This statement was prepared in 2010 by the Worship & Music committee, in consultation with the Congregational Council. It has three purposes: To teach about worship.  To guide worship planners.  To offer a basis for evaluating worship.

I.  God meets us in worship

God is the principal actor in worship, not us.  We don’t find God, God finds us and shows us God’s self in worship.  Only because of the unconditional, free gift of God’s grace can we turn to God, recognize truth, and love God.  God gives us this grace in Jesus Christ in worship—through the washing of the Water, the hearing of the Word, and the breaking of the Bread.

See Luke 24:13-36, John 14:23; 15:16a, Romans 3:24, Philippians 3:12b, Ephesians 1:4-5

II.  Worship is the living heart of the body of Christ

Worship makes us more than we are, for the sake of the world.  God’s grace—in Water, Word, and Bread—makes us the body of Christ.  We can eat and pray alone, but we must come together to be and experience the body of Christ. For in worship, God draws us into the dynamic of relationship and community of the Trinity.  Gathered for worship by the Holy Spirit, made one under God’s Word, and fed by Jesus Christ, we become again the body of Christ, sent out to be the eyes and ears, hands and feet, the living heart of Christ in the world.

See 1 Corinthians 12:13, John 6:56-57

III.  There are no spectators in worship

Worship is a verb, something the body of Christ does together.  The purpose of worship leaders is simply to help the whole body worship.  The most basic activity of each worshiper is to give attention to what is happening in worship.  Because God is the primary actor in worship, this ultimately means giving attention to God.  Worshipers also participate in worship verbally, musically, and bodily.  Worshipers come, confess, sing, pray, speak, listen, give, take, eat, and go in peace.  We do this and more in response to God’s gracious action, as God gathers, forgives, rejoices, listens, calls, feeds, and sends us to share what we have received.  So, as active worshipers, we look at who we are, in relationship with God and the body of Christ.

See Matthew 25:40; 28:19, 1 Corinthians 12:14-27, Ephesians 4:11-16

IV.  Worship is both global and local, structured and flexible, ancient and new

The words, actions, and music of worship unite us with the whole body of Christ across the world and across time, and they also express what is unique about who we are here and now.  Worship is not one or the other, but both.  So, while worship is grounded in scripture, it also takes the flesh of our culture and experiences.  While worship follows an ancient pattern of Gathering, Word, Meal, and Sending, that pattern may be expressed in an endless number of ways.  Always worship both reflects and shapes the congregation, repeating what is familiar even as it explores what is new.  In this way, worship expresses what is fundamental about who God is.  God’s love embraces all.  So worship reflects God’s love for people of all colors, ethnicities, genders, abilities, and ages, as well as for all creation.

See Isaiah 56:7, Matthew 25:31-46, Romans 8:21-22, Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 1:10; 4:2-6, Colossians 1:15-2, 2 Peter 3:8-9

V.  Music bears the living voice of the Gospel

God is deeper than words.  So God has given us music to express the mystery of God that lies beyond human understanding and experience.  For this reason, much of worship is non-verbal—primarily music, but also silence, gesture, ritual movement, and art.  Even the visual and architectural environment of worship matters, because the very shape and arrangement of the worship space teaches the faith.

Of the many gifts of music, one of the most important for worship is this: Music unites the body.  All who are gathered proclaim the Word together through song, and through song the Word lives in us.  Always the voice of the assembly is primary.  Musicians and choir lead in order to give strength to the assembly’s song.

See Psalm 33:2-3; 81:1-3; 89:1; 96:1, Romans 8:26

VI.  We plan worship to prepare us for Gods surprises

Because God is the center of worship, all planning and preparation for worship rightly centers us on God.  But even while we can trust God will show up in worship, we cannot predict how.  That means, we plan for worship so that in worship, we can forget our plans.  Proper planning frees us simply to be open and present to God’s surprises, to help us surrender to God.  In this way, all worship planning is primarily about discernment, listening for God.

All who worship plan and prepare for worship.  Some have been entrusted with certain responsibilities for the sake of all.  Because of his or her training and ordination, the Pastor’ role in planning worship is special but not solitary.  Instead, the Pastor plans collaboratively with the Director of Music, in consultation with the Worship and Music Committee, guided by the Congregational Council, and in service, ultimately, to the congregation itself.  Week-to-week decisions are made by the Pastor and Director of Music, while long-term, big-picture matters are taken to the Worship and Music committee.

See Deuteronomy 6:5-9, John 4:23-24

So consider…

Has God met you in worship?  In what ways?

What do we do in worship that helps you live as part of the body of Christ?  What else could we do?

What keeps you active and attentive in worship?  What could help us all become more active worshipers?

In what ways has worship changed St. Stephen?  In what ways is worship here unique?

What in worship, beyond words, speaks the Gospel to you?  What can we do to help us sing with more confidence?

Has God surprised you in worship?  In what ways?  What would help us “go with” God’s surprises more easily?