Our Taizé Worship Services

Not long after we arrived in Rehoboth, Bruce and I started dreaming and scheming about ways we could introduce this community to new worship styles.  We stick pretty close to our traditional four-part worship on a Sunday morning, but there are so many other amazing ways to worship out there!

Bruce has traveled to Taizé twice and this worship style has always been one of his favorites. He approached the Deacons in the fall of 2016 and asked if they would give him their blessing to start a monthly Taizé worship service at RCC.  We kicked it off that December and have been going strong for over a year!  We typically meet on the last Sunday of the month at 7pm.  It isn’t a hugely attended service, but we have always said that we do it as much for us as we do for everyone else.  We have had anywhere from 4 to 18 people and generally average around 10.  We usually have a few regulars with one or two new attendees every month.  People have said to us they really enjoy the format – even if they aren’t able to make it work every month, they would like for us to continue, if possible.

There are essentially four components to putting together the service:  1. the order of worship, 2. silence 3. music & 4. the worship space.

Order of Worship

Let me start with the order of worship.  We follow a format very similar to what you will find in Taizé, but we do a slightly abbreviated version.  We want to keep the service around 40 minutes.  Here is the typical order.

Song
Psalm
Song
Gospel
Song
Silence
Prayers of Intercession & Lord’s Prayer
Benediction

Typically, I follow whatever passages fall in the Revised Common Lectionary that day, so it’s easy for me to decide what Psalm and Gospel passage are read.  Occasionally, I will deviate slightly (the service before Christmas, I used the birth narrative, when we were getting close to the beginning of Lent, I used the Ash Wednesday passages, etc.), but for the most part following the lectionary makes it simple for me to put together the services quickly.

Speaking of which – for the prayers of intercession, since I am following the lectionary, I just pull the prayer out of this worship resource:

FonW

The Feasting on the Word Worship Companion series are my go-to for this!  There are two volumes per year, so when you are building your collection you don’t have to buy them all at once, which is nice.  They also come with a CD-rom, which is nice because then I can just copy and paste into my worship script (although I know CD drives are becoming a thing of the past – I have other worship resources that have a link to download the resource, which is even better!).

For the benediction, I usually use the old Celtic blessing:

May the Christ who walks on wounded feet
walk with you on the road.
May the Christ who serves with wounded hands
stretch out your hands to serve.
May the Christ who loves with a wounded heart
open your hearts to love.
May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet,
and may everyone you meet
see the face of Christ in you.
Go in peace! Amen.

I do put together an order of worship, mostly so people can see the music and follow along with the scriptures if they’d like.  Some protestant New England habits die hard – bulletins are one of them. :)

Silence

From the very beginning, we’ve been very transparent about the fact that a big piece of this service will be silence.  We started with 5 minutes, then 7, then 8, then 10, then 12 and now consistently have 15 minutes of silence each month.  We probably won’t go much longer than that – otherwise the services will start to go longer than 40 minutes.

Bruce has been unapologetic about the fact that this service just is not for everyone.  If you don’t like silence or can’t sit still for 15 minutes of silence, this is probably not a service for you and that’s okay!  The youngest we’ve every had at one of these services is our high school youth.  I actually feel weird talking about this, because I’m so adamant about welcoming children (and all of their boisterous chatter) in our Sunday morning worship, but we want to keep the experience as authentic as possible and this is a service that just would be tough for young children.  We used to bring Harrison to help us set up and then one of us would take him home; now he has a 7:00 bedtime so either one of us stays home or we have someone babysit.

Music

Onto music …

One day, we would love to have a worship leader for this service.  Love, love, LOVE to have a worship leader who leads the singing and accompanies on the piano.  Live is always better.

However – for the purposes of getting it off the ground, we knew canned music was the way to go.  That has worked for us for the time being.  We hook one of our phones up to one of the nice portable speakers the church has (turn it on airplane mode!) and then just sing along.  The advantage to this is that people who attend don’t have to sing if they don’t want to – and if they choose not to, there is still plenty of music to fill the space.

Bruce and I have Amazon Prime, so we have access to a lot of Taizé music through that and that’s typically where I get the music from.  But you could certainly get away with buying one or two albums and just cycling through those songs.  These are two we use a lot:

340x340_CD-380

Sing to God

268x0w

Songs of Taizé

The songs are 3-5 minutes each.  Hopefully within a year or so I can update you on using live music, but for the time being this is a really easy way for anyone to get started!  We use three songs a month and I only ever introduce one new song a month; a lot of the time, I just use songs we’ve already done.  I kind of think that one of the allures of Taizé worship is that it’s easy to follow and participate in, so having a small repertoire of music that you recycle and people know helps to create that.

