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[Worship Practice] 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Stevan
  • Music: Stevan leading a small team (vocals, acoustic guitar, other guitar, drums)
  • Scripture: Michael (2 Corinthians 4:1-12 and Psalm 81), Cn. Dave (Mark 2:23-28)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Come People of the Risen King
  • Trading My Sorrows
  • Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
  • Our Father

Offertory

  • God, Make Us Your Family

Communion

  • The Church’s One Foundation
  • Communion Hymn (Behold the Lamb)

Dismissal

  • Give Us Clean Hands

Collect for the Day

O God, the protector of all those who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy, that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal; grant this, heavenly Father, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Ordinary Time typically brings a loss of focus for many people. When the Church is not commemorating any specific event, after the expansive and all-involved drama of Advent through Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, it is easy to wonder what we’re doing when we get together. The return to the liturgy of the Anglican Church in North America, and the rhythms that go with that signal that a new season has arrived. That effect is slightly delayed for us at Church of the Savior, because we are continuing our series on listening to the voice of God.

That life of the Church is actually the core of Ordinary Time. That we were singing about what it is to be God’s people, and to have that life: the great exchange of the fallen life in the world for the joy of salvation drew us in to that place where we were aware of one another. The prophetic exhortation I believe God gave me to deliver following that singing pointed to the great exchange that Jesus made for us, and the things we are invited to bring together and trade out–with a God who is much better than the god of the “prosperity gospel.” I closed with the Collect for the Day, which appropriately asks God that “we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal.”

Appropriately, Steven’s message was about listening to God speak through the counsel of other believers. We stepped into that place of learning to improv in this time beyond the Scripture’s, waiting for the return of Christ and the restoration of all things. Sure, we’ve got a mission, but we’ve also got day-to-day decisions to make. Stevan dove into wisdom, and circumstances, and having the awareness to pay attention to what God is saying in order to bring life to us.

We continued with the Creed, and the prayers of the people. We recently switched to a version of the Prayers offered in the ACNA Renewed Ancient Rite, and encouraging people to offer their own exhortations in connection with the biddings. This seems to work really well for us, and gives a greater sense of cohesion to our corporate prayers. I flew briefly through the announcements, and then we entered the time of Holy Communion. The worship we offered in receiving from the Table, and singing these words of unity in the songs “The Church’s One Foundation” and “Behold the Lamb” fed into our dismissal with an awareness of our need for God’s grace on us as we dispersed: “O God, let us be/ a generation that seeks/ that seeks your face, O God of Jacob.”

Amen. Let us be such, O God of Jacob.

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[Worship Practice] Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Tom and Kelli leading a small team (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums)
  • Scripture: Candy (Acts 2:1-11 and Psalm 104:24-35), Dcn. Andrea (John 20:19-23)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • How Great is our God
  • Freedom
  • Better is One Day
  • All Who are Thirsty

Offertory

  • Holy Spirit (Your Presence)

Communion

  • Let Us Break Bread Together
  • Freedom Reigns

Dismissal

  • Friend of God

Collect for the Day

Almighty God, on this day, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, you revealed the way of eternal life to every race and nation: Pour out this gift anew, that by the preaching of the Gospel your salvation may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.Amen.

I love Pentecost. As someone from a Pentecostal background, the fact that the Church must remember and commemorate the wildness of the Holy Spirit on an annual basis. It’s the last Sunday of the year that Church of the Savior worships with the Kenyan liturgy. I led the celebration (and we managed to start a few minutes late per COTS tradition–I *really* do try to get started at 10am!). I invited the people, reminded them of the celebration of Pentecost (in case the red frontal and table-covering weren’t obvious enough), and spoke about my expectations for the Holy Spirit’s presence and ministry in our midst.

We began with the Pentecost Acclamation, proceeded to the Collect for Purity and in place of the Confession of Sin, Deacon Laura led the Litany for Mission after which we worshipped though the songs of praise. Pentecost has a thoroughly missional-emphasis in COTS’ liturgical praxis, and the worship reflects the need for the Spirit that God’s people have. One of the things I thought of as soon as I knew we were singing “How Great is our God” is wishing I had known ahead to introduce the Hebrew version of the chorus. I sang it anyway, but no way the congregation caught it.

In the silence following, there was a prayer for more of the Holy Spirit, a reading of Psalm 84, an invitation to trust in God to heal, to save, to empower, and fill. I felt that I received a prophetic word, so I shared about the psalmist not seeing the better day that he proclaimed in Psalm 84, but that “Today is that day, the day of salvation, of healing, of rescue, to be made new.” Drawing from Isaiah 61, I shared that I believed God was inviting us to trade our sorrow for joy, our sin for righteousness, our anxiety for his peace, etc. I concluded with the collect for the day.

