Posts

2018 National Gathering Tuesday Morning Worship

Jess Cook, John Molina-Moore, and Erin Counihan provided testimonies during Tuesday morning worship at the 2018 NEXT Church National Gathering. The worship service theme: dying.

Here is the liturgy for the service.

Call to Worship

People of God, we have a story to tell
of life and death,
joy and sorrow
as we live in God’s Holy Way.
God is with us, even when we fear.

People of God, we have a story to tell
of lives cut short,
of life-times fulfilled
as we live in God’s Holy Way.
God is with us, even when we fear.

People of God, we have a story to tell of
our cities, farms,
and towns, desperately wondering
how they will begin again
as we live in God’s Holy Way.
God is with us, even when we fear.

People of God, we have a story to tell
of heartache and brokenness in our bodies
as we live in God’s Holy Way.
God is with us, even when we fear.

People of God, we have a story to tell.
Surrounded by God’s Great Cloud of Witnesses,
we give testimony to our stories of grief and loss,
as we are sustained by water, songs and prayers.
We are living in God’s Holy Way.
God is with us, even when we fear.

Let us worship God.

Litany

“We are a resurrection people,” we like to say.
And we say it often.
It is true.
But resurrection doesn’t erase or replace
the real life that happens before, during and after.
The real life that we all know –
the places where we are broken,
where we are grieving,
where we are sad,
where we are angry,
where we are hurting,
where we are anxious,
where we are lonely.
For we are human – fully.
And we each carry around
the experiences of trauma, and loss, and hurt
that are a real part of life.
Those experiences live within us,
and they exist
before, during and after
resurrection.
Yes, we are a resurrection people.
But we are also human –
Fully.
And that means that we know death
just as surely as we know life.
Death is real, it is excruciating, and painful, and it is a part of life.
But God is not afraid of death.
God is big enough to hold us
in our hurt, in our brokenness,
in those places of death where we cannot hold ourselves.
When we find ourselves in those places,
when we cannot imagine
ever feeling joy again,
may we remember
that although God will not erase the pain,
God will hold us, God will stand with us.

Psalm 27 (from Ann Weems)

O God of my heart
it is your name I call
when the stars do not come out.
O God of my soul,
it is to you I turn
when the torrents of terror
drown me.
O God of mercy,
it is for your hand I reach
when I stumble
on the stones of sorrow.
O God of justice,
it is to you I cry
when the landslide of grief
buries me.
I stand beneath the night
where stars used to shine
and remember
gazing mesmerized
at the luminaries of the sky
until I could walk
the ink-blue beach
between their shining.
Then their shining stopped,
for they left the sky,
and you, O God,
left with them.
And I am left
alone
beneath a starless sky
with a starless heart
that barely beats.
Will your stars
never shine again?
Will they never again
speak of your mystery?
Will they never again sing
their songs
to my soul?
Will I never again know
the wonder
of the God
of star and sky?
O God of my heart,
peel back the night
and let the starlight
pour out upon
my upturned face.
Let my eyes drink
a sky of stars.
Let my heart bathe
in the stunning light
until my soul sings again
with the conviction
of the faithful.
In your mercy and justice,
O God of my heart,
call me by name,
and the stars will shine
once more,
as they did
on that morning
when they first began
to sing.

Sung Response (from Psalm 27)

[O God], Will your stars
never shine again?
Will they never again sing
their songs
to my soul?

Unison Prayer

O God of my heart,
peel back the night
and let the starlight
pour out upon
my upturned face.
Let my eyes drink
a sky of stars.
Let my heart bathe
in the stunning light
until my soul sings again
with the conviction
of the faithful.
In your mercy and justice,
O God of my heart,
call me by name,
and the stars will shine
once more,
as they did
on that morning
when they first began
to sing.

Scripture Reading

John 13:1-17

Invitation for Remembrance and Handwashing

As death approached, Jesus commanded his disciples to love.
even as denial and betrayal, rejection and unworthiness
was mixed-up in that love.
Holy One, in washing and remembering, call us to love.
As death approached, Jesus gave his disciples ways to grieve:
a tender touch, washing with water, telling of a story,
being together in community.
Holy One, in washing and remembering, call us to love.
As death approached, Jesus gave his disciples a place to be together:
a table, a water basin, a home.
Holy One, in washing and remembering, call us to love.

