At the Epiphany Service last month here at St Maryís, Bishop Jonathan reminded us that the chief focus of our worship is not ourselves but God- itís not all about us, our preferences, our likes and dislikes. That is true, but that is not to deny that we all need to have opportunity to worship God in ways the we find engaging. So it is not true to say that worship of God has absolutely nothing to do with us. We should love one another enough to accept that we differ and recognise that we have a spiritual home together. Communal worship is an art form in which there are no spectators only participants.
The form and pattern of services in a Parish is a matter on which there must be agreement between the Vicar and PCC. There has been some consultation and discussion of this within the PCC and the congregation, albeit in the wider context of the LyCig (Leading Your Church into Growth) initiative encouraged by the Diocese. This approach continues to shape both my vision and the PCCís of how best, as a church in this community, we ourselves are engaged in worship and how we draw others into an encounter with the living God. Indeed, how we all are equipped and nurtured every Sunday to respond and promote the Kingdom of God as disciples of Jesus who worship with our whole lives each and every day.
At the PCC meeting in January, we reached agreement to change the form and usual monthly pattern of services specifically with regard to the 4th Sunday of the month with effect from this month. This was also necessary for practical reasons, as Martinís sabbatical for the year and my restricted availability as a Priest being shared with another benefice, means that a Communion service at 10 am on that Sunday is not a regular option.
We agreed that on the 4th Sunday of the month, there will be a lay led non-eucharistic service at 10 am and a said (no hymns) Communion service at 11.30 am.
On the other Sundays of the month the existing arrangements remain unchanged, namely a sung Communion for All at 10 am with robed choir (with Junior Church on the 1st and 3rd Sundays) and Praise Party at 4 pm (usually on the 2nd Sunday).
It was also agreed that the form of the 10 am service on the 4th Sunday was to be of a different style and feel reflecting that provision needs to be made for all ages present and some people (though not all) may find a less formal style more accessible. I have described this (for now at least) as Worship for All - contemporary worship, informal with songs and presentation to engage all ages. No robes will be worn, and it will be lay led with involvement by our Readers and others who are gifted in this ministry as a team is developed in due course. I envisage that in addition to Helen on organ and keyboard, a small music group and singers will be established to lead the music. Clearly this is something that will evolve and need developing and resourcing and as ever is reliant upon people being committed to be available. It maybe that in the interim a Service of the Word may be used, so that we give ourselves time to give a good beginning. I will continue to be involved and have oversight even though not available on the day myself. NB the rotas for bible reading and intercessions have been left blank on this Sunday only to allow for greater flexibility in form and production as each service is planned.
The designated Healing Service previously offered on the 4th Sunday is suspended, as there is now provision to request such prayers from the regular Prayer Ministry team each Sunday. I will be available to pray with anyone specifically for healing on request at any time, including at the 11.30 service on the 4th Sunday.
The familiar and valued occasional special choral services on days such as Good Friday, the Patronal Festival, the Advent and Christmas Carols will of course continue. In addition, I plan to lead regular Praise Unplugged evening services throughout the year on dates yet undecided and as availability permits. These will be in the form of a laid back, relaxed, stripped down guitar led contemporary worship. Toddler church will continue to meet as at present, usually on the first Wednesday of the month when this falls in school term time.
I believe that the proposed service arrangements provide a broader provision in style and form, appropriate to this time and diverse culture where the traditional and contemporary are both valued and necessary as we invite seekers and searchers to worship and encounter God amongst us.
Whatever the type and form of service may we together give God the Glory!