After praying God’s Spirit would be stirred in “the sons and daughters”, I dismissed the kids to their classes, and Candy read the first part of the Pentecost story from Acts. Appropriately, we prayed Psalm 104 portion antiphonally, beginning with the women. Deacon Andrea read the Johannine Pentecost (which, oddly, figured into my sermon last week). Fr. Dennett’s sermon was a teaching on the prophetic/revelatory gifts of the Holy Spirit and how She speaks in the Church (Scripture, tongues/interpretation, dreams/visions, prophecy). There were two testimonies in the course of the sermon.

At this point, running long, we proceeded through the Creed, and the prayers of the people, which included another series of prayers for mission and evangelization and for the Gospel to reach into the areas sin and death have broken down (read: everything). After several extended extemporaneous intercessions, I concluded the prayers, and Fr. Dennett proceeded with the announcements. At the conclusion of the announcements, I encouraged people to receive prayer during Communion for the baptism of the Holy Spirit and delivered the offertory sentence. The time of Holy Communion went according to the norms, and in place of the Post-Communion Prayer, I asked, “Are there any who have not come to the Lord’s Table?” The congregation’s response is the numbers of unreached and unconverted across the world. When we finished the list, I asked, “Who will go and invite them to this Banquet?” The congregation said “We will go, with our lives, our service, our support” (or something very close to that). It’s a powerful missional commitment to close with Pentecost. With that fresh from their lips, I declared God’s blessing, and we sang and dismissed…about 20 minutes later than almost any service….and I wasn’t even able to leave the church building for another 40 minutes. Quite the day.

Come, Holy Spirit!

[Worship Practice] 6th Sunday of Easter

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Stevan
  • Music: Stevan leading a small team (vocals, acoustic guitar)
  • Scripture: Martha (1 John 4:7-21 and Psalm 33), Cn. Dave (John 15:9-17)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Open Up the Heavens
  • You Never Let Go
  • Power of Your Love
  • Tis So Sweet (To Trust in Jesus)

Offertory

  • Show Me Your Ways

Communion

  • The More I Seek You
  • Word of God Speak

Dismissal

  • Great Are You Lord

Collect for the Day

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Rogation Sunday is one of those bits about the liturgical year I confess I don’t fully understand. At least it’s still Easter–THAT I understand. We continued to worship according the to the use of the Kenyan liturgy.  I gathered the congregation with a few things from my Pentecostal background–expecting congregational responses to “Good morning” and, what finally worked, “This is the day that the Lord has made!” responded to with “Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” I invited us to acknowledge God’s presence, and to be confident that He was at work among us and to break barriers and bring renewal. We moved through the opening acclamation and songs of praise with ease–with a building awareness of the Holy Spirit’s brooding presence. Following the songs of praise, we had silence for an extended period when Pastor Joe (our founding pastor) offered thanks to God for His work.  By the time I approached the lectern again, most of the congregation was seated. Recognizing the Presence, I opted not to tell them to stand for the collect. Many of them stood when we began praying the collect for the day.

The kids were invited up and prayed for and dismissed to their class. Martha read the epistle reading from 1 John, prefacing it with a testimony of how God had been moving in her life in the week before to remind her of His loving presence and the providential circumstances that she would be reading about God’s love for the worship. We prayed Psalm 33 responsively. Since our deacons were otherwise occupied (children and nursery), I read the Gospel. Stevan came up to teach on barriers to hearing from God. He began with a confession and asking the congregation’s forgiveness for not keeping a commitment he had made. And when he started to continue, Pastor Joe stood up, and asked that we receive Stevan’s apology and demonstrate our forgiveness as a congregation. It was a beautiful moment. Stevan continued and it was evident that he wasn’t quite teaching in the way he had prepared to (as it didn’t match the outline provided, strictly) but it was an anointed teaching that called us to recognize that God’s silence often stems from (1) not asking, or asking with wrong motivations (James 4:-3), (2) presumption (Numbers 14:39-45), and not listening to the last thing God told us (Isaiah 1:15-16; Isaiah 30:15).

To conclude, Stevan invited us to take some time to listen–to repent of where we did not obey God’s call and to ask “What’s next?” The music team returned to the stage and sang “The More I Seek You” as the congregation engaged in that time. If I thought the Spirit’s presence couldn’t be heavier, I was proved wrong. I was reticent to approach and continue with the Creed, and the Prayers of the People, but it needed to happen. There was an energy to those acts of faith.

