COCU Index Year A 2016-17

Year A
Prayers for London tower fire here
COCU43A, Pentecost2A, 18th June 2017
(Also start of Refugee Week)
COCU44A, Pentecost 3A, 25th June 2017
(UCA Anniversary 22nd June)
COCU45A, Pentecost 4A, 2nd July 2017
(Also start of NAIDOC Week)
COCU46A, Pentecost 5A, 9th July 2017
COCU47A, Pentecost6A, 16th July 2017
COCU48A, Pentecost 7A, 23rd July 2017
COCU49A, Pentecost 8A, 30th July 2017
COCU50A, Pentecost 9A, 6th August 2017
COCU51A, Pentecost 10A, 13th August 2017
COCU52A, Pentecost 11A, 20th August 2017
COCU53A, Pentecost 12A, 27th August 2017
COCU54A, Pentecost 13A, 3rd September 2017
(also Child Protection Week)

September: Season of Creation

COCU Year A 2016-17

Citation index (Vanderbilt Library) in canonical order.

Continue reading

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COCU46A.Pentecost5.9July2017

Readings: Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Psalm 45:10-17; Romans 7:15-25a; Mt 11:16-19, 25-30

Reflection related to Mt 11:30: The Myth of Urgency
Everyone wants you to quietly be Atlas,
to shoulder it all. Even the voice in your
head insists you are behind. But I’ve seen
the light in you, the one the gods finger
while we sleep. I’ve seen the blossom open
in your heart, no matter what remains to
be done. There are never enough hours
to satisfy the minions of wants. So close
your eyes and lean into the Oneness that
asks nothing of you. When the calls stack,
answer to no one, though you receive them
all. Just open your beautiful hands, born with
nothing in them. You have never been more
complete than in this incomplete moment.
(Source: Mark Nepo)

Reflection related to Mt 11.30: The cult of ‘crazy busy’ is killing us
Online article here.

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NAIDOC Week 2017

NAIDOC WEEK: 2-9 July 2017
NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. It is an opportunity for all Australians to come together to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait people, and participate in a range of activities and to support local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. To follow the celebrations or find out more information, visit the NAIDOC Week website.

2017 NAIDOC Theme: Our Languages Matter
It is hard to overstate the importance of language. It shapes our experience of the world – it shapes our relationships and what they mean for us, expresses our values, describes what matters, offers nuances around culture that are not quite translatable into other languages. Languages shape our identity and sense of belonging.
As a people who speak of Jesus as the Word of God and who value Scriptures, Christians should understand the importance of language, and of each person being able to use their own language. Why else do we spend so much time and energy ensuring that our Scriptures represent the very best translation of the original languages, and supporting translation into many other languages and dialects?
As the NAIDOC Week web site says: The 2017 theme – Our Languages Matter – aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song. Some 250 distinct Indigenous language groups covered the continent at first (significant) European contact in the late eighteenth century. Most of these languages would have had several dialects, so that the total number of named variations would have run to many hundred. Today only around 120 of those languages are still spoken and many are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on.
National NAIDOC Committee Co-Chair said… “Aboriginal and Torres Strait languages are not just a means of communication, they express knowledge about everything: law, geography, history, family and human relationships, philosophy, religion, anatomy, childcare, health, caring for country, astronomy, biology and food. Each language is associated with an area of land and has a deep spiritual significance and it is through their own languages that Indigenous nations maintain their connection with their ancestors, land and law,” Ms Martin said.

Worship Resources

Prayer
Creator and giver of life,
You who spoke and all things came to life,
Word that became flesh in Jesus,We praise and worship You in all things.
Enable Your Word to take life among us this day.
Give us voice that we might honour You,
and witness to the transforming life of Jesus, living Word.
Forgive us for cheap and careless words, or deliberately harmful words,
for words of war rather than peace,for words of exclusion and words that make enemies, rather than words that build neighbourhoods and welcome.
Forgive us when our words make others silent, or when we refuse to listen to other words.
Forgive us that we belong to a community which has in so many ways robbed First Peoples of their languages, culture and sense of the world.
May we support efforts to reclaim and re-learn languages.
Hear these our words to You. Amen.

Words of mission and dismissal
Go out into the world,
to the place where you sustain the creation.
Allow others to speak their words of life,
and speak gently your words.
Tell and live the story of Jesus.
May the Creator who called forth life by speaking,
Jesus who bore the Word for the life of the world,
and the Spirit whose breath makes language possible
sustain you in all ways. Amen. Continue reading

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resources in times of natural disaster/tragedy

London tower fire – June 2017

We pray for all those affected by the tragic fire in London.
We pray for the victims, the bereaved, those still searching for loved ones and for the emergency services.
Merciful God, hear our cry for your mercy in the wake of this disaster.
Reveal your presence in the midst of the suffering.
Help us to trust in your promises of hope so that desperation and grief do not overtake us. Comfort those whose hearts are broken,
Hold tight those who have lost,
support those who are responding in compassion – bringing help and healing.
Come quickly and aid those in need that they may know peace.
Strengthen us in this time of trial with the assurance of hope,
Grant that through your Holy Spirit, we may be guided to respond in love,
Grant through the presence of your Son,
that peace which passes all understanding. Amen.
(Source: Church of Scotland Diaconate)

Manchester – May 2017


We don’t hide from the cries of the oppressed.
We dare to listen for God there.
We are not afraid of the world’s sorrows.
Their agonies are the seeds of our compassion.
We are not drawn into the violence of cowards.
We are fearless in our love.
We do not need the fortifications of the privileged.
We are unafraid to live in the world.
We are not intimidated.
We entrust ourselves to the Crucified and Risen One.
We are not discouraged on the road
that winds to justice and does not end short.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

