The liturgy is generated not on the denominational level but from within the congregation under the leadership of the pastor—as is typical in the UCC, with its Congregationalist roots. Worship generally opens with a meditative quote and then an opening hymn. We use two hymnals, The Pilgrim Hymnal of 1959 and The New Century Hymnal of 1995, singing most commonly with piano accompaniment but sometimes with the organ or a stringed instrument, depending on which of our many musicians is accompanying that Sunday.
Following that comes a call to worship, which is usually an adapted psalm and which ends with the passing of the peace. This is an opportunity for everyone in worship to greet everyone else, and a chance to experience the peace of God that passes all understanding in our lives here and now. This is a moment when we truly are “practicing our religion”—as practice makes perfect.
We follow the Revised Common Lectionary, so the scripture readings, of which there are usually two, are the same ones you’d hear in most Mainline Protestant churches the world over. Following each reading is a period of silence, silence being an important aspect of our time together. The sermon is divided into three parts, the first being the Homily of the Pastor, usually a 15-20 minute exploration of the readings and their implications for us today. The second is another period of silence, usually 3-5 minutes long. The third and last part is the Homily of the People, which is an opportunity for us all to share of our meditation. (More on this can be found under its own heading.)
After a hymn (the second of three), if there is a sacrament to be celebrated other than the sacrament of the word, it would follow here. Once a month we celebrate communion and occasionally we’ll have a baptism to celebrate. Absent these, or following these, come the pastoral prayer, the offering, and the closing circle. A final hymn ushers us out into the week ahead.
Worship is usually 60-75 minutes long.
Authority is the power to name what’s real, to establish the terms of engagement, to frame the focus. Often in congregational life, the ordained pastor or priest holds exclusive authority, at least in worship, as expressed in the fact that this might be the only one whose voice you’d hear. But we believe that authority is a gift of the Holy Spirit that, from time to time, visits upon every one of us. Thus, the Homily of the People, a time when all in worship are invited to “share of our meditation.”
Following the Homily of the Pastor and a 5-minute period of silence, the Homily of the People is modeled after a Friends’ (Quaker) Meeting. But it can also be understood by what it’s not. It’s not a question-and-answer period such as you might see at a lecture. (Usually the pastor doesn’t speak at all.) It’s not a discussion such as you might see at a workshop. (Usually there’s much silence between comments.) It’s not an altar call at which people proclaim or defend their faith. The pastor doesn’t moderate, and neither are parishioners to raise their hands or wait to be called on. Sometimes a meditation is in direct response to the pastor’s sermon, sometimes it’s an extension of some point therein, and sometimes it’s self-contained. But really, the Homily of the People needs to be experienced to be understood. And so again we say as Christ is remembered to have said, “Come and see.”
At the conclusion of worship, just prior to the final hymn, we gather, hand-holding-hand, in a circle around the center pews. Here we each introduce ourselves and share any announcements we have. We conclude in saying the Lord’s Prayer.
On the 3rd and 5th Sundays of every month, we forgo scripture readings and sermon, and hear instead a story from our collection of Godly Play stories. These are based on scripture but in the mode of interactive and manipulable objects such as you’d find in a Montessori classroom. For more information about this, please go to our Godly Play page.