Thinking Out Loud

February 26, 2021

Opening Lines

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:47 am

In my early years of blogging, a popular site to visit was Ship of Fools. The highlight there was a page where reviewers — Mystery Worshipers — would visit churches and write a report based on quite a list of criteria.

The reviewers visit churches around the world, while most are in the UK. Many are ‘high church’ denominations, but there is a variety here as I tried to hone in on alternatives to the Church of England and Episcopal churches which dominate.

One thing they held in high regard was the opening statement, or opening spoken call to worship. I had reason to re-visit the site recently, and decided to do some copying-and-pasting. Some of these services were observed online during the pandemic.

This is something that honestly, Evangelicals don’t put a lot of mental energy into considering; but you could argue that as goes the opening statement, so goes the service.


“The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. It is a pearl of great value.”

‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’

“Good morning, church! Praise the Lord. God is good all the time – and all the time God is good.”

‘Good morning. Welcome to church!’

‘Good morning, and welcome to our celebration.’

‘Good morning. It’s a blessing to be here.’

“Good morning! Let’s stand and worship the Lord through singing.”

‘OK. Good morning, everybody. We’re gonna make a start. There’s plenty of seats in the front!’

‘Good morning. Welcome to [name of Church] as we celebrate the solemnity of All Saints.’

‘Is this mic working? Ah, there. Good morning, everyone!

‘Ready to go? I’m ready.’

“Good evening, everybody. Tonight we celebrate Pentecost, the birth of the Church.”

‘Visitors are very, very welcome!’

‘A hearty welcome to this Service of God today.’

‘Isn’t it great to be in the house of the Lord?’

‘Welcome. Isn’t it great we have the freedom to worship together today?’

‘We meet in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’

‘We are gathered this morning in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’

‘Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’

Blessed be the holy Trinity, one God, whose steadfast love is everlasting, whose faithfulness endures from generation to generation.’

‘Hey, welcome… We’re really glad you’re here.’

“Welcome to everyone who is here to worship the Lord.”

‘Praise the Lord with all that you have,’

‘Stand up as God calls us to worship.’

“OK, let’s worship God together.”

‘Let us come together in our call to worship.’

‘Let us worthily fulfill the act of consecration of man.’

V: ‘Let us go forth in peace.’ R: ‘In the name of Christ, Amen.’

V. ‘Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people.’ R. ‘Kindle in us the fire of your love.’


I must confess that this is a point in a worship gathering where I do prefer the gesture to formality. One opening statement that I picked up somewhere and have used myself is ‘We welcome you [or ‘We’re gathered here] in the name of the Father who loves us, the Son who died for us, and the Holy Spirit who lives inside us.’ 

How does the worship service commence each week where you gather?

July 12, 2016

Retro Reviewing: Pagan by Frank Viola and George Barna

Filed under: books, Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am

In 2008, books about ecclesiology were selling briskly. Bloggers were consuming and recommending books about the church and church planting at rates never before seen, and the market included both clergy and laity, with the latter group feeling empowered to take an interest in a subject previously left to the professionals. (Historically in North America, while you might need theological degrees to be the pastor of a church, the work of planting includes colorful stories involving all types of people.)

paganPagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices was an important book during this time. The Tyndale House-distributed title with the bright red cover was presumably an update of a previous edition in 2002. According to what I wrote at the time, George Barna’s contribution was added for the revised edition. I have to assume that included much of the research; up to 25% of each page contains exhaustive footnotes. Those notes give the book an academic air, but in the end, especially re-reading this today as I’ve been doing, you realize that some of what is being offered up is based in opinion; specifically a preference for less-institutional, more organic worship setting, specifically the house church type of gathering. The book seems to want to call for a more radical paradigm shift than is realistically possible across the entire spectrum of churches.

In 2008, the market was ripe for a book like this. It was a time for deconstruction, and many were re-inventing the wheel. The terms emergent church and emerging church were on everyone’s lips, as was the idea of being missional, but this book doesn’t necessarily go there, since many emergent forms consisted of a blended worship which continued to incorporate the very traditional elements the book decries as rooted in medieval Catholicism, academia and even forms from other religions.

Where the book shines however is in terms of giving us an historical understanding of why we do the things we do.  The use of church buildings. The sermon form. The robes and vestments. The clergy. The paid church staff. The Choir. Our expression of Baptism and Communion. Christian Education.

In 2016, as I’ve gone through it again, I believe the book continues to speak into our tendency to do church as it has always been done. Reading it eight years later provides a different lens however; many models were considered and not those churches which were implemented succeeded. Rather, the book inspired church planters to take a salad bar approach, to pick and choose which elements they wished to refine or delete altogether. 

However, this time around, I also got more of the sense of walking in on a heated argument; a reminder that there are two sides in a debate, the other being traditionalists. It could be argued that we came through this micro-period in church history and not much changed. Or, it could equally be argued that in 2016 we have a much greater variety of churches doing very different types of things, and giving expression to their worship in unique ways. 

For the latter group, the book Pagan may have been a big part of that.

 

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