Some of our favorites:
In The Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful
In God Alone
O Lord, Hear My Prayer
Bless The Lord
Jesus, Remember Me

Worship Space

This is probably my favorite part!  Our services take place in Fellowship Hall, so we really have a lot of flexibility in terms of creating a worship space.  I have a closet full of fabric, candles, stools, basins, etc.  I usually stick with colors appropriate to the church year and sometimes will match the installation to the Gospel story.  Here are some of the installations we’ve done lately …

21083731_935653391296_1235669117225097345_o

17545415_895826978746_8848403665501589863_o

IMG_8960

I have a tendency to go all out sometimes, but you really don’t have to. You could do a simple setup on a table that all of your chairs are centered around.  Like I mentioned before, we use Fellowship Hall, so I usually set up two rows of chairs in a semi-circle around the altar.  We turn off the overhead lights and use candles, the overhead lights on the stage and a few stage lights we have behind us to give us enough light.

Okay, I think that’s it!  If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out!  If you’d like for me to email you an actual sample order of worship, I’m happy to do that, as well!  I’m going to go back on my instagram posts and hashtag them #taizéatRCC so you can search my posts that way, as well!

RCC Easter Egg Hunt 2015

I feel the need to preface this post by saying this:  I know some clergy vehemently oppose Easter Egg Hunts on Holy Saturday.  I understand why and I respect clergy and churches who choose to either have them Palm Sunday weekend or wait until after the Easter Sunday service to start the countdown.

That being said … this works for us.  We don’t have Church School on Easter Sunday and a lot of our families choose to worship at the Sunrise Service.  We also don’t have our Sunrise Service on church property, so most of us aren’t around until just before worship starts and set-up would be next to impossible if we tried to do it on Easter Sunday.

So this is just what works for us and where we are right now in our ministry!  We started three years ago on a whim and it really has been a lovely pre-Easter tradition for Rehoboth families!  It’s free and open to the public and we definitely have grown in numbers since we started.  It’s amazing what word of mouth (and Facebook!) does.

Here are some photos from the day!  It was supposed to rain so my Church School Director and I had mentally prepared ourselves to have it indoors, but the SUN CAME OUT!  It ended up being beautiful!  It wasn’t warm (I was joking that last year we served lemonade and popcorn and this year I served hot chocolate and popcorn!) but everyone came in snow boots and warm coats and had a blast.

Easter Egg Hunt 2 Easter Egg Hunt

How do you all handle Easter Egg Hunts during the Easter Triduum?  I’ll be honest – it’s really hard to find a good balance between honoring the liturgical year and staying relevant to the community you’re living in …

Imperfection Is A Sign Of Grace

I can’t believe that it’s the middle of March already – when did that happen??  I am actually heading out of town tomorrow – looking forward to some time off and some time with my family!

Here is this morning’s sermon … enjoy!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
March 15, 2015

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians, 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

Imperfection Is A Sign Of Grace

Imperfection is a sign of grace.

Last June I had surgery and right before I went in I wanted to make sure that all of our bills were paid through the end of the month so I would not have to worry about them while I was recovering. In addition to the usual stuff – phone, Internet, credit cards, etc. – I also needed to pay my quarterly taxes (clergy tax law is a little bit finicky and we have to pay quarterly). I also needed to send a check to a friend of mine who is a Mary Kay consultant and had sent me some makeup.

I logged into all of my online accounts and pulled out my checkbook. I paid everything that was due and put the quarterly taxes and the check for the Mary Kay makeup in envelopes and dropped them at the post office. I headed into surgery a few days later, feeling relieved that everything was taken care of.

The morning after surgery, I was sitting in my hospital room, still a little groggy, when my phone when off. I looked at it and saw a text message from the friend of mine who sold me the Mary Kay makeup.

Umm … Sarah? Did you just mail in your quarterly taxes?

Yes, I mailed them a few days ago, why?

Well … it’s just … I opened the envelope you sent me for the makeup … and the check for your taxes was in it.

Suddenly all I could picture was a confused looking IRS agent staring at a $15 check with “Mary Kay Close Out Sale” written in the memo line.

This was not one of my finer moments in life.

So we all do stuff like this, right? Every day my Facebook news feed is full of hilarious – and simultaneously self-deprecating – anecdotes from people’s lives gathering “likes” and comments assuring the person who posted that we have all been there.