A downloadable tri-fold brochure on prayers for Manchester

We Pray in the Wake of the Horror of Violence
God,
Present with us in Christ,
Supporting and guiding us in the Spirit,
Embrace us in your compassion,
Hold us in your truth,
Infuse us with your love,
For the world can be a dark and violent place,
Where what transpires is unfair and wrong,
And where innocents suffer for the agenda of evil.
Calm our fears and worries.
Give us strength of peace.
And the power of hope.
We think of victims and their loved-ones.
Be with all who need solace and comfort in their time of distress.
Work for healing with all who need it.
When we turn our thinking to the perpetrators,
Smack down any self-righteousness within us.
Teach us how to unclench our souls as prejudice and judgement arise within our mindset.
When we start to label people or name people as enemies,
Corrupt our thinking with your grace, love and compassion,
Reminding us of the teaching of Jesus about such people.
May we not let go of our sense of horror at wrongdoing,
Not seek to excuse acts of cruelty or hate,
But transform these in your grace,
So that understanding, forgiveness, and reconciliation become the orders of the day.
May we work with you in this world,
So that the day might come sooner than ever,
Where peace is the priority,
Injustice is resolved in good and right ways,
Where noone dies because of the cause of others,
And that we might live together,
If not in unity, at least with respect and tolerance.
Christ,
May we better learn your way,
And better live it together,
So that the horrors of humanity might end.
This we pray,
Now and always. Amen
(Source: Jon Humphries, Prayers that Unite)

God, whose presence we yearn toward in the stillness
after our shaken, broken voices and the fires of violence fall silent:
we have no words left.
The words others have said:
“horrific”  “worst”  “unspeakable” “impossible”
have been spoken so many times that we can no longer hear them.
Our hearts have broken so often,
we cannot feel.
Our hope has been tried, and, we confess in sorrow,
has been found wanting.
There has been too much terror,
and not enough answers
too many lost lives with too little time to grieve them all
too much violation of the ordinary
and not enough glimpse of the holy to hold us fast.
But you, oh God: beyond our words, beneath our hope:
be the creative breath that orders our chaos
the mercy and justice that compels us to action
the Love that is stronger than death.
We ask you again, for we have nowhere else to turn
Hold us fast, when we cannot hold on any longer.
Walk with us through the valley of the shadow
Turn us away from despair,
that we may not grow weary in well-doing
Beyond our divisions,
bind us together as one family in your kin-dom of mercy and peace.
Amen.
(Source: The Rev. Dr. Laurie A Kraus) Continue reading

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COCU39C.Day of Pentecost.4June2017

 

Day of Pentecost – image by Rev Mark Hewitt, http://oldtractorinshed.net

Readings
Year A
Acts 2:1-21:
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b:
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13:
John 20:19-23:

Year C
Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 24-34, 35b; Romans 8:14-17; John 14: 8-17 (25-27)

Resources
Textweek
Sacredise
Rex AE Hunt

(Scroll to end for more liturgical resources and music)

A catalyst for a sermon – Richard Rohr
On the day of the dedication of “Solomon’s Temple,” the Shekinah glory of YHWH (fire and cloud from heaven) descended and filled the Temple (1 Kings 8:10-13), just as it had once filled the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 40:34-35). This became the assurance of the abiding and localized divine presence of YHWH for the Jewish people. This naturally made Solomon’s Temple both the centre and centering place of the whole world, in Jewish thinking.
When the Babylonians destroyed the Temple and took the Jews into exile (587 BC), it no doubt prompted a crisis of faith. The Temple was where God lived! People like Ezra and Nehemiah eventually convinced the people that they must go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple so God could be with them again. Yet Wright points out there is no account of the fire and glory of God ever descending on this rebuilt temple (515 BC).
The absence of visible Shekinah glory must have been a bit of an embarrassment and worry for the Jewish people. Wright says it could explain the growth of Pharisaism, a belief strong in Jesus’ time that if liturgical and moral laws were obeyed more perfectly—absolute ritual, priesthood, and Sabbath purity—then the Glory of God would return to the Temple. This is the common pattern in moralistic religion: our impurity supposedly keeps God away. They tried so hard, but the fire never descended.
Knowledge of this history now gives new and even more meaning to what we call the Pentecost event (Acts 2:1-13). On that day, the fire from heaven descended, not on a building, but on people! And all peoples—not just Jews—were baptized and received the Spirit (Acts 2:38-41). Paul understood this and spent much of his life drawing out the immense consequences. In that moment, Christianity began to see itself as a universal rather than a tribal or regional religion, which is why they very soon called themselves “catholic” (universal) as early as the year 108 AD. Paul loved to say, “You are the Temple!”

Prayer of Invocation
Come, Holy Spirit,
and guide us into pathways of truth, we pray.
Inspire us and strengthen us as we walk into the future
in your wise company.
Come, Holy Spirit, come. Amen.
(Source: Words for Worship 2011)

Collect
Spirit of the living God,
Holy Wisdom, filling the whole earth,
you have come upon us all,
like fire on our heads,
hot in our hearts,
burning till the whole world
is ignited
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen
(Source: Bob Eldan)

HOLY BREATH (John 20:19-23)
No tongues of fire here,
simply a word and a gentle breath,
the Holy Spirit.
Through locked doors and fear,
the risen one brings new life,
peace and sending out.
(Source: Jeff Shrowder, 2017)

Spirit, the presence of God, the inspiration of God,
the flicker that lives inside us helping us to seek God.
Spirit, the one that pushes us, suggests to us and speaks to us
in so many different ways.
May I always be open to the prodding of the Spirit.
(Source: Jay Robinson)

Peace be with you:
the peace I left you,
my peace, my peace,
I am with you.
Peace from these scarred hands,
peace from that wounded body,
peace, his peace, here
with us.
God has sent me,
now I will send you:
go with the Breath,
on the Wind, in the Spirit.
Peace from these scarred hands,
peace from that wounded body,
peace, his peace, here
with us.
Forgive transgressions,
for Tyrant has no power now;
forgive transgressors,
for Grace will lead them home.
Peace from these scarred hands,
peace from that wounded body,
peace, his peace, here
with us.
Peace be with you.
God has sent you –
be peace, my peace,
with Breath, Wind, Spirit.
(Source: Rev Sarah Agnew, Praying the Story)

Poem For Pentecost Sunday (Yr C)
SUDDENLY THERE CAME A SOUND. . .(Acts 2: 1-21)
It was one of those days where
leaves are thrashed
from tree branches writhing
under a racing sky,
and my childhood friend playing
outdoors with me wondered:
does the wind
ever stop blowing?

