This is more detail than most people want, but some folks are curious about the makeup of the worship service itself. If you are interested to know more about worship at Davis UMC – about what all the parts are, and why we do what we do – read on! In particular, the notes on “passing the peace” and the offering may surprise you with some new thoughts.
Davis United Methodist Church follows a basic pattern of worship which is shared in common with most of Christendom. That can be difficult to believe, because the ways in which we carry out this basic pattern of worship can feel very different in different churches at different times. And yet it is true: the basic pattern of worship followed by United Methodists is the basic pattern of worship embraced by Lutherans and Presbyterians and others, and it is close kin to the pattern of worship used by Roman Catholics and Episcopalians.
The basic pattern of worship has four simple parts:
- The Entrance
- Proclamation and Response
- Thanksgiving and Communion
- Sending Forth
The entrance begins as the light of Christ enters the sanctuary and moves to light the candles on the altar. The entrance includes our gathering and our greetings and a chance to recall why we are here.
The Christian faith is meant to be practiced in community. So this part of the service, this part called the “Entrance,” is the part where we lift up the life of the community and we celebrate our connections to one another. Gathering in community is an important part of worship. And part of that is greeting one another, getting to know one another. This “Entrance” time is also when we highlight things going on in this church community.
One thing we know about God is that God welcomes each and every one of us. God speaks to you and says, “come to me: you are welcome.” And we know from scripture that God particularly welcomes the stranger. So we use this time to greet the folks around us, and especially folks who you don’t already know.
We continue this part of the service called the “Entrance” with our Call to Worship. This is a time to remember what we’re here for. We say out loud that we are gathered here because God calls us here. We gather in the expectation that God is present with us, that Christ is present with us, that the Holy Spirit moves among us. The worship leader calls us all to worship.
Proclamation and Response
In some traditions this would be called the “Liturgy of the Word.” What this means to us is that we focus first on scripture, and on the interpretation and application of scripture through the sermon. We then move on to ways we respond after hearing how God might speak to us through scripture and sermon. After the scripture is read the proclamation of the Word continues with the sermon, with some way of exploring God’s Word with children, and with congregational hymns or choir anthems that reinforce the Word. The “response” includes praying together, passing the peace, and offering and dedicating our gifts to God.
Passing the Peace
Passing the Peace of Christ to those who gather along with us for worship on a Sunday morning is actually not a time to greet friends or catch up on the latest news (we do that as we gather, or during “The Entrance” part of the service). Passing the Peace of Christ has a very particular significance in the Christian tradition.
In his sermon on the mount, Jesus said: “blessed are the peacemakers.” When Jesus instructed his disciples in how to do no harm, he told them: “be at peace with each other.” When Jesus first sent out seventy of his followers to spread the news of the kingdom of God, he told them whenever they entered a house they should great the people by saying, “peace to this house.” When the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples, he greeted them by saying “peace be with you.” Over and over again, we see that Jesus called us to be peacemakers and to be at peace with one another. We see that Jesus’ own way of greeting his disciples was with words of peace.
When teaching his disciples about being at peace with one another, Jesus also made a connection to practices of worship. Jesus said that if anyone was in worship at the temple and getting ready to make their offering, and they remembered that they had an outstanding quarrel with another believer, then he or she should leave the temple, go find the person they were at odds with, and be reconciled. Once they were reconciled, they were in a position to return to the temple worship and make their offering. In a similar way, Paul opened most of his letters to early Christian communities with greetings of peace, and Paul taught that Christians ought to be at peace, ought to be reconciled to one another.
In worship we deal in symbolism. We celebrate communion and believe that it nourishes us, even though it is not enough food or drink to literally provide enough nourishment for our bodies. In a similar way, passing the peace of Christ to those worshipping alongside us does not literally work out quarrels or bring about reconciliation in strained relationships. But it reminds us of God’s will for us as surely as bread and wine remind us of God’s will for us. So we offer the peace of Christ to one another before offering our gifts, and before receiving communion on communion Sundays. Passing the peace of Christ to one another every week reminds us that Jesus calls us to strive for reconciliation and peace in our relationships with one another. Week after week, we offer signs of peace as our “yes” to that call, as our symbolic expression of our own desire to engage in reconciliation, to live the peace that Christ modeled and invites us to.
Offering Our Gifts
Offering ourselves is a primary response to hearing God speak in our lives. We may not fully appreciate the opportunity we have in this piece of the worship service. Like passing the peace, this offering is symbolic. We believe that we offer our whole lives – all that we have, and all that we are – to God. What we offer during this time in our Sunday morning worship service is only a symbol of that.
We encourage folks to always put something in the offering plate – just to help us remember that we always say “yes” to the invitation to offer ourselves to God. It is especially true these days that offering plates aren’t the way most of us transmit our financial support to the church. Many people have a check or electronic transfer generated automatically. So consider putting in even a penny, to remind yourself of the “yes” you say to the invitation to offer yourself to God.
In worship we bless the offerings and make it clear that we are dedicating all our offerings to God.
Thanksgiving and Communion
The prayer that introduces the sacrament of communion is called “The Great Thanksgiving,” and thus we get our heading of “thanksgiving and communion.” Davis UMC typically celebrates communion once a month, on the first Sunday of the month. All are welcome to receive the sacrament. That means all: you don’t need to be a member of Davis United Methodist Church; you don’t need to be a member of any church; you don’t need to have already been baptized. The United Methodist Church believes that Christ has opened this table fellowship to all people.
Our “sending forth” portion of the service includes a parting hymn and benediction – and then we go out into the world. As we depart from our time of worship, we take the light of Christ with us, to spread that in the world – including carrying the light out of the sanctuary.
The function of a benediction is blessing and sending – to bless the gathered people, and send us out into the world, charging us to do something to put our faith into practice.