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Maundy Thursday in an Alternative/Emergent Mode

What makes a worship service alternative or "emergent"? It's not candles, icons, incense and leaders who sport goatees, although at least some of these may also be involved! Primarily, it's the nature of the community that offers such worship. The typical congregation at worship is a public gathering of people following a ritual designed for a public setting. The alternative and the emergent worship movements have sought to develop worship for settings where the people are involved in one another's lives in a more direct, personal way than many congregations are prepared to be. So ritual designed in this mode is often more communal, hands-on, and intimate.

This service is designed to be "unplugged," meaning it requires no computers, screens, or electronic sound or music equipment, although these could be used if available. All you need is yourselves, your songbooks, and a worship order, plus whatever acoustic musicians you have available.

As you consider whether to use or adapt this service, keep in mind the nature of the community that will gather for Maundy Thursday where you are. If people come for what they expect to be a "public" service, they may find this approach uncomfortable or even disturbing. If they are seeking to be a community in worship as they are in the rest of their life together, they may find it moving and refreshing. Know your worshiping community, and lead them wisely! -- Taylor Burton-Edwards

Worship space design: At least two separate seating areas, each with enough seats for all, an area for the foot washing or other acts of physical service you will offer, and enough room around the Lord's Table for all to gather around it.

The first seating area as people enter the space surrounds a large font or bowl with water.

The second seating area, also in circular form, is where Scripture will be read and proclaimed.

Entrance: Welcoming Penitents

Lighting: Dark except for candlelight surrounding the font and around the outside of the seating circle.

Soundscape: Silence or meditative acoustic music based on chord progressions from "Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy" (UMH 340) -- guitar and/or flute, or quiet piano/keyboard.

As all have taken their seats, music still playing, a pastor, deacon or other leader stands and offers a word of greeting, something like this:

We join a solemn journey of three days
that has changed the world
and our own lives.
Followers of Jesus have been taking this journey
since his first followers took it, long ago.


This is the night of love.


On the night Jesus took a towel and basin,
and washed his disciples' feet.
On this night he told them to do the same for others
to show their love for him
and for one another.
This is the night of love.


On this night, followers of Jesus
have invited those preparing for baptism
to begin with them a solemn vigil of prayer and fasting
until the day of Christ's resurrection is fulfilled.
This is the night of love.


On this night, Jesus broke bread and shared wine with his followers
for the last time,
and invited them to remember him
to encounter him anew,
whenever they did the same.
This is the night of love.


On this night, followers of Jesus
have welcomed those who have returned to the way of Jesus
after a time of wandering
and a journey of returning.
This is the night of love.


This is the night of love.
And so, on this night,
we welcome the penitent --
all here have wandered- -
and invite all preparing --
all here are still learning --
to join us in hearing and obeying
the commandment of our Master
and to feast at his table,
that we may love one another
as he has loved us.

Come, ye sinners.
Come, ye thirsty.
Come, ye weary.
Come to the night of love.

Song: "Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy" (UMH 340)
Soloist: Verse 1
All stand to sing: Refrain

Female voices: Verse 2
All: Refrain

Male Voices: Verse 3
All: Refrain

All: Hum one verse and Soloist: Worshipers are invited to embrace others nearby, sharing, if they wish, the reason for their need of embrace -- sin, spiritual thirst, or weariness.

All: Verse 4 and Refrain.
Worshipers move to the next assembly area during the singing of verse 4.
Accompanists continue playing until all have arrived at their new seats.

House lights go up.

Song: Welcome (Worship & Song, 3152; For Everyone Born, 7)

Soloist—Verse 1 and Refrain

Instrumental accompaniment continues, decrescendo, as the deacon or pastor moves to the center of the gathered people. Accompaniment fades out after the first few verses of the first reading.

Lectio, Reflectio and Collectio: Inviting All to Listen and Obey the Spirit

Reading: John 13:1-7, 12-16, 34-35

The deacon or pastor stands in the center of the gathered people and reads the gospel three times, with pauses between each reading for reflection. After the first reading, the deacon/pastor invites people to notice what stood out for them, and perhaps jot down a word or two to remember it. For the second reading, the deacon/pastor invites all to listen more intently around those words or themes to hear more clearly what the Spirit is speaking or showing. For the third reading, the deacon/pastor invites all to listen and decide one action each will take to obey the Spirit's promptings from the Word. After a suitable time of silence, invite all who wish to share briefly what they noticed, what the Spirit showed them, and one thing they intend to do to follow the Spirit's direction. This is a time of sharing and listening only, not conversation.

As the sharing winds down, the instrumentalists start to fade up into the intro for "Welcome."

Responding to the Spirit: Washing Feet

Song: Welcome, verse 2 (all sing)

Instrumentalists continue playing quietly, as the pastor says:

This is the night of love.
Jesus washed his disciples' feet,
reversing roles of master and student
servant and host,
and told them to do the same
to show the world God's love
and theirs.

On this night, we wash each other's feet,
obeying Christ's command to love one another
as he has loved us.