And does it stop somewhere, he asked again,
or just keep going around and around the world?

Back then I said I didn’t know
but now I know there came a day
when a wind began in a certain house
that filled with a light like flame,

and that wind had the roar of justice,
and that wind had the rush of love,
and that wind had the whisper of peace and compassion,
and it carried the words of hope and joy
to an anxious and needy world,

and it was gentle enough to touch the wounded soul
and strong enough to stir the ever seeking hearts
of women and men, young and old,
from city to distant shores,

and it pulled down walls of distrust and fear
and threw open doors of possibility,
and oaks of hatred have bent in its path
and palisades of pain have fallen to its strength
and new life has spread like scattered seed

and yes, my friend, that wind
circles the world
and no,
it has never stopped blowing.
(Source: Andrew King, 2016)

A LITURGY FOR PENTECOST
(in association with Acts 2 )
From around the globe, they came, a multitude of races of people in colourful dress, gathering in the town square to host the Holy Spirit. There were no interpreters, yet not a soul missed a word the apostles spoke.
Holy Spirit come again to enlighten and inspire your church, your people today with your words of love and grace.
In Jesus’ name.

Those who were there, described the visitation of the Holy Spirit as something like a refreshing, cleansing zephyr. Others registered the heat, like flames of cleansing, refining fire.
Holy Spirit, came to cleanse and refresh your church, your people today. In Jesus’ name.
Soft as the wings of a dove, the Spirit blessed the gathered throng, bringing peace to troubled minds.
Holy Spirit, come again to equip your church, your people, to be ambassadors for peace in the community, in the nation and in the world. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
(Source: Linda Sutton) Continue reading

Posted in COCU Year A, COCU Year C, Pentecost Day B | Tagged | 2 Comments

World Environment Day – June 5th

wed2016-logo

World Environment Day, celebrated annually on 5 June. First proclaimed in 1972, the day has grown to become the one of the main vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.

Each year World Environment Day highlights in its theme one important environmental issue.

The Uniting Church in Australia prepared a resource for World Environment Day 2016, Together for a world made whole. The resource made available through Uniting Justice can be downloaded at the link, or COCU.UJA_World_Environment_Day_2016. It has reflections from the Asia-Pacific context.

WED aims to inspire more people than ever before to take action to prevent the growing strain on planet Earth’s natural systems from reaching breaking point. The 2016 theme is the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife, which erodes precious biodiversity and threatens the survival of elephants, rhinos and tigers as well as many other species. It also undermines our economies, communities and security. The 2016 slogan is “Go Wild for Life” and encourages people to spread the word about wildlife crime and the damage it does, and to challenge all those around you to do what they can to prevent it.

Sri Lanka becomes 16th country to destroy confiscated ivory – and first country to apologise to its elephants. Recommended reading. Prayers for elephants in Thailand.

More than 60% of Africa’s forest elephants have been killed in the past decade due to the ivory trade.

Illegal wildlife trade is a wrong that must be corrected.

Etihad has signed an agreement to help end the illegal trade in wildlife.

01-ivory-sri-lanka.adapt.1900.1**

Uniting Justice liturgical resources for World Environment Day 2015 (downloadable resource link at end of blurb on Uniting Jusice website). The 2014 resources are here.

William (Bill) Wallace (New Zealand) has prepared a ‘mass of the universe‘ which could be considered for World Environment Day. He has generously uploaded the text, MP3 files, music scores etc, and is complete in itself. Worth checking out.

There may be resources in Seasons of Creation that could be helpful for planning too.

Presbyterian Church USA – Caring for Earth’s Creatures (download)

Celebrating the Earth
v1 We light and put in place this candle for the land, sea and sky.
A green candle is put in place and lit

v2 We remember the richness of Planet Earth:
mountains unfolding to desert and plain,
seas swaying to the rhythm of tides,
skies reflecting the colours of light.

v3 We place this green cloth for the creatures of Earth.
A large green cloth is placed near/around the candle

v2 We remember creatures of land, air and sea:
horses running for the joy of living,
parrots chatting on roofs and branches,
dolphins leaping from sea to sky.

v4 We place these leaves for the fruits of Earth.
A branch of green leaves is put beside the candle

v2 We remember fruits of the land:
grasses bursting with nourishing grain,
flowers exuding colour and fragrance,
trees renewing the sweetness of air.

v5 We put this book in place for humanity.
A collection of sayings and poems is put on the green cloth near the candle

v2 We remember all sages and prophets:
through them recalling the power of love;
through them reclaiming a spirit of compassion;
through them embracing Earth and each other.
(Adapt.PCNV Earth Liturgy)

Prayer for World Environment Day
Creator God,
breath and source of life,
in love you called the world into being
and in grace you made us and call us your children.

We stand in awe of the wonder of your creation:
its beauty and wildness;
complexity and power;
resilience and fragility.

God of life,
you call us to be participants in the web and
wellspring of life:
to be nurtured by the planet;
to be nurturing of the planet;
to cherish the world and all that lives.
But we have failed and creation groans under our weight.

God of grace,
forgive us in our brokenness:
when we have taken too much from the earth;
when we have not spoken out
against greed and destruction;
when we have allowed our most vulnerable neighbours
to be harmed.
We seek courage and forgiveness to be made whole.

God of love,
we pray for those people, communities and nations
already suffering the devastating effects of climate change;
and we pray for the diversity of life on earth,
so much of it already threatened by our actions.

God of hope,
we pray for the world’s leaders
Bless them with wisdom and creativity,
and a shared vision of hope for all creation.
May they find the determination
to take strong action against climate change,
and the political will to act together for the common good.

Creator God,
we pray for us all,
that we might restore our relationships with each other
and work together to heal the earth.

