Words of welcome & gathering

Gathering prayer
We come, God of the journey: 
a people from different places, different histories, different cultures. 
We come hoping to find companionship for the journey,
solidarity for the struggle
We gather, God of Hospitality, around your ‘welcome table’, 
a table not yet round, but rounding. 
We gather seeeking to become a ’round-table people,
welcoming of all, with no preferred seating, 
no firsts and no lasts, and no corners for the ‘least of these’
We yearn, God of diversity, for a new way of living and relating
as neighbours not strangers,
as brothers and sisters, not ‘them and us’. 
We yearn to live fully celebrating both the diversity of our human family, 
and the unity of our call to peace, love and justice. Amen

Come, listen to stories of faith and trust from long ago.
We come, celebrating Christ with us in the here and now.
Come, dream exciting new possibilities for the future.
We come, conscious of the need to have the courage
of past generations.
Let us join generation upon generation in worshipping God.
(found in order of service of St Martins Presbyterian Church, Christchurch)

In this moment, we gather our random thoughts, our scattered lives and bring the entirety of ourselves to this place of calm. Silence
We seek sanctuary so that we can risk everything. 
Loving God, we ask for stillness
Grant us peace in heart, mind and body. 
We ask for your presence
We welcome you to this gathering
We ask for inspiration
Open our eyes, that we may see. 
God who is present in our suffering as well as our celebrations,
who embraces the anxious, the poor and the broken, 
who raises up the humble and judges the proud
Forgive our selfishness, warm our hearts, stir our generosity, provoke our anger. 
(Source: Malcolm Doney, All Hallows on the Wall)

O God, who embraces us with understanding,
invite in us your Holy gifts to offer to each other.
Carry us towards the depths of dreams
which remind us of new creative relationships,
beyond where we have been in the past.
Create in us levels of humility
which open our hearts to longings for new insights
to be received from each other.
Lift our lives so that we focus on the world around us,
giving new priorities to all
that would add to love, justice and truth
in the future together
and to be offered to all people.
Be with us, O God,
that we may be your people
in all that we do together.
We ask this in faith, this day and every day. Amen.
(Source: Dorothy McRae-McMahon, slightly adapted from a WCC prayer)

We gather together to entrust ourselves and the world
to the Spirit of Love and to each other. 
To find peace and healing
in the joy of music and words,
in the stillness of prayer,
and in the Spirit’s enfolding love. 
(Source: Pitt St UC service)

OUR WELCOMING STATEMENT (from Kirkwood United Church of Christ)
(this could easily be adapted for local use)
Kirkwood United Church of Christ is called by God to be an open, diverse and caring community of Jesus’ disciples. In following Christ’s commandment to love one another, we welcome all who wish to share in the fellowship, membership, leadership, worship, ministry, sacraments, rites, responsibilities and blessings of our faith community. As we affirm that every person is a child of God, no one is excluded, regardless of race, ethnic or socio-economic background, marital status, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental ability, nationality, or faith background. We are an Open and Affirming and an Immigrant Welcoming congregation. All are welcome here!

Opening prayer
Bestower of blessings,
fling wide the portals of your love as we draw near to you this day.
Bless those keeping watch over the tender moments of letting go,
   and those waiting with eagerness to cradle new life.
Bless the studious child, the wandering thought,
   the imagination stretched out beyond what the horizon can hold.
Bless those seeking the light of truth,
   and the courage to give voice to it.
Bless those who gather community to them,
   and those who hunger for a place to call home.
Bless the cooks and bottle-washers,
   the ravenous appetites and the empty stomachs sheltered from our view.
Bless the questions, the mysteries, and the epiphanies
   that dance among our thoughts and beckon us toward what can be.
Receive our thanks for all that you hold before us and beneath us,
for the sake of your mercy and love. Amen.
(Source: Anne Fraley, RevGalBlogPals)

God of life, source of all
We come from you
and we give to you ourselves this day. 
Speak to us in accents we can understand
especially when our reception seems dim. 
Be the clear listening in our ears
when others seem lost in translation
Be in our hearts
that we might see beyond what is said aloud
Be in our bodies
that our touch may express your compassoin
Be the action in our hands and feet this day
that we might not be all words
Be the sense in our reading
that we might not be beguiled
Be the words in our mouths
that we might speak with integrity
Be the word in our flesh, trusting you
and may your word not return to you empty. 
May we discover what makes for peace,
whatever our language,
in you on whom our peace depends. Amen. 
(Source: adapted from ‘The Celtic Wheel of Year’ by Tess Ward)
(could also be adapted as a sending out prayer/benediction)

