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Planning Worship

Christ United Methodist Church in Franklin, TNThank you to the new member who recently left a note on my stand in the choir room. It requested that the hymn #707, “Hymn of Promise” be sung in worship sometime soon. I’m so glad this person left me the note, and I promise that we will sing it when it fits the worship service. It is a favorite of mine as well.

The note made me wonder how many in our congregation know our practice for planning worship, including hymns and other music. We sometimes get comments from people who act surprised (genuinely or tongue in cheek) that the parts of the service flow together and present a united theme. Believe me, we work at that!

Each week, most of the worship staff gathers for prayer and conversation about the upcoming worship service. Usually the preacher for the week takes the lead by naming the scriptures for the week and describing how God is leading in sermon preparation so far. Then we all participate, talking about our thoughts about the scripture as well as our own personal experiences. Almost everything we plan grows out of our conversation about the scripture passages for that day – the music and prayers and sometimes even the sermon itself. We choose hymns as a group, not just because they’re our favorites (although we do a fair amount of joking about certain staff members’ least favorite hymns), but because they express the message we hope to convey. Then we trust the Holy Spirit to take our plans and to do with them what we could never do alone – speak of the grace of the living Christ in the midst of our daily lives and how best we can respond to that grace.

We sometimes try new songs with the hope that they will speak to us in a fresh way. Often we sing old familiar hymns because they have an important place in our worship tradition. My prayer is that everyone who gathers for worship will experience God through all of the worship service, whether they always like the elements in worship or not.

So, thank you for the note. I’m happy to hear from anyone who would like to share a favorite hymn or song with me. I’ll do my best to keep those in mind as we plan.