Words of welcome & gathering

Prayer of Presence
God in the midst, come close to us,
and help us come close to you,
as, for a fraction of time,
we step back from the activities of the day.

If God is the source of life, I worship God by living.
If God is the source of love I worship God by loving.
If God is the ground of being, I worship God by having the courage to be more fully human; the embodiment of the divine.
(Source: John Shelby Spong)

Gathering words
Loving God, we gather in this place,
coming from our varied concerns and competing views,
yet seeking our common humanity.

May our eyes be opened,
May our hearts be touched,
May our wills be empowered… now.
May it be so.
(Rex AE Hunt)

Gathering
There is a place, shaped for the lost, a place that knows your name and calls you home; Love’s homecoming place.
There is a place shaped for us who have never left, a place that waits and longs for each return; Love’s homecoming place.
(Source: Church of Scotland Starters for Sunday)

Call to Worship
We come to see Jesus
We come to hear his word
We come to worship
We gather to praise his name…
(Source: Church of Scotland Starters for Sunday)

Name Unnamed
Name Unnamed,
whose intriguing presence
is closer to home
than we dare imagine,
fill us with wonder of you
that we may be filled with wonder of ourselves.

Name Unnamed,
whose creativity is a river running,
startle us with diversity
and surprise us with difference
that we may be filled with wonder of others.

Name Unnamed,
whose mystery and concern is
revealed in Jesus
reshape our perceptions,
reshape our patterns of living,
reshape our politics and prayer
that we may be filled with wonder of a world made whole.
(Words: Giles David, The Pattern of Our Days, P109)

Amid all the noise in our lives,
we take this moment to sit in silence:
to give thanks for another day;
to give thanks for the gift of life. (Silence)
And let us open ourselves to the process of becoming more whole:
of living more fully;
of understanding more completely
the meaning of our lives here on this earth. (Silence)
(Adapt.Tom Haley)

May we treasure such moments with you. 
Moment when we can bring to you
the things we are doing,
and find new meaning for them,
and new strength for doing them.
And moments for recalling
how we are meeting you already,
in the stuff of daily living and engagement,
when faith is tested
and compassion is translated into action.
Now and as the day goes on,
let us not be far from you. Amen.
(Source: unknown)

Spirit of God brooding over
the waters of our chaos,
inspire us to generous living.

Wind of God dancing over
the desert of our reluctance,
lead us to the oasis of celebration.

Breath of God inspiring
communication among strangers,
make us channels of your peace.
(Kate McIlhagga)

We gather here
to wonder at the mystery that gave us birth;
to find courage for life’s journey;
and to listen for the wisdom that guides us
in the quietness of this moment.
(Source: Gary Kowalski)

Call to Worship
Welcome! One thing is for certain. We are all welcome. This is the Jesus way. He called people to him; he asked people to come to him; he welcomed them; he got cranky with his disciples when they tried to prevent anyone, anyone at all coming to him. He ate with outcasts, those despised; he befriended tax collectors, those regarded as thieves; he encouraged children, usually ignored in adult community, to sit on his knees; he had meals with the elite and the riffraff; he conversed publicly with women although that was taboo; unlike the religious leaders of his day, he sought the company of all kinds and types of people, to affirm them, to challenge them, to call them to an abundant way of life. So we are all welcome. This is the Jesus way.
(George Stuart)

Come with what you have
Come with what you have.
For you who grieve this day
know that you are invited to bring the broken pieces of your heart.
Loved by one another,
we discover God’s love for us.

Come with what you have.
For you who come with gladness
know that your melody will find harmony.
Accepting God’s love for us,
we are called to love one another.

Come with what you have.
For you weighed down by too many ‘shoulds’ and ‘what-ifs’
know that here you may lay down the burdens of guilt and shame.
Loved by one another,
we discover God’s love for us.

Come with what you have.
For you who have the answers,
know that new questions await you.
Accepting God’s love for us,
we are called to love one another.