Renew us in your grace
for the sake of your creation. Amen.
(Source: Uniting Justice World Environment Day 2016 resources) Continue reading

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COCU38A.Easter7A.28May2017

Also Reconciliation Sunday (Australia)

Readings
Acts 1:6-14
The disciples question Jesus about the timing of God’s restoration of Israel, but Jesus promises the Holy Spirit and then ascends into heaven as they watch. Then two white-robed men tell them that Jesus will return in the same way they saw him leave.
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
A psalm of victory and praise, celebrating God’s might in military terms, and rejoicing in God’s protection of the weak and vulnerable, and in God’s provision of a home for God’s people.
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
Peter encourages the persecuted believers, reminding them that they have witnessed Christ’s suffering and share in it, and that they have the hope of seeing Christ’s glory, and sharing in that as well.
John 17:1-11
Jesus prays for himself that God will take him back into the glory he shared with the Father. Then he prays for his disciples, who have received Christ’s message and have believed and given him glory, that they may be protected by God’s name and may be one as Christ and the Father are one.
(Summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Call to Worship

At the presence of God, we rejoice:
glorifying the One who is Parent of all orphans.
In the presence of Jesus Christ, we listen:
to the Voice who calls us to humbly serve others.
Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we speak:
making God’s love known to the world-forsaken in our midst.
(Source: Thom Shuman)

Posted in COCU Year A, Year A | 1 Comment

UCA Sunday, 22nd June 1977

The Uniting Church in Australia celebrated the formal union of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian Church on June 22nd, 1977.

Here is the combined service used at Pilgrim Church on UCA Sunday 2013.
UCA Anniversary 2013

Order of service from UCA Worship Working Group for 30th Anniversary here.

Homily by Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon in 2014.

Here is a list of other resources for UCA Sunday: UCA Anniversary

Come, Holy Spirit, Renew our hearts renew our faith;
renew our love for you;
renew our openness and compassion; renew our sense of justice .
Come, Holy Spirit, Renew your Church
renew our love for the Gospel;
renew the liveliness of our worship;
renew our commitment for the care for the poor; renew the church in its understanding of its calling.
Come, Holy Spirit, Renew the Earth.
Teach us to protect our environment
teach us to care for other people as our own brothers and sisters;
teach us to imagine all living things as we are connected to each other;
So may the peoples and all living things live in harmony with the earth.
Amen.

My hope is that this church will continue
to first open its heart to the needs of others;
lift its head to attend to opportunities on its horizon;
offer its hands in generous hospitality and healing…
In the Spirit God who raised the Christ,
extending God’s extravagant compassion, grace and love
to whomever the neighbour might be 
at the time, in that place, of whatever culture.
And especially to be present
to the lost, the least and the last.
[Prayer on leaving the ministry of Mission Officer by John Emmett]

