Old First Worshiping Together in Spirit, Sunday, March 15 at 11 a.m.

Old First Worshiping Together in Spirit, Sunday, March 15 at 11 a.m.


Old First Worshiping Together in Spirit, Sunday, March 15 at 11 a.m.

We are not meeting for corporate worship at Old First on Sunday, March 15, 2020. But blessed be the tie that binds: we will gather in spirit  — and virtually — from our homes. 

You will be able to access our worship — and see Old First folks — from your computer or your smart phone. This post will be your guide (our Shepherd?). It will be updated tomorrow morning with the worship service and links. 


Below is some of what you need know about the worship service tomorrow at 11. You might also give yourself some time and space to center and prepare… 

Preparing your holy space make ‘an altar” for your worship. 

Next to your computer, or on the dining room table, or the coffee table… almost any place if you are worshiping with your smart phone, create a space the reminds you of the sacredness of coming before God and the sacredness of gathering together. 

For this worship, you are recommended to gather signs and symbols of what you find holy:

you might put down a pretty piece of cloth, light a candle, add a cross if you have one, place your Bible there, and 

PLEASE, also fill either a clear glass or bowl with fresh water, as you need it for the worship service.

(If you can, take a picture of your altar and send it to Michael or to the church office — we will share them on our FB page as a sign of our coming together with God.) 


Preparing to participate — In the service we have planned for your homes, you can go at your own pace. Even go back and reread or listen /watch again. But remember, in spirit, we are trying to all be worshiping simultaneously. We trust of course that each will find your own way. 

But at 12 noon, we will connect via Zoom “face to face” for prayer and fellowship.

If you have not experienced Zoom, it is an app. that allows video conferencing. We will be able to see, hear and speak with one another. Please join us even if you don’t have anything to say; you have things to hear, and people to see! And others need the support of seeing you. We need to stick together now to support one another. 

Your invite to the Zoom video call is https://zoom.us/j/4571163908. If you click on that now, you will be able to download the Zoom app. now, and then be ready when our “room” opens tomorrow for prayer and fellowship at 12 noon. (The invite will be in the order of service as well.)  

If you have any trouble getting online, there will also be a telephone number to use for Zoom, and you can simply call in and participate by phone like a conference call.


Preparing by yourself or with others:  Our service was prepared for people at home alone, so it offers words that are read silently, words that are spoken aloud, and words that are spoken together. 

If a family is worshiping together, simply adapt the service as you see best. Take turns reading. Or sit so everyone can see the computer screen. Or worship each with their own smartphone. But try to stay together, wait on one another, and go through the parts of the service as one. 


Preparation for worship this week: 

Tim Hughes Williams, the pastor of Light Street Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, said something smart recently, “In times of crisis, people need space to connect more than anything.”

We need space more than perfection. And we need to feel connected more than we need to watch a worship service from afar.

So many pastors are running around making livestreams happen for tomorrow… it’s really hard; we don’t usually worship like this, and we’re stressed out ourselves and trying to make all the right choices.

This doesn’t have to be perfect. We are a church together, and feeling that togetherness is the most important thing, even if it’s glitchy. Sometimes letting the seams show is the best way to remember we’re just a community of people, all muddling along.

Turn to the camera and talk to each other for a minute. We can be honest that we’re learning as we go. Let people know you are here for them… that we are here for each other. God is too.

(adapted from the Rev. Emily M.D. Scott, organizing pastor of the Lutheran new church start, Dreams and Visions, also in Baltimore. Proof we’re all in this together and we just need to show up: an historic UCC congregation in Philly taking inspiration from an almost brand new ELCA congregation in Baltimore and the wisdom of their PCUSA neighbors.) 


IS GOD WITH US — Order of Worship, Sunday, March 15, 2020


You are invited to worship with us following this Order of Service. There are links to music and messages; there are also texts to meditate over. You will be invited to pray.  Go at your own pace, and in your own way. There are “instructions,” and you are free (we’re UCC) to adapt as need be.  

But know that, in spirit, we are worshiping as one. And in all that happens —  whether it’s smooth or bumpy (like us!) — may we discover some of the New (as in ‘Good News’) that God is doing in our midst. And in the gift of such findings, may we come to know and love God, our neighbor and ourselves more. 

Welcome to worship; welcome to church, though we are scattered! We are going to stay close together and close to God through all of this!


A word about navigation: Once you have clicked on and then finished watching a link, simply click the “back arrow” at the top left hand corner of the screen to return to the order of service.

A  word of explanation: Since we are relying on “youtube” for our videos, it is possible you might see advertisements. If that happens, imagine they are like those in Catholic or Baptist churches that offer local businesses advertising space in the weekly service bulletin…)

Prelude  (click on the title to hear) Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) by Franz Schubert

Welcome (click here for welcome to Old First and to this day that the Lord God has made) 


Prayer of Illumination (read it slowly, silently, intentionally) 

Mindful of the agonies that are sweeping over our world… fears that drive nations to put their organized might against other nations’ organized weakness; the utter loneliness of those whose dwelling place is the solitude of vast havoc; the anguish of sensitive spirits who find no windbreak against the impact of so much human misery… from all this there seems no escape. Surround us, close present God of our spirit, that we may sense the true intent of thy purpose in human history. We would not turn away from thee, but again and again it is so hard to find thee. Find thee we must. Understand us in our searching, that even our weakness may lead us to thy dwelling place. 