At announcements, Fr. Dennett interviewed a parishioner about a music ministry time she had initiated with others at a local assisted living facility that had drawn over 40 residents. We then celebrated Pastor Joe’s birthday, and prayed for him as he continues in ministry. The legacy of Pastor Joe’s vision to reach people who are so often forgotten has shaped the ministry and heart of Church of the Savior in an indelible way. When we finished the offertory, I addressed the congregation with the reminder of the invitation we had received from Stevan to ask God “What’s next?” and further encouraged us to remember that God does not call us to what He won’t enable–and that what we receive at the Table is strength for whatever is next. My experience of celebrating that Holy Communion was a keen awareness of our congregation being caught up in the presence of the heavenly worship.

As we sang “Great Are You Lord” at the conclusion, I could see the Spirit working, and I think Stevan caught it, as well, because he drew the song out as much as could be done reasonably. The Pentecostal pastor in me would have loved nothing better than to invite people forward to pray and spend time in God’s presence at “the altar” but the way “coffee hour” is done in the rear of the sanctuary makes that quite impossible. It’s something to wrestle with–attending to the move of the Spirit, and honoring the liturgy and freedom of those who are released from what is going on. How do we as Anglicans disciple into that kind of space? How can we make room for it in our churches?

[Worship Project] 4th Sunday of Easter

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Stevan
  • Music: Tom leading a small team (vocals, keys or drums, acoustic guitar)
  • Scripture: Stevan (Habbakuk 2:15-20 and Psalm 62), Dcn. Andrea (John 10:11-16)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Praise is Rising
  • Oh How I Need You
  • All Creatures of our God and King
  • Something About that Name

Offertory

  • Give Me Jesus

Communion

  • Christ Be All Around Me

Dismissal

  • Oh How I Need You

Collect for the Day

O God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice, we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

One of the fascinating things about leading worship in this community is the way that time is not our primary consideration. We are gathered to be the people of God. Despite my best efforts as an officiant, it’s a challenge to gather, and pray before 10 and start by 10. But I continue to press it–and as I tell the team–if we start at 10, people will show up at 10. The worship is that important. But there’s also another contradiction in that: I take my watch off. It’s a recent thing, but it’s an intentional thing that I need to step away from the worldly concerns and the worship of the clock/schedule to be part of leading God’s people in something that’s eternal and timeless.

There was something reflective of the cosmos in this day of worship. We gave our praise, invited all creation into that praise, asked for God’s help to sustain our lives…and at the end of it all was just…silence. Silence. It’s what Stevan taught and invited us into. He gave voice to that time of simply being in God’s presence waiting to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. It was a powerful teaching, and at the end of it, he led the congregation into two minutes of silence and waiting, and the invitation to bring that into our own day to day lives. There’s an anointing on this season of teaching and the worship that has everything running in sync, and it’s a gift to us from the Lord.

[Worship Practice] 3rd Sunday of Easter

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Music: Mark & Sarah leading a full team (vocals, keys, drums, guitars)
  • Scripture: Pat (Acts 4:23-31 and Psalm 98), Dcn. Laura (Luke 24:36-49)

Set List

I didn’t manage to capture any of the songs we used….sorry!

Collect for the Day

Almighty God, you gave your only Son to be for us both a sacrifice for sin and an example of godly living: Give us grace thankfully to receive his inestimable benefits, and daily to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

One of the things about being ordained is you never know what is going to happen. I was scheduled to preach this particular Sunday and about 20 minutes prior to the service, I got a call from our deacon letting me know that the rector was sick, and that I would ALSO be celebrating/officiating for the service. Gathering for worship didn’t take very long, and we started MOSTLY on time (a personal goal of mine is to start at 10am sharp someday…we’ll see!). I had taken personal Sabbath from the worship gather the week before, so in many ways, it felt to me like Easter was just getting started. Continuing with the Kenyan liturgy, I invited the congregation to engage with enthusiasm and readiness to encounter God.

Encounter became the theme of the service. There was a message in tongues, that I felt led to deliver an interpretation for, “Over the chaos, I AM.” There was a more extended prophetic word reminding us that in the midst of chaos, darkness and overwhelming nothingness, the Spirit of God hovered over to bring life. And that God’s speaking will bring order and substance to that chaotic place. A prayer followed from the congregation’s founding rector that praised God for the reminder that when the Word and Spirit come together, God’s life is seen.

My sermon was part 2 of a series we are doing about hearing from God. Specifically, the message emphasized that God’s intention–revealed from gathering Israel at Sinai all through the rest of the Scriptures–was to speak to His people as a corporate community. We do that formally (liturgically) and informally (spontaneously). We also hear from God  in corporate worship and in private worship. God speaks every time we hear the Word, hear forgiveness, take time to listen for the whisper of the Holy Spirit, or through the words of other believers, and through the sacraments–coming to the Table meant hearing God speak to us about our identity, and his promises.

Worship continued in that vein as we received Holy Communion. And we were dismissed, prepared to hear the voice of God.

