I am currently reading a book entitled ‘Reimagining Worship: Renewing Worship in a Changing Church’. The book begins with the following quote:
‘What is our worship in the future going to be like? What principles should govern and inspire our worship? Or should it just happen? ...we believe the Church should continually be in the business of reformation – re-forming, reshaping, re-visioning not only our worship but the being of the Church itself.’
I am reading the book to help us think through the worship survey that is currently being undertaken. I do thank all those who have responded to date, either online or completing one of our paper surveys. Your comments are very helpful and will all be considered as we look to how we worship and how we reach out to the six communities that we serve. We, cannot fulfil all your requests, but we will consider them and ensure that there is a wide variety to suit differing needs. So, if you have not yet responded, please do.
Our worship needs to reflect our lives and at its simplest worship is like any other encounter. When we meet up with a friend, we exchange words, we listen to one another and then we part and get on with our lives enriched by that conversation. Coming to church is much the same – we gather, we speak and hear the word, we respond through prayer and the sacraments and we are then sent out enriched– worship is both very biblical but also intensely human. Across the benefice I want us to ensure that our worship is open and inclusive to all – for the young and the old and the in-betweeners! That means giving a wide range of different services – both traditional and more informal.
One of the most important aspects of our services, and anything else that we do as a church, is to ensure that people feel that they belong and are accepted for who they are. We become so comfortable in church, meeting the people we know, doing the things that are familiar, that we can very easily forget what it is like to be new and how difficult it is to walk across the threshold of a church. It can be an alien and scary world. So, as well as looking at our worship, we are going to look at how we reach out to people, how do we ensure people do feel included in all that we do. It is important for people to know that they can just come as they are – you don’t have to be holy (we would prefer that you are not!), you don’t have to dress up – jeans, sweatshirts and trainers are great, you don’t have to behave in a certain way – you are welcome just as you are. Offering hospitality and welcome is at the very heart of the gospel message:
‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in...’ (Matthew 25.35).
Over the coming months, I want to listen to what you are saying to ensure that each and everyone feels welcomed, to also find opportunities for us to gather as a community outside of church buildings so that we can truly sing:
Let us build a house where hands will reach beyond the wood and stone,
To heal and strengthen, serve and teach and live the Word they’ve known...
Let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:
ALL ARE WELCOME, ALL ARE WELCOME, ALL ARE WELCOME IN THIS PLACE.