Let Christ love you here,
and share that love with another.

The pastor and other church leaders go to washing stations. After receiving the footwashing, each person takes the towel to wash the feet of the next, and so on, until all have been washed.

Songs during Footwashing from The Faith We Sing
These or others are sung and accompanied quietly, as long as needed. The final song, after all have returned from being washed, is 2223, "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love"

2228, "Sacred the Body"
2226,"Bind Us Together"
2222, "The Servant Song"
2223, "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love"

During the singing of this song, all are invited to encircle the Lord's Table.

Song: Welcome, verse 3

Soloist: Verse; All, Refrain, twice

Instrumental music continues, segueing into the opening chord progression of "God of Wonders" (Worship & Song, 3034)

Pastor: This is the night of love.
And this is the table of love.
At this table, Christ, who loves us, is with us.
He is with us, and we are his. We belong to God. And so we pray:

We are yours, all yours, blessed Triune God,
all our lives, all our thanks, all our praise,
all our fears, all our grumbling, all our hesitations,
all our loves, all our joys, all our passions,
we give them all to you, with bodies, and minds and voices.
Yours, all yours!

Yours the blessing, yours the praise,
from the unimaginable silence before the big bang,
beyond the farthest reaches of time and space we may ever find,
from infinity to infinity, everlasting to everlasting,
you are God, boundless in love and power.

What are we that you should notice us?
What are we that you should love us?
What are we what you should call us into covenant with you,
a covenant we continually broke
and you continuously sustained.
Mercy! How full of mercy!

How can we but praise you,
joining our voices with the song of angels and saints,
seraphim and martyrs,
strangers and family in every generation:

Sanctus: two or three times

(Sing "God of wonders" CHORUS, through "Lord of heaven and earth.")

Jesus Christ who comes in our God's name, you are worthy, worthy!
Lamb of God for all creation slain, you are worthy, worthy!
Hosanna to our King! Hosanna to our King!

Accompaniment slowly fades out as the pastor resumes:
You are holy, O God!
You are worthy, O Christ
Worthy in your birth! Worthy in your living!
Worthy in your loving! Worthy in your serving!
Worthy! Worthy! Worthy!
You preached good news that God's kingdom has drawn near
and gathered disciples, then and now, to learn and show the world
what life in God's reign means:
healing for the sick.
new life for the dead,
cleansing for the lepers,
sight for the blinded,
food for the hungry,
freedom for the possessed,
love poured out for all.

Worthy the night you took a towel and basin,
washed your disciples' feet,
and taught them to do likewise

Worthy too, the same night we betrayed you,
when you took the bread, blessed it and broke it,
and gave it to your disciples.

Worthy when you told them,
"This is my body broken for you. Remember me."

We remember.

Worthy when you took the cup,
praised God and shared it,
and worthy when you said,
"This is my blood of the new covenant for you. Remember me."

We remember.

We remember, and we praise you with our lives
and these gifts of bread and wine,
proclaiming with one voice the mystery of faith:
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Come upon us, Holy Spirit.

Come upon us, Holy Spirit.

Come upon these gifts.

Come upon these gifts.

Make them be for us Christ's body, Christ's blood.

Make us one body in Christ enlivened in love by his blood.

One in heart, one in mind, one in you, Holy Spirit,
as you move us to pray for the church and the world:

(A deacon or lay leader, if available, leads these prayers. Otherwise, the pastor continues)
That we may proclaim the gospel boldly:
Hear us, Lord.

That healing may come for people who are sick, and peoples who are torn and weary:
Hear us, Lord.

That many dead and left for dead may be raised, and death itself vanquished:
Hear us, Lord.

That all who are unclean may receive your cleansing grace:
Hear us, Lord.

That all who are possessed, oppressed, distressed, depressed and downcast may be set free at last.
Hear us, Lord.

That we may love one another, and all your creation, as you have loved us.
Hear us, Lord.

Even so, come and fill this feast, Holy Spirit,
on this night, and every night
until we eat it new at the marriage supper of the Lamb!

All blessing, honor, glory and power
be yours, Holy Triune God,
now and forever.

The presider breaks the bread and lifts the cup.

Hymns During Communion: TFWS 2267, 2260 -- Sing each several times as needed. Conclude with Worship & Song, 3170, "What Feast of Love"

Chord progressions of "What Feast of Love" continue playing during the Thankgiving and Sending.

Thanksgiving after Communion:
Thank you, God, for uniting us with Jesus in this holy mystery.
We are no longer our own, but yours.
So send us, and put us to leading and serving,
loving as you have loved us
wherever we go. Amen.

Pastor: This is the night of love.
Go forth in the strength of this feast, in the care of this community, and with the love and blessing of our Triune God. Amen.

Accompaniment rises to full volume for all to sing the last line of "What Feast of Love"

"Oh, taste and see and sing! The love of God is given!"

NOTE: See Worship Station Words for Maundy Thursday Alternative/Emergent Service

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