3 ways for worship to support everyday life

by Demi Prentiss

Do the people in your congregation leave worship each week knowing God loves their daily work, and celebrating how they contribute to what God is doing in the world? Equipping people to be co-creators with God – sowing love and justice in the places they live and work – is a transformative purpose of the church. Too often our focus in worship is on what we do while we’re inside the church building, rather than on how we can be God’s agents of transformation once we leave the church grounds.

Made to Flourish is “a network of pastors who seek to encourage and resource each other to integrate faith, work and economic wisdom for the flourishing of our communities.” One of the ways they do that is to challenge pastors – and their congregations – to make weekly worship a place where people learn the many ways they are sent out into the world.

How’s your congregations doing? Made to Flourish pastor Isaac Wardell offers an audit that examines three areas – practice, pastoral care, and posture.

  • Practice touches on what we do and talk about during worship, and the difference that can make to people’s understanding of their work.
  • Pastoral care looks at some of the ways that some vocations are disrespected in our culture, and how the church might be more intentional in “respecting the dignity of every human being” (Book of Common Prayer, Baptismal Covenant, p. 305), especially in their work.
  • Posture deals with how the willingness to become a “learner” opens doors for life-giving relationship with those we pray for and minister to.

Once you’ve discovered an area you might like to work on, Wardell also offers suggestions on small changes that can make a big difference.

Want to go deeper? Take a look at our book Radical Sending for some more stories, suggestions, and strategies.

Blessing our pets — and more

by Pam Tinsley

Toby receives a blessing.My church, like many, celebrates the Sunday nearest the Feast of St. Francis with a Blessing of the Animals. Pet blessings take place in different ways: outdoors following the service or in a church hall with the pets present throughout worship. My own church chooses to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis in the church with pets, appropriately leashed or constrained, “participating” throughout the service.

I look forward to the Sunday our pets join us in church. Yes, the dog hair on the pews is a bit messy, and there’s mild commotion during the service. (I’ve cringed when my elderly basset added some heartfelt “amens” during the sermon.)  Yet, it’s an inter-generational experience that helps us share part of our personal lives, even if we don’t all have pets. A mother of young children said to me, “I love this Sunday because everyone here with pets frets about their behavior; now they understand how I feel every Sunday with my children in church, even though I know they are welcome!”

What I like most about this Sunday, however, is that it is a way to share stories of ministry from our daily lives.  These stories are mostly shared without words, yet are reflected by our love and care for our four-legged, furry companions, or those in an aquarium or crate. Others witness that love and care for God’s creatures, as we tend to them, soothe the anxious ones, and gratefully bring them forward to be blessed and to be blessed ourselves as their devoted caregivers. And, sometimes professionals, such as veterinarians, humane society workers, and dog walkers, might receive special blessings. These stories of this ministry of caring for our beloved pets reveal a side of our “Monday through Saturday self,” which is blended on this one Sunday during our common worship.

Such opportunities to bring a personal part of our daily ministry together with our church lives seem to occur infrequently. It strikes me that, by making this a special occasion, we’re suggesting that church should be separate from daily life. Yet, if our Sunday worship is to shape our lives throughout the week, might we not also find a way to regularly share those stories of our daily ministry within the church, encouraging our congregations to recognize how each of us partners with God in God’s mission? A beginning might be modeled on the weekly prayer cycle for “The Baptized in Their Daily Life and Work” suggested by Demi Prentiss and Fletcher Lowe at http://www.RadicalSending.com. And, perhaps we might take another step and invite those who are being prayed for to come forward for prayers – just as we do with birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones.

Radical Sending – shifting ‘Come’ to ‘Go’

radical-sending-full-rgbby Peyton Craighill

Many church people rate the success of a congregation by two measures: one, the size of the congregation on Sunday morning, and two, the size of the offering on the Sunday service.

These are “Come” measures of success.

But that’s not enough for the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Michael Curry measures the success of a congregation in terms of “Go” considerations: how many members of that congregation are living the Good News of Jesus Christ in everything they do, Monday through Sunday.

Radical Sending is about turning congregations from a “Come” congregations to a “Go” congregations. The emphasis on “Come” is important – but the emphasis “Go” is even more important! When new members are introduced to Christ and are not challenged and supported to serve in Christ’s mission in their daily lives, the mission of the congregation fails in its mission to serve Christ!

The best section of the book introduces the metaphor “base camp” for the congregation. Mountain climbers can’t succeed in their mission without base camp.

Similarly, for us Christians, we can’t succeed in our mission to serve Christ’s mission in our daily lives without a base camp. And that base camp for us is our congregation. We come to church on Sunday morning to be sent out empowered and redirected to serve Christ in his mission throughout the week ahead.