— Howard Thurman


Silence  (please, keep silence for a minute or so, then say out loud,  “channeling Michael”?)      

Be still and breathe deeply of the Spirit… who gathers us with our friend Jesus…  to worship and serve God.

Invitation (click on the title for the music)   Be Still and Know That I Am God 

Psalm 95 (read slowly, out loud) 

1O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

2Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

3For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

4In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.

5The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

6O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

7For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!

8Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

9when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

10For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.”

11Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.”

(In the name of the Creator, the Christ and the Holy Spirit, Amen.) 


Confession (read in silence, pausing when directed for personal reflection) 

Holy God, we declare before you that we have sinned, we have fallen short. (Pause) 

We have failed to acknowledge your present abundance and instead complained and cursed what we do not have. (Take a moment to let God’s plenty that you have overlooked fill your heart and mind.) 

We have looked  with envy upon our neighbors and bitterly desired to have what they have, whether it be possessions, wealth, success, or even love. (Take a moment to identify what specifically of others you have coveted.)

We have tested and doubted you and your faithfulness and love for us. (Take a moment and remember when you have questioned if God was there for you.) 

Forgive me. (Try closing your eyes, and quietly repeating “Forgive me.” for 30 seconds or a minute.) 

Call us to repent, to seek you, and remember that you are the Living Water that rushes up to an everlasting stream, where we will never thirst again. (Place your fingers in the fresh water.) 

You are our Way, our Truth, and our Life. 

Let us turn back, knowing and trusting your love and forgiveness. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Assurance (click on the words for the music) 

We Are Forgiven, We Are Forgiven. Thanks be to God. Thanks be to God.

We Are Forgiven, We Are Forgiven. Thanks be to God. Thanks be to God.

We Are Forgiven, We Are Forgiven. Thanks be to God. Thanks be to God.

Passing of the Peace (if you are with family, you share the peace as you see best. If you are alone, ask that a sense of God’s peace falls on you and provides you with a new confidence. But also think of others from our church community who you pray to place this morning in God’s peace.) 


First Lesson (click on the Scripture to hear Woody read the intro. and text) Exodus 17:1-7

A Time with the Children (the Children’s Lenten Almsgiving this week is financial donations for the organization “Water for Life.” Michael is hoping children might contribute what they can offer, even be it “a widow’s mite,” their pennies — it’s their money that they are sharing so other children might have clean water. Show your children this intro. to “Water for Life” and talk to them about other kids who can’t even count on clean water.) Water for Life

Second Lesson (click on the Scripture to hear Beth read the intro. and text)  John 4: 5-42  (coincidentally or not? …this was the passage we were to use in the Lenten Dinners)

Special Music (click on the title for the music) Fill My Cup, Lord by CeCe Winans

Sermon (click title to hear Michael give the homily) Is God with Us? 


Affirmation of Faith (click here to read out loud along with Natalie)

You, O God, are supreme and holy. You create our world and give us life. Your purpose over-arches everything we do. You have always been with us.

You are God. You, O God, are infinitely generous, good beyond all measure. You came to us before we came to you. You have revealed and proved your love for us in Jesus Christ who lived and died and rose again. You are with us now.

You are God. You, O God, are Holy Spirit. You empower us to to be your gospel in the world. You reconcile and heal; you overcome death. You are our God. We worship you.

— from the New Zealand Prayer Book

Offering (Old First is grateful for your generosity. We use your gifts wisely and faithfully. We have received the gifts from those who pay electronically by check. You may at this time want to write a check to send to the church. Or you might contribute now via text message — by texting 215-703-7911.) 

Special Music (click on the title to hear the music) “Into My Heart / Fairest Lord Jesus” by Selah


Prayers of the People (There are 3 ways you might pray in this service. You may choose one, two or do all three.) 

1. From the prompts (some people have patterns they follow for prayer)

What did the Scripture and Michael’s homily make you think to pray for? 

What are you thankful for? What other people do you need to lift in prayer? What are your own needs?  


2. From our church prayer list  (some people pray our weekly prayer list all week long) 

¨ Jackie asks for prayers for her grandson TJ who was shot last night in Oak Lane and in the hospital in critical condition; only his mom, Kim, can visit him.

” Jack earlier had asked healing prayers of comfort for her friend Maggie’s nephew, Jerome, who had a brain aneurysm and passed away. Also, prayers for Janet and her husband, who are separating after 20+ years of marriage. And, prayers for the safety of her grandson, Carlos Hunter.

¨ Prayers for Greta, who fell leaving work and broke her wrist on Friday.

¨ Delilah offers prayers for the church for all of us at risk of the coronavirus. Let us not panic, but keep praying for a solution. Remember, God is able.

¨ Iyabo prays for Nancy and her quick and full recovery from her broken hip.

¨ Dan prays for his cousin Clint, and also for his brother.

