Old First is a congregation that, it could be said, specializes in “service Christianity.” That means we tend to be Christians who believe that our faith and our church’s service needs to be translated into practical actions that make a difference in others’ lives. Hence, the emphasis around Old First on ministries like the food and clothing cupboard or the shelter, to help the urban poor. One of our members’ describes her faith as “Matthew 31:25-46 pragmatism.” Many people at Old First, whether or not the take an active or frequent role in our outreach ministries, explain, in words something like this, “I may not get to doing service as much as I’d like or ought to, but I’m at Old First because we are a church that keeps at them.”
This sort of practical, this-worldy interpretation of Christianity has a long pedigree, at least back to the Letter of James where it was written “faith without works is dead.” . In recent liberal Protestant Christianity, this emphasis on good deeds and service has found new resonance. Michael even worries sometimes, it is our modern liberal apologetics for a secular age… or our own discomfort with being religious.
Part of covenant ministry then has been to raise up another commitment: worship is also a service, one — you might say — is not just directed for a few people with a specific neediness, but something that should minister to our common human needs. Covenant ministry challenges us to recognize the importance of gathering people into a worshipping congregation. It calls us to recognize and lift up the difference that comes of people being regularly involved in the worship life of our church.
Yes, there are many doors to the church, and people are not only welcome to come in any of them; they are also free to participate how and where they find church most meaningful. So some people, like the pragmatic Matthew 25:31-46 Christian referenced above, might find their deepest religious connection serving on the cupboard on Saturday morning. Amen to that; we are glad the church can serve them that way.
But, without ever saying that everyone needs to find our formal worship services part of their religious observances, the church does encourage people to make regular worship attendance a part of their lives. The word “liturgy” after all comes from the Greek word meaning “the work of the people.” And the Worship Standing Leadership Group is charged with helping the church figure out how to make worship as meaningful and effective as possible to those we serve. And to keep asking how our congregation’s worship life might develop so that we can serve more people in this way…
Could you be called to help out?
You might have noticed that in the last year we have gotten more and different people to help lead worship each week. This has been intentional. Awhile back, mostly the ordained members of the congregation served as the Liturgists. But nowadays we recognize that lay people also often have gifts for this work. Likewise, we used to have only Elders help out with communion, but now we welcome a host of different people to serve the bread and the cup.
Serving as one of the worship leaders is not any holy mystery. We have articles (see the links in the following sentences) about what each one entail on the website. And who actually serves is not any secret society or a club. It’s open to everyone who feels called to help. Children take turns as Acolytes. And youth and adults are invited to be either the Lector or the Liturgist. And Michael is willing to help anyone who wants to give it a try. “Private tutorials” are always available. And he dreams of organizing sessions to help train Lectors for the art of Scripture reading, and offering Liturgists more background for the words they create and offer.
Ibidun Awoyale has made it her ministry to sign people us. Early last year, she filled our 2011 calendar with worship helpers. But it’s a new church year. And it’s time to start signing people up again for this holy service.
Could you be called to serve as a worship leader?
Talk to Ibidun and let her know of your interest. She can schedule you! If you do not yet know who she is, talk to Michael and he will introduce you. Or you can always contact Mindy in the church office and she will get you in touch. Or just ask anyone if they will introduce you to Ibidun!
We want people to try on this ministry. To feel the responsibility and the privilege of reading the Bible aloud to the congregation. To help lead the congregation in its worship of God. To bring the light of Christ into the Sanctuary, and then to take it back out into the world.
Could you be called to this ministry?