Home Worship Planning Preaching Resources Word, Water, Wind, and Grace—Issue #114

Word, Water, Wind, and Grace—Issue #114

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Armonk United Methodist Church in Armonk, New York, has embraced an emergent style of worship. The pastor, the Rev. Jennifer Pick, describes it in this way: "All of worship is proclamation. From the time people gather to the time they are sent forth, they participate in one message. All of the worship elements they will encounter when we gather, taken together, become the proclamation of the Word."

The actual sermon tends to be shorter, ten to twelve minutes, creating space for what the Rev. Pick calls a participatory sermon -- where worshipers encounter the Word, experientially, in multisensory and multivocal ways. It is this participatory space that makes room for holy mystery, curiosity, and ambiguity. Participatory sermons remind us to take seriously the priesthood of all believers. All present are an essential part of the proclamation, not just the leaders.

Typically, the Rev. Pick plans a three- to four-week worship series. Each series has a definite beginning, middle, and ending and contributes to the overall faith journey. Symbols and visual cues remind worshipers where they are in the series. Visual cues from previous weeks reappear to remind worshipers where they have been, and at the end of each worship service, forecasting is used to prepare the congregation for the next week.

The Rev. Pick says, "The creative process takes time for both pastor and worship planners. The ultimate goal is reclaiming our story and our song through the use of rich worship symbols, by linking the ancient story with our story in ways appropriate for each worship setting, and by inviting worshipers to participate in a journey that ultimately creates an awareness of the sacramental nature of life. All we ask of you is that you grow."

Some Questions for Discussion

  • What is the timeline and process for worship planning in your congregation? How might the process be modified to allow the incorporation of richer worship symbols and multisensory experiences?
  • One of the goals of emergent-style worship is to accompany worshipers on the journey that leads to transformation and growth. How do your present worship experiences and preaching accomplish similar goals?

Safiyah Fosua is a former staff member at Discipleship Ministries. For more information on emerging worship, visit the "Emerging" section of the Discipleship Ministries website and the emergingumc blog at http://emergingumc.blogspot.com.

In 2007 church leaders throughout The United Methodist Church in the U.S. were invited to identify churches that demonstrated the vision of discipleship described in the twelfth chapter of Romans. Over 200 churches were surveyed or visited. Issue #114. © 2012 Discipleship Ministries. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this page for use in United Methodist congregations.

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