Where Are the Worship Resources for Ordinary Time?

Let's start by affirming that what the church needs most to worship is the church — a living community of people gathered around Christ. This summer, lead your people in following the simple blueprint of the original faith communities: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42)

Vital worship is not about doing it right or having the latest music or official prayer texts. The most essential resources for worship can't be bought in a store or downloaded from a webpage. Some of the best and most extraordinary resources available are at hand — the church — and your work is to envision people gathering around Christ, hungering for the living Word in proclamation and sacrament, and welcoming the stranger in the power of the Spirit. Do that faithfully and creatively each week, and summer Sundays will be far from ordinary!

Start with the people. You don't have to do something to them; your work is to prompt and encourage them to full, conscious, and active participation in praise and prayer. Discern their gifts; and invite them to share in the tasks of making music, telling stories, enacting dramas, writing litanies, and choreographing movements. Let the people own the story they were made a part of in baptism — sharing Christ's death and anticipating Christ's resurrection.

Hymns, prayers, textile arts, and skillful and authorized leaders are important. Weave these liturgical resources with those seeking faith and the spiritual gifts resident in your community and church. Start with the people as resources. Don't forget children as members of the faith community. They love trying things. Give others permission to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8).

Since Ordinary Time is not a season in the same sense as Easter or Christmas, you need to use a little more ingenuity in finding what you need. The United Methodist Hymnal and The United Methodist Book of Worship are the first places you may want to start.

In the Hymnal, use the extensive index system at the back of the book. For example, if you are planning worship around a portion of John 6:35-58, check the "Index of Scripture" on page 925; you will find six hymns listed. Use the "Index of Topics and Categories" to find hymns and prayers for specific topics.

In the Book of Worship, see "General Acts of Worship," 445-567, for various greetings, opening prayers, and so on. If you don't find exactly what you need, try adapting a text to fit the context of the service you are planning. If you want to find material for one of the special program Sundays or a day on the civic calendar, look at the resources in the Book of Worship, pages 422-444.

You'll find other useable print resources in:

  • The United Methodist Music & Worship Planner(published annually by Abingdon), by David Bone and Mary Scifres
  • And Also With You(OSL Publications)
  • The Abingdon Worship Annual(published annually by Abingdon) edited by Mary J. Scifres and B.J. Beu. Keyed to the Revised Common Lectionary, the volume contains theme ideas, calls to worship, litanies, prayers of confession, and many other acts of worship for each Sunday of the year. Available in both print and electronic editions from Cokesbury.
  • Lift Up Your HeartsProvides the Prayer of Great Thanksgiving (communion prayer) for each of the 72 services (Sundays, Special Days, Holy Week) of the liturgical year by lifting images from the lessons in the Revised Common Lectionary. Oriented to the United Methodist form of the Great Thanksgiving. Order from Cokesbury or from OSL Publications.

You will find online resources galore. Some of the best online pages are found at:

  • The Text This Week— Lectionary, Scripture Study, and Worship Links and Resources. This is a premiere site with innumerable links. Use the art and movie concordance to bring a digital dimension to worship planning. Be sure to check out the "Online Worship and Liturgy Resources" feature for extensive links.
  • Of course you will want to connect with the planning helps for music, worship, and preaching on the Discipleship Ministries website. Commentaries on the Revised Common LectionaryOne especially helpful feature of this site is the "Intro" piece for each reading. Click on the date you want and then click on "Intro" for summary of each pericope.
  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada's Lift Up Your Heartssite is a treasure trove of resource links.
  • For locating and planning digital elements in worship, check out Lumicon

Daniel Benedict is retired from the staff of the Discipleship Ministries.

Categories: Sundays After Epiphany, Sundays After Pentecost