A prayer from Jon Humphries:
God Who Unites Us in the Work Towards the Common Good
– A Foundational Uniting Church Prayer
(Adapted from the Uniting Church in Australia, ‘Statement to the Nation’ 1977)
God who unites us in the cause of the common good,
The path to unity can be long and at times difficult.
You call us into unity as a sign of the reconciliation you seek for the whole human race.
In Christ you commission us with a responsibility to society which will always fundamentally involve us in social and national affairs.
You give us responsibilities within and beyond this country to work to uphold basic Christian values and principles, such as the importance of every human being and the need for integrity in public life.
You give us the task of proclaiming truth and justice and the rights of each citizen to participate in decision-making in their community.
You call us to advocate for religious liberty and personal dignity.
You commission in us a concern for the welfare of the whole human race.
God who unites us in the cause of the common good,
Move us to seek the correction of injustices wherever they occur.
Push us to spend our time and effort for the eradication of poverty and racism within our society and beyond.
Fill our lungs with your Spirit that we might call for and affirm the rights of all people to equal educational opportunities, adequate health care, and freedom of speech.
Spur us forward to work so that all may find employment or dignity in unemployment if work is not available.
Fire up our passion and burn away our complacency so that we might oppose all forms of discrimination which infringe basic rights and freedoms.
Give us the desire and the want to challenge values which emphasise acquisitiveness and greed in disregard of the needs of others.
Separate us from selfish thoughts and values that we might stand against that which encourages a higher standard of living for the privileged in the face of the daily widening gap between the rich and poor.
God who unites us in the cause of the common good,
Concern us with the basic human rights of future generations.
Urge us to find wisdom and take action to ensure the wise use of energy, the protection of the environment and the replenishment of the earth’s resources.
God who unites us in the cause of the common good,
We owe you our first allegiance.
Under you the policies and actions of all nations must pass judgment. Steel us for when our discipleship and allegiance bring us into conflict with the rulers of our day, that we may stand your ground.
Unite us as one people so that your universal values find expression in national policies and that humanity may survive under your guidance.
God who unites us in the cause of the common good,
We pledge ourselves to hope and work for a nation whose goals are not guided by self-interest alone, but by concern for the welfare of all persons everywhere.
We commit ourselves the family of the One God — the God made known in Jesus of Nazareth;
Who is the One;
Who gave His life for others.
In the spirit of His self-giving love may this be so.
Amen
A LOVE SONG TO THE CHURCH
by Rev. Jennifer M. Creswell, St Luke the Physician Episcopal Church (Oregon)
Inspired by Psalm 84
‘How lovely is your dwelling place, oh Lord of hosts, to me.’
This is a love song to the church.
‘My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.’
This is a love song to the church.
‘The sparrow has found her a house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.’
This is a love song to the church.
‘Happy are they who dwell in your house! They will always be praising you.’
A love song to the church:
‘Happy are the people whose strength is in you! Whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way. Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs, for the early rains have covered it with pools of water. They will climb from height to height, and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.’
This is a love song.
To the church. To the ugly ones and the spectacular ones. To the ones the size of a closet and the ones bigger than a city block. To the gaudy ones, the ornate ones, the little country clapboard ones. The stone ones, the bone freezing cold ones, the stuffy filled-with-plastic-virgin-Mary ones, the plain ones, the messy ones, the dark ones, the holy ones.
This is a love song to the church.
To the places and spaces, in living rooms, in high school gyms, in mega sanctuaries from the 80s, in the suburbs, in the cities, the 1,000 year old ones and the buildings just completed—the spaces set aside for the worship of God. This is a love song to the people who build, the people who fund, the people who barn-raise and fundraise and take time off work to meet with the surveyor to build the church. The people who negotiate mortgages and rents, the people who pay the utility bills, the people who mow the grass and weed the front beds, the people who fix the toilet when it runs, the people who research dishwashers, the people who clean and organize and then clean and organize and keep cleaning and organizing. This is a love song to the church.
This is a love song to the spaces that feel holy, look holy, don’t look holy but are holy. The baptismal fonts the size of swimming pools, the fonts the size of a seashell, the tubs and pools, the fountains and dunk tanks. This is a love song to the places where God’s presence lingers on Monday and Tuesday, even if it spends the weekdays full of kids or bar patrons or basketball players. This is a love song to the sanctuary. Where the Word is read, the Word is heard, the Word is lived. To the table. To the place where we come for food, for holy drink. To the candles that light the morning, that burn with our prayers, that shine on Christmas Eve. This is a love song to the altars and sanctuaries, the pianos, the guitars, the drums, the organs, the voices, the songbooks, the blue folders, the singing leader, the kid who plays her saxophone, the praise songs projected on the walls, the chants, the Latin, the English, the Spanish, the Romanian, the Czech, the Arabic, the ASL. This is a love song to the church.
This is a love song to God who shows up as bread, as wine, as light, as flame, as water, as comfort, as pain, as loss, as shadow, as shivering beauty, as other people, as the person who asks if you can teach Sunday school, as coffee and cake, as the interruption to your prayers, as the computer guy, as the voices of 60 people singing.
This is a love song to the place where even a nest of tiny birds knows it is safe. The place where dogs and hamsters are blessed, the place where babies cry, where people move slowly, where you don’t have to know what’s going on. This is a love song of heartbreak over the church’s failures. The failure to protect children. The failure to welcome all God’s people. The failure to repent. The failure to forgive. The failure to take the side of the vulnerable. The failure to listen. This is a love song that sometimes breaks our hearts.
This is a love song to the house of God. To the rafters and the choir lofts and the pew racks and the banners. This is a love song to all the lovingly made sanctuary art that makes us cringe. This is a love song to the place where God dwells. To the sacristy and the narthex. To the parking lot. To the Sunday school room, the furnace room, the courtyard, the stained glass windows. This is a love song to the flag that gets stuck in the trees, to the windows too high to be washed, the elevator that never works, the terrible-colored carpet. This is a love song to the people who make the church their home. This is a love song to the pews that served as beds for rescue workers after 9-11. To the sanctuary that hid people from slaughter in Rwanda. To the roofs that keep houseless people dry at night. To all the crosses and crucifixes and Bibles and vestments and fog machines and icons and gospel choirs and incense. This is a love song to you.
This is a love song to the altar guild. To the worship leaders. To the light and sound guy. To the sexton, the janitor, the one who keeps it clean. This is a love song to the greeter, the baker, the teacher, the acolyte. This is a love song to the one who reaches over and shows where we are in the book. This is a love song to the one who says, “yes, I’ll read today.” This is a love song to the one who takes communion to another. This is a love song to the one who sings someone else’s favorite hymn, says someone else’s needed prayer, to the one who notices, to the one who says something.
This is a love song to the church. To the older church ladies who take Jesuit volunteers out for lunch. To the toddlers who act like they own the place. To the retired guys who show up at Boy Scoutmeetings. To the stitchers, the knitters, the cooks. This is a love song to a place where professors and students sit side by side. Where nurses and patients eat together. Where Republicans and Democrats pray for each other. This is a love song to the bond that holds people together in conflict. This is a love song to the people we wouldn’t be hanging out with otherwise. To the labyrinth walks, the foot washings, the stewardship campaigns, the annual reports, the vestry meetings, the phone directories, the prayer chains, the meal trains, the rides to the doctor, the cards, the guitar lessons, the organ preludes, the funeral receptions, the youth group complines. This is a love song to the crab feeds and Christmas bazaars and the art studios and the clothing closets and the food pantries. This is a love song to bad coffee and conversation you wish would go deeper. This is a love song to the conversation you think will never end. This is a love song to the person who’s been on your mind. This is a love song to little stubby golf pencils in the pews, and misprints in the bulletin.
This is a love song to the church. This is a love song to the people whose strength is in God, whose hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way. This is a love song to the pews polished by 60 years of hand oil, and to the people who would worship God even if the pews weren’t there. This is a love song to a God who is bigger than the church. This is a love song to God in people, God in mountains, God in thunder, God in injustice. A love song for the church. This is a love song for the church because God is holy. This is a love song for the church because God makes the church holy. This is a love song for the church because we can’t hold God.
This is a love song to the church. This is a love song to what we want the church to be, to what the church is now, to what the church will become. This is a love song to the agitators, the complainers, the pleasers. This is a love song to the overworkers and to the ones who keep thinking they ought to get more involved. This is a love song to the ones who keep the church the same and to the ones who push it to change. This is a love song to the reformers, the traditionalists, the peacemakers, the artists, the nurturers, the fighters, the introverts and the voices. This is a love song to the choir that covers for the ones who can’t hold a tune so well anymore. This is a love song to the family who brings the homebound to church. This is a love song to all the ones who pray. And to the ones who say they’ll pray. And to the ones who actually do. This is the love song to the minister who shows up when his heart is breaking. This is a love song to the congregation that praises God when they don’t know what else to do. This is a love song to the saints who have passed the church on to us.
This is a love song to God. This is a gratitude song for the church. This is a love song. Amen.

There Are Many Ways of Sharing (tune: NETTLETON TiS 392)

There are many ways of sharing, But God’s Spirit gives each one.
There are different ways of caring; It’s one Lord whose work is done.
God, whose gifts are overflowing, May we hear you when you call;
Keep us serving, keep us growing For the common good of all.