¨ Kathy prays for her friends Eric and Jennifer, who both are struggling with cancer.

¨ Prayers for Marjorie, who had her second eye surgery after getting back from helping her parents in Michigan.

¨ Michael asks prayers for his son, daughter-i  n-law, and grandson, as they wait to hear whether they must remain under self-quarantine.

¨ Please pray for Wes, as he continues to struggle with health concerns.

¨ Prayers for Barbara’s friend Teresa and for Teresa’s father, who is in prison. Also prayers for Barbara’s brother, Jimmy, and his girlfriend, Joyce. Pray that they find housing and that things settle down in their lives soon.

¨ Thanksgiving for Bobbie and Julie, who were elected by the Elders to be co-chairs, and for Meg, who was elected Secretary.

¨ Prayers for St. George’s pastor, Rev. Mark, who was attacked last month.

¨ Prayers for Adam’s father in California, who had a negative reaction to his treatment.

¨ Emily is praying for those with health issues and for the family of a client who passed away recently.

¨ Susana gives thanks for improvements in her life, including her son receiving an internship.

¨ Many thanks to Greta, Beth, Woody, Theo, Sandra and Brittany, Woody, Michael and the Mott Campus Clowns, who helped with the “precautionary outdoor” Saturday Breakfast and  Clothing Cupboard and for those they served.

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 3. At 12 noon with other Old Firsters’ “in person” live on Zoom video call — we will pray, check in with everyone and offer the support of community and fellowship — sort of like a virtual Fellowship Hour that begins with prayers!

Having downloaded the app., simply click on  https://zoom.us/j/4571163908 and you will be taken to the Zoom “room” where we will be meeting. (If you have not downloaded Zoom yet, it takes just a minute of so, and then you can be connected.) (Michael is going to have to teach you about “muting” and “raising your hand”!) 

If you are still having trouble getting on the video call, you may call in:  Dial:  646.876.9923  When prompted, enter the meeting i.d.: 4571163908# You will then be able to participate via phone, listening and talking. 

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Blessing (read it out loud, to bless and encourage yourself) 

God of our present moment, God who with Moses’ staff brings forth water in the desert, God who in Jesus offers a drink for life where there is no bucket for the well, God who in Jesus even stills raging storms, sooth our frantic hearts. Be our Living Water. Bring hope and courage to all who wait or work in uncertainty. Give us hope that will make us equal to whatever lies ahead. Offer us courage to endure what cannot be avoided, for your will is faithfulness and wholeness. You are God, and we need you. Stay with us. Use us. We are yours. Amen.  

— adapted from the New Zealand Prayer Book

Postlude (click on the title to hear the music) Jesus Met the Woman at the Well by Ian and Sylvia



” If it turns out that we will be worshiping remotely for some weeks, Michael hopes that we can get everyone possible onto Zoom, so that we can actually do live, interactive worship each week, wherein “everyone will play a part” in our worshiping congregation, and we will be able to check in with each other.

¨ In light of the ever-changing circumstances, church leaders are still planning the next steps to keep everyone connected and safe. Be on the lookout for updates and details on the website and Epistle.

¨ Weekly Lenten Prayer Meeting: Every Wednesday evening at 7pm during Lent — March 18, 25, April 1, 8 — Old First will host a “Prayer Meeting” call. Anyone who gets on the call, can share their prayer concerns and/or pray for themselves or others. In the end, Michael will make sure that all the concerns named have been   lifted up, and we will close with the Lord’s Prayer. The meeting will be a hosted Zoom Call, and the dial in number is:  646 – 876 – 9923  ;  Meeting ID: 457 – 116 – 3908#

¨ The Elders have made themselves available to speak with anyone about questions or concerns they might have as the coronavirus situation develops. The Elders’ contact information is listed here:

¨ Bobbie Benjamin: (267) 243-4421 Julie Steiner: (215) 490-8790 Janice Smith: (215) 869-5645

¨ Winston Bramwell: (440) 364-0491 Pat Malley: (267) 535-1706       Joanna Robinson: (215) 206-3701

¨ Yiwola Awoyale: (856) 228-2914 Tony Merlo: (610) 453-3319 Meg Bigelow: (215) 850-2206

¨ One Great Hour of Sharing Special Offering: This offering, to support the ministries in the broader UCC church, was originally scheduled to be collected on March 22. However, given the reality of limited travel for many congregation members at the moment, we will postpone the collection of this offering and do it at a later date.

¨ Lenten Dinners: The Elders have decided to postpone the Lenten Dinners for now. After things have        settled down, and people are able to safely meeting in groups again, the Lenten Dinners will be rescheduled to new dates.

¨ Saturday Breakfast Teams: Currently, the Outreach Ministry plans to continue to provide free breakfast to those who come on Saturday mornings. Moving forward, we will most likely provide brown bag meals to folks, and possibly handout clothing outside. If you would like to donate food items, volunteer to make breakfasts ahead of time, or volunteer to help with set up on Saturdays, please contact the church office or Billi:  admin@oldfirstucc.org  or  volunteer@oldfirstucc.org . Also, feel free to call if you have questions     215-922-4566.