But what about the things that often do not get posted? What about the stories that we might not be comfortable telling people? What about the hurt and the anguish that we feel that we cannot share because it hurts us so deeply? What about the shame that eats away at who we are?

What about the times in our lives when we have said something that we really, truly regret? What about those fights that we have gotten in with our spouses; fights that have created real pain and sadness – both in ourselves, and also in our marriages? What about the ways in which we have felt like we have failed in our lives – in our work, in our finances, in our parenting and in our friendships? What about the medical crisis’s that we are afraid to tell other people about? What about our deep insecurities? What about the regrets that we feel? What about the times when we have felt as though we simply are not good enough?

This is the stuff that does not often get posted about – but believe me, this is the stuff that people are feeling every single day.

We live in a world that is hard to live in. It is imperfect, it is fast paced and it is inundated with senseless tragedies. Sometimes we cannot help but get caught up in the negative thinking that comes from living in a world that is far from perfect and this negative thinking slowly eats away at who we are – and who God created us to be.

As Protestants, we do not really like to talk about sin. We think that it is too negative or too “Catholic”. We often choose to focus, instead, on positive things so that we can overshadow sin and darkness.

But I was on a webinar this week and the pastor leading it pointed out that “sin is only negative if it stays in your shadow.” [1]

Do you know why we do not like to talk about sin? Because we are afraid; we are afraid that we are the only ones who are not perfect, we are afraid that we are the only ones who struggle, we are afraid that other people will see our imperfections and we are afraid that we will be judged for the mistakes that we have made.

But, my friends, it is time to break free from these fears; because I am here to tell you that no one is perfect. We have all sinned, we have all made mistakes and we all fall short.

And it is time to stop letting these imperfections have some kind of power over us.

It is time to break free from the negative thoughts that consistency invade our lives and be reminded that we are all children of God; created beautifully in God’s image, saved by an unexplainable grace and sustained by a Holy Spirit that will get us through this crazy world.

Do you ever wonder why we read a Prayer of Confession every week in worship? It is not a meaningless ritual; it is an opportunity every week to admit the grace of our imperfections and then to release the burdens of these imperfections to God.

And then – every week – it is a time for us to be reminded and assured of God’s grace, forgiveness and unconditional love for us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life. [2]

God loves us. All of us. It is that simple.

We will all make mistakes, we will all do things that we are not proud of, we will all fall short and we will all experience moments in our lives where we look back and wish we had handled things differently. But even in those moments, we are blessed children of God, who are assured of God’s grace. Grace is not the destination in our faith; it is the starting point. It is the starting point for each and every one of us, not matter who we are or where we are on our journey through life.

This is not a theological guess; this is a scriptural promise.

Indeed, God did not send [Jesus] into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [3]

Jesus brought a light into the world that can never be darkened and to profess a belief in God and in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to walk into that light. And even if we are feeling the darkness of our sins and our imperfections – because we all have them – that light will shine upon us and we will be transformed.

The Apostle Paul explained to the Ephesians that we, as children of God, are all made alive together with Christ – and that by grace, we are saved. [4] Grace is a gift from God; a gift given to each and every single one of us, reminding us every day that we are enough and that the sins and the imperfections of our lives will never overshadow the love of our God.

God made us alive through Christ, shining a light in the midst of the darkness of the world, assuring us that we are children of the light, united in the living waters of baptism and saved by the immeasurable riches of God’s grace.

So believe in these scriptures. Believe in the grace that is assured to us by God. Believe that you are enough; that the mistakes you have made, the regret that you feel and the shame that you sometimes feel can always, always, always be redeemed by the God who loves you.

The psalm that we heard this morning says to give thanks to the Lord, for he is good and gives to us steadfast love. [5] So today I urge you to look in the mirror and give thanks to God for the gift of grace that is more powerful than the imperfections of our lives. Give thanks to God for the gift of grace that changes us, that transforms us and that reminds us just how precious we are.

A couple of months ago, I came home and Bruce had a really worried look on his face.

Uhhh … Sarah? You got something in the mail from the IRS. It looks official.

I opened the envelope and found my Mary Kay check enclosed in a government form with the heading, “Not intended recipient.” The two of us burst into a fit of hysterical laughter.

There are moments in our lives where we can laugh about our imperfections and our mistakes – and in those moments, we should.

But for the moments where we cannot? And we all have those moments …

That is why we have grace.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

***

[1] The Rev. Molly Baskette, Lead Pastor, First Church Somerville
[2] John 3:16, NRSV
[3] John 3:19, NRSV
[4] Ephesians 2:5, 8, NRSV
[5] Psalm 107:1, 21, NRSV