Ruth Sinclair presented this welcome at Clayton-Wesley:
Recently, I attended a service at Flinders Street Baptist Church, Adelaide and the pastor included a piece that she described as Coventry Cathedral’s statement of intent. Coventry Cathedral, also known as St Michael’s Cathedral, is in the West Midlands of England. Researching that statement of intent proved difficult, with thousands of articles including the first line of the statement, so in all honesty I cannot clearly state to whom the original statement should be credited. The statement appears to have been modified and adapted to suit many different churches and congregations, and so too the statement has been adapted for us.
We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, gay, confused, filthy rich, comfortable or dirt poor. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying newborns, skinny as a rake or could afford to lose a few pounds. You are welcome if you are from here, visiting or just passing through.
We welcome you if you can sing like Pavarotti or can’t carry a note in a bucket. You are welcome here if you are ‘just browsing’, just woke up or
just got out of prison. We don’t care if you are more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Johnny’s baptism, or since your mother forced you to come at Christmas or Easter.
We welcome those with purple hair, pink hair, no hair, those who can’t stand for long, and those who weep at the slightest thing.
We love to welcome those who shuffle on their bottoms or who have just learned to walk and want to explore every nook and cranny of this dusty old building. We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not yet grown up, and, to teenagers who are growing up too fast.
We welcome keep-fit mums, football dads, starving artists, tree huggers, latte sippers, vegetarians, and junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you are having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like ‘organised religion’. We’ve been there too!
We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, ‘work too hard’, don’t work at all, can’t spell, or because granny is visiting and wanted to go to church.
We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both or neither. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost on the road and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts …. in short, all are welcome, YOU are welcome!

We are here.
We come into this place together
to challenge one another
to bear the cost and know the joys of love:
to celebrate its presence;
to live with respect in creation;
to become love
in the service of others,
in the pursuit of justice,
and the resistance of evil;
to recognize our humanity
and celebrate it at our table;
to see love and loss in one another’s eyes,
and by them,
to be both convicted and freed.
May love bind us to one another
so we might better serve the world.
As one, we proclaim:
We are not alone,
for we journey together
in the spirit of love.
(Source: Gretta Vosper)

Gathering liturgy
From different lives
we come to worship.
From good weeks and bad weeks
we come to worship.
Bringing great times and painful memories
we come to worship.
Needing healing, needing peace
we come to worship.
With hope in our hearts
we come to worship.
we come to worship.
(Source: adapted, © John Leach, The Jubilate Group)

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)

Prayer of invocation
God of awe and of great mystery,
creator of immensity yet lover of the small and fragile,
be especially present and real to us in this time of worship.
For so readily do we look past you,
taking the sacred nature of life for granted,
that we need clear reminders and soulful awakenings.
Spirit, come, focus our vision, renew our minds in the way and being of Christ. Amen.
(Source: Words4Worship)

A prayer to welcome the day
Welcome, Lord, welcome.
Welcome into this day, pregnant with new possibilities.
Welcome, Lord, welcome.
Welcome into our hearts, awakening to the divine presence.
Welcome, Lord, welcome.
Welcome into our lives, creating together wholeness and shalom.
Let us welcome everything that comes to us today:
It is for our healing.
It is for the healing of relationships.  
It is for the healing of God’s world.
Let go.
Let go of your desire for power and control.
God’s ways are higher than ours.
Let go of your desire to hold onto what should be released.
In God alone will we trust.
Let go of your desire to change what should not change.
God’s ways are faithful and true.
Let us let go of all that binds us:
It is for our healing.
It is for the healing of relationships.  
It is for the healing of God’s world.
Open yourself.
Open yourself to the love and presence of God.
Open yourself to God’s action within you.
Open yourself to God’s action in this place.
Let us open ourselves:
It is for our healing.
It is for the healing of relationships.  
It is for the healing of God’s world. Amen.
(Source: Christine Sine, Godspace)
The prayer above was inspired by reading Thomas Keating’s welcome prayer. Welcoming God into our gathering is a way of reminding ourselves of the God who is always present and waiting to be noticed.

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)

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

A Summer Prayer for Grace
God of gentle rains and warm sun, God who encourages growth;
we are creatures who sometimes grow quickly,
and sometimes get stuck.
God of freedom, of liberation, of binding ropes being cut;
we are bound in ways we don’t always understand or recognize.
God of exodus and exile and homecoming,
God who calls us to leave where we are and come home;
help us to have the courage to make the journey
and to trust in the path.
God of health and healing,
God who wants us to be made whole;
we come as people who are wounded in body and in spirit,
people who seek healing.
God who has laid out a way for us to live,
who has given us rules for living in community;
we come as people who sometimes go astray,
people who stretch the rules.
God of Grace,
we come as people who live through that Grace.
And so we praise you for the growth,
we rejoice in being set free,
we dance along the path that leads us home,
we give thanks for the healing we have received,
we relax in the knowledge that we are forgiven
and we live as people of Grace. Amen.
(Source: Rev Gord,Worship Offerings)

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.
(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.
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)

Morning prayer (for quiet contemplation)
Lord, let me accept calmly all that this day might bring me,
and let me devote myself completely to your sacred will.
Direct me and help me each hour of this day.
Control my thoughts and feelings in all my deeds and words.
When unpredictable circumstances arise,
do not let me forget that everything comes from you.
Lord Jesus, Son of God, it is better not to live than to live without you. I thank you, God, for the gift of this day and for all the good deeds that you will help me do today. Holy Spirit, help me to dedicate this day to my Lord and Saviour. Teach me to be just towards my brother [and sister], never to provoke wrath or cause sorrow. Control my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive and to love.
Merciful God, deliver me from the desire for comfort and make me worthy of denying myself for your sake and for my brother’s [and sister’s] sake at any moment, for that is why you have given me life. Help me to reject anything that does not belong to you, and all that does belong to you to accept with devout faith, hope and love. Give me courage to serve you worthily, to place justice above profit, the realization of noble deeds above momentary pleasures, to put others before myself and to fulfil your commandment of love. Let the light of your beauty, goodness and love shine in my soul.
(Source: Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, Russia. www.stvladimirs.ca)

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.

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.
(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). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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