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Creative Church

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Acts of Worship

Courage Required

A creative church is a courageous church. The beauty of art is that it can make difficult things both accessible and undeniable. When you touch, smell, taste, see the pain or joy of another, their life becomes tied to yours. New things break your heart. You can become brave in ways you never thought you could. A creative church seeks to bring that reality into worship, to help people encounter the truth of another, and so to encounter God’s love, God’s call, God’s healing.

A couple years ago, there was a rash of fires at African American churches around the country. Some seemed accidental or natural, many were arson. We had the unfortunate privilege of having one of the churches be in this city. So we asked how God would have us respond. There were lots of opportunities to give money and resources to help them rebuild and to support the outreach programs that had lost their home. Anyone could do those things. But how could we uniquely respond, as people of God, as brothers and sisters in Christ?

We could pray.

We brought their pain and heartbreak into our worship service with the literal ashes of their church. We created space in worship to name all the churches that had been burned. We claimed them as our family and tried as best we could to give voice to the worldly power of racism and fear of the other, while claiming the eternal power of God. We sent our congregation home with some ashes from that church, the names of all the burned churches, equipped with scripture to help them pray.

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It was painful. It was strange. It was holy.

 

PALM Sunday

What might it look like to approach Palm Sunday with open hands instead of branches? Think of the palms of your hands…

Hands that serve…

Hands in praise…

Hands open to receive…

Hands to bless and anoint…

Hands that cling…

Hands that release…

Hands that join…

How could your Palm Sunday worship look different this year?

A Cloud of Witnesses

For All Saints Sunday one year, we asked people to bring in homemade Saint cards. Saint cards aren’t an official tradition you’ve never heard of. We made it up!

On the preceding Sunday, the church was asked to think about the Saints in their own lives- the people who had an impact on their lives and faith in significant ways. They could be people they knew or know, historical figures, anyone really that had meant something to them on their walk with God. We asked them to choose pictures or write the names of their saints on index-sized cards and bring them to worship. Creativity was encouraged.

During the week, I hung string between the windows along the sides of our sanctuary and filled the string with clothespins. (Our pastor called it “Holy Clothesline”) Early in the worship service on All Saints Sunday, we invited folks to hang their cards up. We had blank cards available for those who missed the message last week or just forgot. I also used this as an opportunity the week before to talk about Saints with the kids in our afterschool program. They made their own cards and we made a special trip into the sanctuary to hang their Saint cards up. This served double duty, both as a chance to share some Gospel with these kids and to help fill up the Holy Clothesline.

You could display your congregation’s Saint cards any way that works for you, but what was particularly neat about our set-up was that once the cards were up, we were literally surrounded by our own great cloud of witnesses.

Water Your Heart

To kick off a worship series on spiritual practices, we sent everyone home with a little heart shaped tin, filled with potting soil and wildflower seeds. We lined the window sills in the sanctuary with the tins before worship, and got people wondering as they entered. As a reminder to use spiritual practices to cultivate fertile spiritual ground in their lives, they were invited to “water their hearts” during the series, and post pictures and insights to social media.

I used these tins. They come with a sticker for the bottom, which is a great place to put the scripture verse for the day.

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Stones Into Bread

Matthew 4:3-4

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

During a worship series on the temptations of Christ in the wilderness, we invited the congregation into the story in a powerful way. The real temptation here was less about bread and more about trust and power, right? Jesus was being tempted to use his own power to fill in the gaps, to meet his needs, instead of waiting on God. We asked the congregation this question:

What places in your life does the voice of evil convince you it’s too risky to rely on God?

They were asked to write their answers on stones that they picked up on their way into the sanctuary and bring them forward to place on the communion table, offering that place in their life back to God. What resulted was a powerful visual of the things that weigh us down, fears that grab ahold of us…

 paying my bills ~ my diagnosis ~ finding a job ~ racial equality ~ my daughter’s addiction

all laid upon and held by the table of the sacrament of communion. A reminder that in all things, we can trust God, who poured himself out to overcome even death on our behalf. A few things to consider:

  • Supplies needed: Rocks. Permanent markers. Containers for rocks. Table covering.
  • Where to get the rocks: Resist the urge to get little pebble size stones. The heaviness of the rocks help folks to make the connection. Larger stones can be expensive at your average home improvement/garden store, but in many places that may be your only option. Weigh cost vs size in the way that works best for your church. In Charlotte, we have a large scale landscaping supply company called Blue Max Materials.They have tons of styles and sizes of rocks and materials that are sold by the ton (yes, I said ton). They are used to selling dump trucks full of rocks, but they will sell any amount by weight, and you can drive up to the giant pile of rocks you are interested in and handpick them! I got about 100 handpicked rocks this size for a little over $3. AND I got to drive my minivan on the truck scale, so there’s that.
  • Preparation:1912156_10151909839767038_237947056_n
    • Wash the rocks first. No one likes unexpected dirt on their Sunday best. 
    • Place the rocks in buckets/baskets/containers of some sort at the sanctuary entrances and tell the greeters to instruct folks to pick out a stone as they enter.
    • Have markers available in a way that works for your space and people. You could place them in the pew racks, have them grab a marker too as they enter, or have them at the table for people to write on their rock when they bring it forward (keep in mind this will take a little longer).
    • Prepare the communion table by covering it to both look nice and to protect it from getting scratched by the rocks. Simple and stark is better here. We just used burlap.

This act of worship can be adapted to many scripture and themes. Make it work in your context. And let me know how it goes!

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