We’ve been baptized in the waters! We’ve been given work to do.
When you call your sons and daughters, You give gifts for serving you.
God, we join in celebration Of the talents you impart.
Bless each baptized one’s vocation; Give each one a servant’s heart.

All are blest by gifts you give us; Some are set apart to lead.
Give us Jesus’ love within us As we care for those in need.
Give us faith to make decisions; Give us joy to share your Word.
Give us unity and vision As we serve your church and world.

Tune: John Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, 1813 (“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”)
Text: Copyright © 2004 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette (Upper Room Books, 2009).

“GOD OF OUR LIFE, THROUGH ALL THE CIRCLING YEARS”
(Tune: Sandon, TiS #582)

God of our life, through all the circling years,
We trust in thee;
In all the past, through all our hopes and fears,
thy hand we see.
With each new day, when morning lifts the veil,
we own thy mercies, Lord, which never fail.

God of the past, our times are in thy hand;
with us abide.
Lead us by faith to hope’s true promised land;
be thou our Guide.
With thee to bless, the darkness shines as light,
and faith’s fair vision changes into sight.

God of the coming years, through paths unknown
we follow thee;
when we are strong, Lord, leave us not alone;
our Refuge be.
Be thou for us in life our daily Bread,
our heart’s true Home when all our years have sped.

Words: Hugh Thomson Kerr (1872-1950), 1916.
(NOTE: Kerr wrote this hymn for the 50th anniversary of the Shadyside Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.)
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Mothers Day resources

 

ELCA Mothers Day

Call to Worship
The spirit of God calls us from many places;
some of us come from busy homes with many people
some of us live alone.
We are a part of the family.This week has been different for each of us;
some of us have had happy news we want to celebrate
some of us have faced grief and need to cry.
We are members of God’s family.

Yet we all come to this same place;
all of us seeking God’s presence in our lives
all of us seeking God’s presence with each other.
Together we become God’s family.
(1994, Liturgy Outside)

Call to Worship
We are the people of God.
Together we are family.I am married,
and single
and in a covenant relationship.
We are the people of God.
Together we are family.

I was married,
and in a holy union,
and never married,
and married twice,
and widowed.

We are the people of God.
Together we are family.

I am older
and younger,
and inbetween,
facing my first serious relationship,
knowing the joy of love,
enduring betrayal,
tasting the grief of a dying partner.

We are the people of God.
Together we are family.

I am an only child,
and have ten siblings
and have raised two children
and no children.

We are the people of God.
Together we are family.

I am part of a family,
the human family
the family of faith
my family of origin
the family of my choosing.

We are the people of God.
Together we are family.

Let us worship God together.
(2001, Liturgy Outside)

Opening Prayer
Most Gracious Lord, Master, Messiah and Saviour,
we greet you with all humility.
You are the first and the last,
the divine light and the spirit of guidance, alpha and omega. Your light is in all things, Your love in all beings:
in a loving mother, a kind father,
in an innocent child, in a helpful friend,
and in an inspiring teacher.
Allow us to recognize you in all Your holy names and forms.
May the message of God reach far and wide,
illuminating and making the whole of humanity
as one single family in the parenthood of God. Amen.
(Source: Church of Scotland Starters for Sunday)

A short vimeo dedicated to mothers, and particularly to mothers on Naura in long term immigration detention. A really appropriate video clip to show on Mothers’ Day as a lead in to prayers for others perhaps, or at the start of the service.

A call for a national day of prayers:
for mothers of people in Australia’s immigration detention camps
As we celebrate and spoil our own mothers this Sunday, let’s also pause together to pray for the mothers of people who are in detention, particularly people on Manus Island at this time of great uncertainty. Most of us know how worried and anxious our mums can get!
Mothers and families – who may be across the other side of the world – are the forgotten victims of detention. The uncertainty of knowing when your child will we be free, or safe, or healthy is a debilitating burden to bear.

A PRAYER FOR THE MOTHERS OF PEOPLE IN AUSTRALIA’S OFFSHORE DETENTION CENTRES
Creator God,
Who was with the Mother of Moses as she suffered the loss of her missing child,
Who was with the Mother of Jesus as they fled together through the desert,
And who loves the mothers of the young men who have been treated so cruelly on Manus,
See the fears they carry in their bodies,
See them tossing in their sleep.

Creator of Justice and Mercy,
Who inspires in the heart of every person a desire to be good,
Who weeps about the violence of our collective sins,
And who loves our politicians who are responsible for those young men.
See the fears they carry in their bodies,
See them tossing in their sleep.

Creator of Community,
Who is the embodiment of perfect community,
Who challenges everyone to love their neighbour and their enemy.
And who invites everyone to eat together at the table,
Grant us the vision to see all those mothers who are not in front of us today,
Grant us with courage to welcome the stranger.
(Source: ACRT)

Mother’s Day – with Shades of Blue
God,
Mother of us all,
You birthed creation in a word,
And have seen it unfold as it will.
We pray with mothers.
We pray with children.
We pray for those who have and love their children.
We pray for those who have and love their mothers.
May the bond of love ever grow stronger.
May issues be resolved with grace and forgiveness.
May joy, gratitude, pride and love be the core of such relationships.
We pray with those whose children are distant.
We pray with those whose mothers are distant.
Time, space, circumstance or death can separate us from those who we share a bond of love.
We pray with those who mother those not their own,
Whose mothering stretches to the needs of those needing mothering.
We pray for those who have lost children to death.
We pray for those who have lost mothers to death. Help all who grieve to find comfort and support in their sadness.
We pray for those who have given up their children for adoption
We pray for those who have been given up as children for adoption.
May all in find love and home in their circumstance.
May all find a firm identity in being loved by those who love them, including you.
May those who seek reconciliation and reunion find hope and closure.
May those who deal with the complexities of reality find peace in their circumstance.
We pray for those who choose not to be mothers.
May they be happy in their choice.
May they not know judgement from others.
We pray for those who cannot be mothers, even though they long to be.
May they know love and comfort.
May hope, meaning and purpose find them in new ways,
Bringing love and fulfilment to their living.
We pray for us all – mothers and children.
Grant us all, mothers and children, wisdom, compassion and connection
Lead us into courage to speak with love and honesty,
To listen with care, compassion and understanding,
To moderate our reactive feelings with grace and forgiveness.
Where there is distance, hurt or division, may we find what is needed to work for healing and wholeness.
Where there is warmth and joy, may this build to abound.
In all things may we know love,
Love from you,
Love from loved ones
Love from others
Love eternal.
We pray this in the name of Christ the Son.
Amen
(Source: Jon Humphries, Prayers that Unite)