Unison Prayer

O God of our hearts,
peel back the night
and let the starlight
pour out upon
our upturned faces.
Let our eyes drink
a sky of stars.
Let our hearts bathe
in the stunning light
until our soul sing again
with the conviction
of the faithful.
In your mercy and justice,
O God of our hearts,
call us by name,
and the stars will shine
once more,
as they did
on that morning
when they first began
to sing.

A Reminder of Divine Love

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Kate Morrison is curating a series featuring reflections on Advent and Christmas from our 2018 National Gathering workshop and post-Gathering seminar leaders. Over the course of the month, we’ll hear what this season means to them through stories, memories, and favorite traditions – and how they see the themes of Advent connecting with the work of NEXT Church. We invite you to share your own memories and stories on Facebook and Twitter!

Editor’s note: Justin is co-leading a workshop during the 2018 National Gathering called “Songs for the Journey.” It will take place during workshop block 2 on Tuesday. Learn more and register

by Justin Ritchie

Love is my favorite theme from the Advent season. Well, that’s true this year anyway. For me it seems each year at Advent, hope, joy, peace, or love seem to rise to the surface for different reasons. With everything happening in the world around us, this year I find that my heart is longing for love to return in places it seems to have been forgotten and to be born in hearts that seem to be missing it.

We are creating our own corner of Advent love in our home again this year. My parents are traveling from Augusta, GA, to be with my husband and I and a few of our close friends to celebrate Christmas day. Our tradition since I was a child is to wake up on Christmas morning, eat breakfast, and then read the Christmas story from Luke. We still do that every year. In recent years, I’ve looked at our little Christmas gathering consisting of my family of birth and our chosen family, different skin tones and widely differing belief systems and faith traditions. We are gay and straight, Yankees and Southerners, conservative and liberal. Each year we find a way to be together on that morning. We listen to the Christmas story. We exchange presents. We eat. We drink. We laugh. We reminisce. We LOVE.

The other night I watched the Pentatonix Christmas special on television. They are one of my favorite groups and their Christmas albums are already on permanent rotation in our home. Near the end of the program and just before they sang a beautiful arrangement of “Imagine,” one of the group members talked about how Christmas was the time of year we could put our differences aside and come together. It is a lovely, and true, sentiment. Why do we only expect that to happen during the holidays? I think that this seasonal feeling of goodwill to our fellow humans could be something that we practice all year long. What if we used that “Christmas feeling” as a model for how to interact with the people in our lives every day of the year? How different our world would right now?

I grew up in evangelical circles and we did not celebrate or acknowledge the Advent season. I have come to cherish and deeply appreciate this period of longing and expectation. For me, Christmas and the story of Jesus’ birth boil down to this: Divine Love was born in the form of a human baby. Jesus is the incarnation of God’s love for all of God’s children. This Advent I am indeed longing and anticipating. My heart needs a reminder of Divine Love. Our world needs a reminder of Divine Love. One of my favorite spiritual teachers, Marianne Williamson, puts it this way, “Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense, everything that comes from love is a miracle.”

May your heart be filled with love and miracles this Advent and in the year to come.


Justin Ritchie is the music director at Oaklands Presbyterian Church in Laurel, MD – a multi-cultural More Light Presbyterian Church. By day he is a contractor for the federal government as a web developer. He lives with his husband Jason, Phoebe the French Bulldog, and Bruce the Pug just outside D.C. In addition to his ministry at Oaklands, Justin is the band director at Temple Rodef Shalom in Fairfax, VA. He is also an active cabaret performer in Washington, DC and New York and was recently seen in productions of “The Secret Garden” and “The Full Monty” in Annapolis, MD.