Come with what you have.
For you who come seeking,
know that your questions are safe in the presence of God.
Loved by one another,
we discover God’s love for us.
(Katherine Hawker, posted on Outside the Box)

Angel voices of hope
Sounds, like angel voices of hope,
borne high in the winds of life.
Kindnesses earthed on busy city streets,
and a clear moment of grace in a person passing by.
All these are heralds of love in our midst. 
Touches of gentle care in the cracks of stony harshness.
Ground claimed for justice in deserts of apathy.
Laughter springing true, watered by tears.
All these are heralds of love in our midst. 
Come, let us celebrate love in our midst. Dorothy McRae-McMahon

An invitation
As we gather together here in this sacred place,
we settle ourselves and still our minds.
We look to be alive to all that is around us and within us.
The Spirit is gently moving within each one of us.
Now is the time to reflect on who we are,
how we are connected with each other,
and how we are touched by the Spirit within us. Helen Warmingham

Holy One,
Open our eyes to your Presence
Open our minds to your grace
Open our lips to your praises
Open our hearts to your love
Open our hearts to your healing
And be found among us.
Amen.
(David Adam)

Contemplation on Breath
We rejoice in the Breath
breathing life and vitality
into our world, into our lives,
and into our gathering here,
connecting us at the deepest level
with all that exists.
We rejoice in the wonder of who we are,
bearers of the Breath of Life,
privileged in our awareness of this,
and challenged by our privilege
to allow the Breath of Life
to full expression in our living and our loving.

In Sacred Spaces
Faith is the doctrine for happiness
Love, a scripture of life;
Service, our processional
Peace, the eternal rite
Where who we were meets who we are
With Truth that sets us free
When what you were meets what you are
To greet what you will be
Then all I cannot know is known
In perfect Mystery.
(Richard Holdsworth)
(Let us be present to the Mystery)

Prayer for Presence and Peace (2 voices and 3 candles)
Voice 1
In the name of God the Father,
running to welcome us as we hesitate
throwing around us the everlasting arms of love
celebrating our presence here.
God our Father, you are here.
A candle is lit while Voice 2 speaks.

Voice 2
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give as the world gives.
Do not let your heart be troubled
and do not be afraid.
Voice 1 In the name of God the Son,
eating and laughing
healing and forgiving
dying and rising.
Jesus, Son of God, you are here.
A candle is lit while Voice 1 speaks.

Voice 1
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give as the world gives.
Do not let your heart be troubled
and do not be afraid.
Voice 1 In the name of God the Spirit,
Life-Giving Breath of God
Coming like a Gentle Dove or Wild Wind
Around us, between us and within us.
Holy Spirit of God, you are here.
A candle is lit while Voice 2 speaks

Voice 2
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give as the world gives.
Do not let your heart be troubled
and do not be afraid.

Voice 1
God of peace,
known as Father
revealed in the Son
experienced by the Spirit,
we welcome you among us. AMEN.
(by Rev Peter Neilson, Church of Scotland, ‘Starters For Sunday’, 2015.)

A new day, a new beginning
Our God, we thank you for the dawn. A new day, a new beginning. An opportunity to live out our lives the way you planned. We are here because we know that together there is so much more to learn and discover as your family. It is not easy to follow you, there are days when we prefer our own way of doing things rather than your way. We admit we have put ourselves first before others and we know the frustration and hurt we have caused. We know it is not good and we want it to change and to make it better. We realise we can’t do it by ourselves and we need your help to be a follower of Jesus. We do want to be more like him. Thank you that we can have another chance. It gives us such freedom and confidence. It is hard to believe that we can be part of your forever family … but it’s true. Help us to come to terms with this that we are in this together, we are not alone and others can discover this hope you give us as well. AMEN.
(by Rev. Dr. Alister W. Bull, Church of Scotland, ‘Starters For Sunday’, 2015.)

MYSTERY (Helen Warmingham)
Beneath unknowing lies a deep knowing
A knowing beyond the surface of the unknown
is that which speaks of mystery
We try to comprehend the mystery
to seek to explain to ourselves its meaning
We week to hold it and name it
sometimes certain we know.

 