“I’m a mother from Nauru Detention Centre. As a mother, I want to share my pain with Australian mothers on Mother’s Day. Unfortunately it’s been three years that we are in detention centre and we see our kids’ pain and we are unable to help them. It’s been three years that our kids don’t have birthday cake! /they don’t have candles, and they don’t even have birthday presents. I as a mother have been a witness for all of these. Our kids don’t have a proper place to sleep, sit or even play. It’s been three years that our kids are away from basic rights of life. It’s been three years that our kids don’t get any proper education. It’s been three years that the Australian Government has stolen our kids’ best chances of their lives away from them. It’s been three years that our children are looking for freedom. They only want a normal life and nothing else, a normal life in a country such as Australia where they can play freely, go to school and be happy. These are the very first rights of a child which have been stolen away from them for three years. Seriously, what is their sin? So where is the ‘children’s rights’ that Australia believes in? Or maybe they think only their children deserve to have rights? It’s been three years that our children are looking for the ‘lost justice’ and they haven’t seen anything but cruelty. Where is that ‘human right’ that Australia claims? Our children have got too many questions in their mind which unfortunately no one is able to answer. It’s been three years that the Minister says that there are no kids in detention. He doesn’t count our kids, Aren’t our kids like other kids? What kind of human right does allow women and children to be used for politics? Three years of our children’s lives are being ruined. Who is responsible for this huge cruelty? Kids of Nauru detention have mental issues, as well as their families. Poor Nauru detention kids have to see their parents depressed and unable to even talk to them. It’s a part of the pain of all mothers on Nauru, which I wanted to share with other Australian mothers on Mothers Day on behalf of all the mothers. Ask them to free our kids from this hell. You Australian people have power and if you want you can change many things.
And lastly, I want to thank all advocates that try to make our kids smile by sending gifts. We really appreciate that but unfortunately nothing can make them happy anymore except a ‘normal life’. We love you and respect you and we ask you to please please please free our children from this hell.

Loving and nurturing God, we thank you for mothers.
For all they mean or have meant to us.
We thank you for the love they have shown and the care they have given.
For the many times they gave us hugs and held us close.
Loving and nurturing God we thank you for the qualities of mothers.
For their patience, their kindness, concern and understanding.
We thank you for the part they play in our lives,
and for this special day of saying ‘thank you’ to them.
Loving and nurturing God we thank you for the wonder of your mothering.
As a mother protects her children, you watch over us day by day.
We thank you for your arms which always encircle and protect us,
Your hands shield and deliver us from harm.
Loving God, we pray for those for whom Mother’s day brings heartache rather than a celebration.
We pray for those who have never known their mother or whose mothers have died.
We thank you for your mothering heart and your tender love ,
Which nurtures all who feel abandoned and lost.
We wait with those who long to be mothers but as yet have not had their own children.
We grieve with those who ache because they will never be mothers.
We thank you for their mothering hearts which long to be expressed.
Lord in your mercy, mother us all with your love.
We pray for those who struggle with the way their children have chosen to live their lives.
And grieve with those who are orphaned or have a difficult relationship with their mother.
We thank you that when we long for a mother’s love you do not abandon us.
Lord in your mercy, mother us all with your love.
May all of us have the comfort of knowing that your mothering love is constant,
Your understanding is perfect and your compassion is never-ending.
We thank you that you gave birth to all of us with delight and joy,
Lord in your mercy mother us all with your love.
Amen (Christine Sine, Godspace)
(Check out more on Godspace here)

A prayer for mothers
For mothers everywhere shielding their children from danger, especially refugees and asylum seekers, many vulnerable and homeless on the borders of our countries.
For mothers protecting their children, made homeless after natural disasters and changing weather patterns.
We give thanks for our own mothers, for the life we have been given and the love that nurtured us into who we are today.
We prayer for all mothers who bear pain through their child’s suffering, for the mothers with children in chronic or terminal illness; for mothers who suffer because of the child’s violent action as terrorists and extremists. We pray for God’s healing, wholeness and peace in their lives, as we hold and name those know to us before God.
We pray and give thanks for our own local Churches and faith communities, praying for a deepening of spiritual life and vision to reach out with compassion and love.
Lord take our thoughts, and turn them to prayer.
Lord take our prayer and turn it to love,
Lord take our love and turn it to Life
In Jesus Christ today.
(Ann Wren)

Beginnings
Beginnings—
just tiny stirrings
which disturb our even surface,
prodding us into new and different shapes…
claiming their place
on our horizons—
stretching us
where we would not go—
yet we must.
Driven by life forces
deeper than our dreams,
we dare to rise
and grasp towards
the new young thing—
not yet born—
but insistent—
like a tight seed bursting
for life,
carrying within it
all the power
of a woman’s
birthing thrust.
(Edwina Gateley, from her book There Was No Path So I Trod One, 1996, 2013)

Faith of Our Mothers sheet music
Faith of our mothers, living still
Fresh in our memories, held in our hearts
Here or in heaven, their deeds live on,
Spreading the joy God’s love imparts
Chorus:
Faith of our mothers, holy faith,
We will be true to thee to death
(words to other two verses on sheet music – click on link)
New words: Lawrence A. Wik, 2013

Some Mothers Day 2014 resources on Textweek.

Erin Wathen on ‘why I don’t do Mothers Day at church’. Very thoughtful.

