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Is God on the Move?

Here we go again. For those in church leadership (or any kind of leadership), the surge due to the Omicron variant of Covid 19 is exhausting at best and triggering at worst. Congregations are spending time and energy once again discussing, discerning and deciding about whether to be open for in-person worship. What are the risks? What is gained? What is lost? And it in that discussion is an underlying ocean of grief because we don’t want to be doing this again. We would rather do anything else. We feel like our community is called to MORE than this. But here we are.

One of the things that has been hard for me as a congregational pastor in the pandemic is making space in the congregation for the many points of view on the topic. There are some folks who will only attend in-person and it is radically inclusive to be open for them. There are some folks that will only attend online and it is radically inclusive to have a virtual option for them. The only thing we do is lift up the diversity of people in the congregation to one another and invite us all to listen for the Spirit of God. How is God showing up in this pandemic? What kind of church is God calling us to be?

Sometimes it helps to have some historical perspective for privileged 21st century people. There have been many many struggles that have struck churches in the past. God has never abandoned us. God heals us, strengthens us, and calls us in new ways.

Sometimes it helps to get congregations in action work, so they can channel their frustrations into helping build the realm of God.

We have a two-part worship series called God on the Move that can engage your congregation from both perspectives. The first part of the series is three weeks on Faith and Technology, exploring the ways that God worked through different technology changes in the past to expand the reach of the gospel. From Paul riding new Roman ships to Martin Luther’s use of the printing press, this interesting series invites us to think about technology as a tool. The series also touches on ethics and the sins of technological advancement. How do we discern whether we are building the Tower of Babel or breaking through to a new frontier?

The second part of the series centers of Faith and Democracy and the ways in which we can engage voting rights and other justice issues. One worship focuses on racial justice specifically. The others give opportunity to explore concepts like freedom, truth and justice as they interplay with faith and democracy.

You can order just God on the Move: Faith and Technology or God on the Move: Faith and Technology or both! Here’s a sample Call to Worship. May it inspire you to trust that our God is moving and would never leave you behind.

CALL TO WORSHIP

One:    We are constantly in motion, with our minds and bodies often going in different directions.

All:       Now, we pause, and we bring our whole selves together for worship.

One:    Our culture has advanced technologies to quickly move all around the world – bikes, cars, planes, and even rockets to outer space.

All:       But we need to remember to stop moving, too.

One:    In this hour, let us explore how connected we are as one community.

All:       In this worship, we will imagine how to travel in new ways with our minds and hearts. 

One:    God is on the move!

All:       Let us rejoice and follow!

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Can Christmas Eve be BOTH holy and fun? 

Christmas Eve is an evening loaded with so many hopes and expectations that no night will ever really live up to the hype. Some of the adults are looking for a quiet and serene evening of beautiful music and candlelight. Others are looking to engage their children who are focused on cookies and presents. While still others are struggling, bringing tender, triggered hearts to worship. The pandemic adds even more expectations with some folks wanting a room full of hugs and song while others want a technologically flawless worship from home.

Now I have stressed myself out just writing about these realities of Christmas Eve. As church leaders, we are holding so much every year at Christmas time. We are balancing the needs of our folks while trying to live faithfully into a story that is sweet, transformative and terrifying all at the same time. How can we do it? I’ve included here some of my favorite tips and a free sample Christmas Eve liturgy with Lesson and Carols script. But here’s my biggest tip for ministers and leaders this season- remember that Jesus will be born regardless. While God is certainly grateful for all of our Advent midwifery, we are attending to the miracle; we are not the miracle itself. So, remember that Jesus comes as a gift for you too. Take a deep breath and plan away!

Tips for intergenerational Christmas Eve:

  • Keep little hands busy- one favorite tradition in our congregation is to hand out nativity pieces from several different sets to children as they come in. Kids attending virtually can color pictures of the nativity or show their own sets at home. As we move through the lessons and carols, the children bring up to the altar the different characters as we read the corresponding story. They build quite the eclectic scene, but it keeps them focused and listening for their turn.
  • Use the story- Christmas Eve only happens once a year, so let the story lead you. Whether you do a pageant, preach a sermon, or have a carol sing, let the coming of the Christ child take center stage. If children are present, let them be helpers and storytellers.
  • Include interactive elements like lighting candles (or glowsticks!), following the star, putting hay in the manger, tucking in baby Jesus, or opening gifts of peace, hope, joy and love.

But here’s my biggest tip for ministers and leaders this season- remember that Jesus will be born regardless. While God is certainly grateful for all of our Advent midwifery, we are attending to the miracle; we are not the miracle itself. So, remember that Jesus comes as a gift for you too. Take a deep breath and plan away!

Check out this FREE downloadable Lessons and Carols Script