferred this all along, but it’s still worth saying: write your liturgy carefully, prayerfully, and honestly . . . and then unpolish it. This means two things. First, be sure your liturgy doesn’t sound too smooth. Too certain. Too easy. Too much like “everyone here has it all together.” Because let’s be honest: that’s incredibly unattractive. Not to mention totally untrue. And second (remembering that these are my guidelines and not necessarily yours), occasionally depart from tried and true words of tradition, perhaps the fancy-pants, five-syllable, theological-dictionary language. Or, if you’re going to use those five-syllable words, use much easier words to explain those concepts. In other words, don’t get hung up on sounding professionally, profoundly pious. Just focus on sounding real. Remember, things that are too polished can be slippery and hard to hang on to.

Believe it

If you lead worship with the same intonation you use when you ask someone to pass the green beans, I’m not going to be convinced you have any idea what’s so good about the Good News. Does this mean crazy-cheesy-fake-happy all the time? No, thank you. Let your voice match the truth of your words, whether it’s sad, elated, lost, or grateful. You’re proclaiming the Gospel even through your liturgy. For heaven’s sake (and all of ours), say it like you mean it.

Here’s an example from Easter, since, as it turns out, I’m better at writing liturgy than writing about writing liturgy.

In the beginning of all days

In the very beginning

It was dark

And chaos hovered over the earth

And you, O God, spoke a word

And light crept in from the corners

And creation began to dance


In the beginning of this day

In the earliest morning hours

It was dark

And chaos hovered over the earth and in our hearts

And you, O God, spoke a word

And light crept in from an empty tomb

And creation began to dance


The word, in both cases, was life

Your word, in all cases, is life


He is risen

Christ is risen


And yet, God,

even as we rejoice and sing and celebrate

we realize for many, the shadows of life have not faded in the morning sun


So we pray your peace for those who laugh and sing

and for those who sit and weep


We pray your peace for those who chase Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies

and for those who chase broken dreams or unrealistic expectations


We pray your peace for those who place flowers on a cross this morning

and for those who stare at flowers from a hospital bed this afternoon


We pray your peace for those who believe in the power of the resurrection

and yet face another day without a loved one


Peace be with you, Jesus says

Peace be with you, Jesus promises

Look at me, he says

I know what it is to hurt


He entered our story so well, God

He entered our story and changed the world

That’s Easter

So help us enter his story

And change the world yet again

That would be Easter, too, wouldn’t it?


Help us to be a people whose very lives speak this truth:

death is not the last word

violence is not the last word

hate is not the last word

condemnation is not the last word

betrayal is not the last word

failure is not the last word

No: each of them are like rags left behind in a tomb,

and from that tomb,

you come.*


Speaking, showing, sharing life


Help us do the same, won’t you?

Help us be your tangible proof to the world

That would be no less an Easter miracle


Creation began in a dance, O God,

and you have made us to sparkle in the sun

So help us get there


Trusting you will, and placing our lives in the hands of Life Eternal,

we pray as he taught us, saying:

Our Father . . .


* Words in italics are borrowed, with gratitude, from Brian McLaren’s Prayer for Pastors. (When you stumble across good words, use them (with attribution at least in printed form). Good words are always worth repeating.

McDevittJenny has been serving alongside the people of Village Church since September of 2012. She loves the way the church cares for one another and for the community, giving great attention to any and all issues of the heart. She loves stories (listening and telling) and believes that questions are an essential part of faith. Originally from Michigan, Jenny is a graduate of Kenyon College and Union Presbyterian Seminary. She has served churches in Ann Arbor and Virginia Beach. She lives with her dog, Reilly, who is dedicated to chasing the squirrels of Prairie Village.

The "Ritual of the Ribbons" at 2013 National Gathering

By Theresa Cho

NEXT Worship Overall Thematic Flow & Ritual:

Colors of fabric and ribbon were purple, red, blue, white, and yellow. The colors of a Korean fabric called Saekdong. Saekdong is usually used for children’s clothing and “protects the evoking of dreams of children.”

Advent Worship:

Sheets of fabric were torn into strips during the confession. Each participant was given a 5 ft. ribbon before worship. As a way to prepare for new birth, conferees were invited to place the ribbon in the manger, letting go of what prevents them from being open to whatever will birth in them during the conference. manger


Baptism Worship:

The ripped fabric was woven together, connecting the baptismal font and the manger together. The ribbon in the manger was returned to the conferees as a way of remembering our baptismal identity as a child of God. In preparation for the next worship, participants were asked to follow instructions on the bulletin insert and bring the ribbon to the next worship. NEXT Words font


Lent Worship:

The ripped fabric was displayed on the chancel and communion table in the pattern of Saekdong. After reflection on Luke 4.14-21, conferees were asked to pair up and share their call saying “My call is to (verb) (verb) (verb) (noun)” Share a quick reaction to their call. Then, their partner will say “Your call is to . . . “ and then “stole” their partner. Afterwards, each conferee placed their ribbon in the offering basket as their offering of their call. theresa


Pentecost Worship:

The ribbons were woven on the communion table, representing how our calls are woven together. As conferees came up for communion, they were asked to take a stole of someone else, take it home and pray for them.


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.