God of all Living and Loving:
How pleasant it is when women, men, and children live together in unity! How noble is your creation and the world that you have made!
How blessed we are to receive the gifts of life and love!
We are thankful for families,
where scattered piles of stuff testify that we live fully in the moment; where the noise of laughter and the silence of sadness are freely shared;
We are thankful for families,
where we find sanctuary from danger and judgment; where words of love and openness are the rule of life.
We are thankful for families, where our differences are the spices of life;
where our unity is something that we can always take for granted.
We grieve for families, where violence and rejection are living realities; where hearts are broken, and dreams are shattered.
We grieve for families, where walls of protection become fortresses of isolation, where language is a weapon of destruction and hate.
Help us to understand,
those families whose identities are different from ours;
the ways of loving, parenting, partnering and working together for peace.
Help us to dare, to stand strongly against hate and divisiveness;
to encounter our differences with love and respect.
This we believe:
that love is stronger than hate;
that hope is stronger than despair,
and that good is stronger than evil.
In the name of the One who is Loving and Living, Amen.
(Source: Church of Scotland Starters for Sunday)

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liturgy when a church closes or ceases to be a worship centre

The decline of the suburban church by Christopher Akehurst.

United Church of Christ has a closing liturgy here.

A Lutheran service for closing of a church by Rev Thomas L. Wentzel.

UMC ‘leave taking of a church’ liturgy.

Methodist Church UK – closing a place of worship

 

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Refugee Week (World Refugee Day June 20)

In 2017, the dates are 18-24 June.

In 2000, the 9th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia expressed our commitment to seek “fair, humanitarian, adequately resourced and culturally appropriate government policies and procedures for the processing of refugees and asylum seekers”.

Refugee Week is Australia’s peak annual activity to raise awareness about the issues affecting refugees and celebrate the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society. UnitingJustice Australia has released their Refugee Week (14–20 June) resources for 2015 with the theme ‘With courage let us all combine.’ Taken from the second verse of the Australian national anthem, the 2015-2017 theme celebrates the courage of refugees who have refused to deny their beliefs or identity in the face of persecution, fled their homeland and often endured terrifying and dangerous journeys only to face the cruelty of detention before working hard to make a new life for themselves and their families. It also serves as a call to action for all Australians. Download the resource here.

refugee week 2016Also, The Uniting Church’s ‪Refugee Week 2016  resource Searching for Freedom celebrates the rich diversity refugees bring to Australian society! Searching for Freedom is a reminder of what people are doing when they flee situations of persecution and grave danger. 2016 SearchforFreedom_RefugeeWeekResource

Call to Leaders regarding Refugees
The Uniting Church in Australia responds
to the grace proclaimed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
who himself was a refugee.
We are called to work with all our hearts and minds
to love God, who is revealed in Jesus Christ.
We are called to express love and generosity of spirit
to the world for whom Christ died,
including the most marginalized people.
We seek to love the neighbour who is different
and welcome the stranger in our midst.
We implore civic leaders
to reflect the deep values of Australians,
shaped by different nations and cultures,
who seek to live in a world
characterized by peace and goodwill.
We therefore ask those leaders to embrace
a spirit of compassion
and concern for human dignity
in their considerations with regards
to Refugee and Asylum-seeker policy development.
(Source: Amelia Koh-Butler, Adopted by the South Australian Presbytery and Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia, October 2016)

Because it’s important to understand what’s happening in the world and in Australia for those searching for freedom, this resource includes information about Australia’s history of accepting refugees, what it means to seek asylum, and how many refugees there are in the world and where they are living.

It describes an alternative to ‘stopping the boats’, and includes a section on the situation of the roughly 30,000 people who are living in the community waiting to have their claims for protection processed.

The resource includes worship resources for Refugee Week as well as a number of ideas for what you can do to help bring about positive change. You can download a copy of the resource here.

See also Migrant and Refugee Sunday resources.

PRAYER OF INVOCATION
God of hospitality and refuge,
come to us here in this place of security and safety. Remind us that you are the God Almighty;
large enough for all people,
all nations, all tongues.
Help us, with the presence of your Holy Spirit,
to be able to create space
for those who seek asylum and refuge.
In the name of Jesus, your Son. Amen. (from UCA 2016 resource)

LAMENT
O Lord, how long shall we cry for help, and you will not listen?
Or cry to you, ‘Violence!’
and you will not save?
Why do you make us see wrong-doing and look at trouble?

In faith and hope, we respond:
‘How long, O God, how long?

(The response can be sung. The musical setting can be found in Uniting in Worship 2, p. 200)
Where is your justice, God?
Where is your purpose?
Where is your reason?
Where is your compassion?
Do you not care for your people,
your creation, your reputation?
Your purpose is hidden from our eyes.

In faith and hope, we respond:
‘How long, O God, how long?

Your reason is absent to our ears.
Your compassion is not discerned by our hearts. We have no hope (and remember asylum seekers who have no hope).
We are lost (and remember asylum seekers who are lost).
We are afraid (and remember asylum seekers who are afraid).
In faith and hope, we respond:

‘How long, O God, how long?
(from Uniting in Worship 2, Second Order of Service for the Lord’s Day, pp 200-202, adapted, The Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia (2005), Sydney: Uniting Church Press)

From a blessing for refugees in Pierre Pradervand’s forthcoming book of 365 Blessings to Heal Ourselves and the World:
“We bless the host nations in their spirit of compassion and sharing that their citizens may be awakened to the immense human, intellectual and cultural wealth these newcomers represent for them. We bless all concerned in their consciousness that my sister or brother is myself and that the challenge of integrating these immigrants is truly an amazing gift of the universe in helping all work toward the win-win world that alone will guarantee the survival of the human race”.
(Above text from The Gentle Art of Blessing page).

AFFIRMATIONS
We are not alone. We live in God’s world.
We believe in God,
who has freely given the Holy Spirit
to bind us together as a community of grace.

We believe that the spirit can lead us
in the discovery of truth,
in the pursuit of justice, and
in the practice of caring for one another.

In our homes, in the church and in the community the Spirit offers us inspiration and courage.
We are not alone. Thanks be to God.

(from Prayers on Parade (2006), compiled by Allan Shephard, Stepney, South Australia: Axiom Publishing. Permission is given for the use of this text in worship)

 

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