Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Worship why

From time to time, I like to answer questions arising in my congregation about liturgy and worship.

It looks like we are not having a sunrise service on Easter morning this year. Why not?
This year, Amazing Grace will have worship on Easter Sunday at 8:30 and 11:00. This change comes for two reasons. 1) Low attendance at 6:30 a.m. in the past. 2) An effort to encourage people to attend the Easter Vigil on Saturday night. Sunrise services are a relatively recent worship phenomenon, likely developed as a shorter alternative to the longer, but more traditional Great Vigil of Easter.

In the early centuries of Christianity, baptisms were only performed at one time in the church year—Easter Vigil. Followers of Jesus gathered all night and into Easter Morning, remembering and retelling stories from the Bible of God’s saving deeds. Persons new to Christianity—called catechumens—were baptized at the Easter Vigil and welcomed into the faith. In preparation for baptism, the catechumens would have a period of preparation, usually involving prayer, fasting, and acts of charity. This time became Lent.

The Vigil includes lighting the Paschal candle from a new fire, hearing stories of God’s saving deeds, remembering Baptism, and celebrating Holy Communion. If you come to our Vigil, expect a service lasting a bit longer than a regular worship service. It might be about an hour and a half long.

It also looks like we aren’t having a separate Children’s Service on Easter.
That is correct. Jesus welcomed children in his arms. Young people belong in worship, rather than being ghettoized into a nursery or cry room. Crunchy cheerios in the carpet are good signs! Ideally every worship service should have elements that appeal to children. A properly executed Easter Vigil can be a powerful experience for people of any age. There are more visual and tactile elements—holding lit candles, being sprinkled with water to remember baptism, eating bread and wine. It’s a very multisensory experience for children and adults alike.

Why doesn’t Pastor Paul put his sermons online?
While I might summarize or occasionally share excerpts of sermons on my blog, as a general rule, I don’t regularly post sermons. First, the sermon is a live, spoken event. What we read is simply a manuscript. There are all kinds of oral and visual elements that just don’t show up in the text. Second, I want to encourage worship attendance. Being together in Christian community is important. You need more than just reading a web page. Third, I want to avoid plagiarism. It’s too easy and tempting for pastors to just go online and get somebody else’s fresh sermon.

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