Sharing What’s Important

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Andrew Kukla is curating reflections on being evangelical in the church. Have we connected our congregations to resurrection life? Have we taught them how to talk about it?  How to live it? How to connect others to that life-giving, life-abundant power? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Amy Miracle

Sharing that which is important to me with the people who are important to me is a big part of my life. That’s why I am always talking about my favorite podcasts. That’s why I gave so many of my friends the Hamilton Original Broadway Cast CD for Christmas. 

broad street ohioFor me that is what evangelism is all about. Sharing the most important thing in my life with anyone who will listen. Except that’s not quite true. Like the congregation I serve, I am reserved, worried about looking foolish and uninterested in being the center of attention. And yet I wake up every day with a burning passion to invite people into conversations about God and invite them to become a part of the life of the church of Jesus Christ. 

At Broad Street, the church where I am very, very fortunate to serve, I handle this tension in the following way. I talk about evangelism a lot. I encourage others to talk about it. We have periodic “Seasons of Invitation” when we encourage our folks to invite their people to church. Most importantly, we challenge people to articulate what it has meant for them to be a part of the life of the church and then share that understanding with others. 

Here is one Broad Street-er’s thoughts on the subject. He’s a husband, father of two young kids, who spoke to the congregation during one of our seasons of invitation.  This is how he concluded his words. 

“Broad Street Presbyterian is a gift. It is a gift to its community, to those it serves, and maybe most of all, to its congregation. It thoughtfully puts faith into action, faces up to the challenges of spirituality and Christianity without fear, and is a great place to spend Sunday morning. This church is a gift that deserves to be given to others who don’t yet know it is here.

It is an uncomfortable thing, inviting someone to church. I’m still working up the nerve myself. As I do, when I have doubts, I think about my own story, about what my life would have been had I not received that gift of an invitation. About all that has happened to me and in me and how much the poorer I’d be if I’d never set foot in this building. And that there are others in our community, amongst my friends and family, who deserve this gift, who may not yet know it, but belong in – and will thrive in – this church.

So please join us in these coming weeks and invite someone – or better still someones – you care about. They will be grateful for it. They will thank you for it.”

What he said.

 


Amy Miracle Head ShotAmy Miracle earned a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She served as associate pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in Denver, Colorado, and senior pastor and head of staff at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Des Moines, Iowa before coming to Broad Street Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio, in 2008 as  pastor and head of staff.

In the Shadows of Our Past

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. During August, John Wilkinson is curating a month of blog posts exploring where we are as a church through the lens of the new Presbyterian hymnal, Glory to God — what are we thinking about? how are we worshiping? what matters to us? where are we headed? Join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

By Laura Fry

Covington United Presbyterian Church

Covington United Presbyterian Church

At a bend in the road, encircled by cornfields and cows, our small congregation loves to sing. From the days when only psalms were sung and the pitch set with a tuning fork up until the present day, music has remained a central part of our life together.

As our church dedicated the Glory to God hymnals this spring, we retold this history of song, recalling the musical reformations that have taken place here over the years: the introduction of an organ, an ever-expanding repertoire of song, and gifts of bells, chimes, and several editions of new hymnals.

We did more than tell this story though; we sang it, as our ancestors did. We began unaccompanied, singing a psalm, led by a precentor. Next we added the organ, then several beloved hymns of the 19th and 20th centuries, and children’s songs from Vacation Bible School, accompanied by guitar and bells. As we sang we claimed our story once again; we were amused and encouraged by our spiritual ancestors who persevered amid debates about the propriety of organ music during worship; and we celebrated the truth that our tradition as a church and denomination is one of reformation.

Each congregation’s musical heritage is unique yet we Presbyterians share a common refrain: We are reformed and always to be reformed by God. Our musical life is no exception.

Brian Wren invites us to hear the beginning notes of reformation “Deep in the Shadows of the Past” and to discover the many ways God’s promise changed and grew.   In the very name of our God, “I AM WHAT I WILL BE,” we find the pitch of faith set for our on-going reformation. (See hymn 50, Glory to God)

The future of God’s people has always been unknown—wonderfully, beautifully so. Our faith has always been emerging.

We do not know how the church will change and grow, only that it will.

We do not yet hear the musical variations of faith in the years to come.

What do we know? We know the God who gives us song.


Laura

Laura Fry

Pastor, Covington United Presbyterian Church

Pavilion, NY