 

[Worship Practice] 1st Sunday of Easter

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Fr. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Stevan leading a full team (vocals, keys, drums, guitars)
  • Scripture: Cyndi (Colossians 3:1-4 and Psalm 118:14-24), Dcn. Laura (Mark 16:1-8)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Christ is Risen, He is Risen
  • Jesus Christ is Risen Today
  • Glorious Day
  • What a Beautiful Name

Offertory

  • Christ is Risen

Communion

  • Wood and Nails
  • Forever (We Sing Hallelujah)

Dismissal

  • Hail Thee Festival Day

Collect for the Day

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may, by your life-giving Spirit, be delivered from sin and raised from death; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I love celebrating Easter. I love leading the celebration of the Great Vigil and then again on Easter morning, and I was grateful to have that privilege again this year. Church of the Savior, uniquely, celebrates with the Communion liturgy of the Anglican Church of Kenya during Easter Season, so there are a number of differences–including a longer opening, and far more call and response dialogue throughout the liturgy–at the opening, and during the Communion rite itself. It’s very engaging.

Easter itself was full of joy–an exuberant liturgy, a sermon calling us to go forward even in fear in face of resurrection, and several moments of spontaneous praise and prophetic words. Death was defeated, and we knew it. We knew and believed that all our problems and difficulties and the devil’s works were sent to the cross of Christ, and that all our hope was set on the Risen Christ. This is the shortest reflection I’ve written yet–and some of it is the distance from Easter (now that the 4th Sunday of Easter has passed), but mostly it is that the Eucatastrophe of the Resurrection cannot be contained by description and when we worship in that period, it passes out of words. Hallelujah! Christ is risen!

[Worship Practice] Great Vigil of Easter

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Fr. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dave
  • Music: Joe providing vocals and guitar
  • Scripture: Micah, Anna, Sarah, Jason, Joe (Vigil lessons), Cesiah (Epistle/Psalm), Fr. Dave (Gospel)

Set List

Song of Praise

  • Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Communion

  • Jesus Messiah

Dismissal

  • Because He Lives (Amen)

Collect for the Day

O God, you made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This was, as far as I’m aware, the first celebration of the Great Vigil of Easter at Church of the Savior. We started a bit late (owing to explanation and welcome and getting everyone in the door) and were worshipping in another room in the church generally reserved for smaller gatherings. Following the welcome, I led the congregation outside to the parking lot, where we started the “new fire” of Easter for the Service of Light. After praying the blessing, we lit a paschal candle, and (after some unsuccessful attempts owing to the wind), began to light vigil candles for our procession back into the building.

Once assembled, with the paschal candle in place, I said (note: not sang) the Exsultet, and we began the Service of Lessons. Five readers (including a young child and a teenager) read the six lessons (Creation, Fall, Abraham Sacrifice of Isaac, Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea, Salvation offered freely to all, and the Valley of dry bones) and we prayed the psalms (and canticle) in response to them by the light of the candles. The room was otherwise dark. The sense of anticipation and meditation on our history as God’s people was building throughout. Traditionally, there are 9 Vigil lessons read, but given the experimental nature of our service, I decided to restrict it to those 6 (The ACNA liturgy actually allows as many as 12).

At the conclusion of the Vigil lessons, I led the group in the renewal of our baptismal vows. The renunciation of the world, the flesh and the devil and submission to Jesus in the fellowship of His Church is a powerful, punctuating ritual in the conclusion of Lent. Following the renewal of vows, we shouted the Easter Acclamation (and it sounded much larger than our gathering of 12!), and the lights came on as we welcomed the Easter Day with the classic hymn, Christ the Lord is Risen Today. We proceeded to the collect, and Cesiah read the Epistle (Romans 6:3-11) and led us in praying Psalm 114. Hearing the first reading of Easter by a woman was an important aspect that I wanted us to experience as a community. Given more time to plan, I would have arranged for the message to spoken by a woman as well.  After sharing the Gospel reading (in the way our Archdeacon, the Ven. Mark Stevenson taught by example–from memorized delivery of the story), I shared a message of the way that Jesus’ resurrection turns everything upside down, and ends the tyranny of sin and death and oppression. Mary Magdalene is sent to bring news of new life and being with God to the men, reversing Eve’s sharing of the fruit in Genesis 3. I called on the men to hear and receive the words God gives our sisters in Christ, and to take the message of Jesus’ resurrection into the world: because for us in the Kingdom of God, the “Upside Down” world we live in is on notice, and we can bring words of life and newness to set things to rights. It seemed that the message was empowering/healing for those present and I pray it produces more good fruit.

We concluded with Holy Communion (Ancient Rite), singing “Jesus, Messiah” during the distribution of Communion. The service closed with the fourfold Blessing of Easter and singing “Because He Lives (Amen).” The resurrection joy was real, and we were dismissed in the joy of our salvation.