A welcome in winter (adapted from Shane Alexander, Warmth in a Cold Season) Winter weather may have forced us to dig deep into our supply of sweaters and coats, but we managed—primarily by seeking warmth inside. Inside, we turned up the heater, lit fires in fireplaces, and cozied up in blankets on sofas. And while you were inside, you felt good. Sure, you knew you would be right back in it the next time you had to leave home, but for that moment you were warm despite the weather outside. Life has seasons too. Some seasons are warmer than others. Exciting milestones are met as we grow up, marry, and have children. Our careers have sweet spots where we are needed, appreciated, and duly compensated. Marriages go through stretches where everything seems to be in synch. But those seasons never last forever. Eventually, the weather of life turns colder. Parenting begins to seem like more of an impossible chore than a joy-filled gift. Our jobs become nothing more than the way we pay the bills while we daydream about what life would have been if we had chosen a different career path. Marriages hit rough patches where everything ignites an argument and no disagreement ever seems to get resolved. It gets cold out there and when you’re out there trying to make your way through it, that wind can chill you to your core. So, you are at church. Whatever the weather is outside, seasonal or unseasonal, you are worshiping alongside other folks who are experiencing a much wider array of weather during the seasons of their lives (which admittedly sounds like a bad soap opera). If you are in a warm season, someone around you is in a cold season. And although you have both come to church to ostensibly share the same experience, you have come for different reasons. When life is good, we come to church to praise God. We come to say, “Thanks!” We come to share our joy with others and be warmed in the heart by the joy in the hearts of others. But when life is difficult (and if we are honest, it often is), we come to church for a break. We come in seeking the warmth of home. We know that we are going to have to walk out those doors in a few hours’ time and that when we do the cold will once again hit is in the face. But while we are there, we are at least hoping that the presence of fellow strugglers and the prayers of a few saints will provide us just enough warmth to relax—even if just for a moment. And we know we need that moment to relax. It is only then that we can take a step back and begin to see the cold for what it is: a passing season. It is only during our respite from the cold that we can honestly pour our hearts out before the God we stubbornly insist on believing still loves us. Our previous experience tells us that while some of these cold seasons are longer than others, the warmth of Christ’s church gives us a measure of the strength we need to endure. If it’s a warm time for you, don’t be discouraged to discover others who are suffering through a cold spell around you. Take heart, for part of why they have come today is to share in your warmth. If it’s a cold time for you, don’t be exasperated by the praise and expressions of gratitude of those nearby, for they are a reminder of what it will be like once the seasons change in your life again.

WE GATHER IN THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER
As followers of Jesus we gather with our faith and our doubts, our hopes and our fears;
perhaps remembering a moment or moments in the past week
when we were aware of the intimate presence of the divine whose name is love;
perhaps remembering a time marked by a profound and dark absence of love.
We come as we are because the One who invites us will never turn us away:
(At this point, in worship, I quote the last verse of Deirdre Browne’s song
‘Come as you are’, Hymn 693 in Together in Song)
We gather, all of us yearning for healing in some measure
And so we gather – open to the mystery of grace,
the healer and bringer of wholeness,
which rejoices with those who rejoice, strengthens the weak and the lonely
and unites the many melodies and discords
of our separate lives into one holy harmony of worship.
We gather, listening for the voice of the Spirit of grace heard in Jesus,
to nurture within us the seeds of compassion for all who suffer this day
and those we love; that we may offer hope and healing in their lives.
In gathering round this table, sharing in the gifts of God for the people of God
may our hopes and our spirits, be deeply nourished, even healed,
and prepared for the week to come, that our every task in every place may be holy. Amen
Jeff Shrowder, 2015.

Oh how deep the riches,
how deep the wisdom,
deep the knowledge of God the Holy One!

How we search for understanding,
how we strive for insight;
how little our knowledge of God.

Who can know the mind of God?
Who gives God advice and guidance?
Who gives to God anything at all,
in order to receive the gifts God gives to all?

From God are all things.
Through God are all things.
To God are all things;
Holy One, Source of life.

Glory – silver shimmering clouds
and golden beaming stars and sun –
belongs to God alone, now and ever more.
Amen.
(from Romans 11:33–36, Sarah Agnew, Praying the Story)

Welcome (Tune: Regent Square TiS 142)

1. We are thankful for a greeting
And a welcome we all prize;
We have come to join in worship,
Searching for what satisfies;
With a welcome as we gather
We can feel our spirits rise.

2. ‘Welcome’ is the way of Jesus;
‘Welcome’ is his promised word;
Welcome is for saints and sinners;
All are welcome; all have erred;
Jesus speaks his word of welcome –
We respond for we have heard.

3. We all join in affirmation
Of the love of God we know;
Like the vastness of an ocean
Love is here in constant flow;
I am welcome; you are welcome;
Jesus says, “Let it be so.”

 

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon) in placement at Pilgrim Uniting Church, in Adelaide CBD (12 Flinders St). This blog is mainly to resource worship planners for our services, but of course may be useful for others. We have some great writers of music, words for hymns and liturgy at Pilgrim, so this blog also includes their words.

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