A liturgical section for commissioning lay ministers

A Brief Order for Commissioning Lay Ministers of Health and Wellness

Rubrics (descriptions and explanations) are in red.
P: presiding minister, L: lay ministers being commissioned, C : Congregation.

[This service is best used within a standard worship service, following the Offertory. It’s actually a specialized version of an order for commissioning other ministries, such as those ministring in education, evangelism, social ministries, youth ministry, or worship. Consider commissioning any of those who have demonstrated the ability, gift, commitment and responsibility to make a job or task or avocation into a real ministry for Christ’s sake.]

P: Today we act as the Body of Christ to recognize and support those who do ministries of health and healing among us in Christ’s name. Baptized into Christ’s priesthood, we are each called to offer ourselves in service, sometimes in specialized ministry as [[ name(s) ]] are doing right now.

[The person/people about to be commissioned come forward. Then, someone officially representing the church council or vestry arises and comes forward, to give a brief description of each person’s specific health ministry. Then the council representative is seated, and the lay ministers gather around the presiding minister, on their knees.]

P: Will you commit yourselves to serve people in the humble manner of Jesus, and be responsible to the Body of Christ for the manner in which you serve?

L : Yes, with God’s help.

[The presiding minister then goes to each lay minister, and lays both hands on his/her head. Other ordained personnel are invited by the presiding minister to come up and join in the laying of hands.]

P: Come, Holy Spirit, and give blessing and power to the ministry of your faithful servant [[ name ]], that the broken may become whole, and that Your name be given glory.

P, L: Amen.

[When this is completed, the lay ministers arise and turn to the congregation, linking hands. The presiding minister may choose to link hands with them, especially if there is only one being commissioned.]

P, L : We stand together in service to our Lord and our neighbor.

P : Lord, bless all of those who serve to bring wellness and wholeness to others. Bless and guide physicians, nurses, technicians, emergency personnel, physical trainers, dieticians, hospital visitation ministers, chaplains, and prayer intercessors. Grant them wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience, resilience and faithfulness. In Your mercy, heal those who need healing and give comfort to all who need comfort. Through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

[Other specific ministries, such as faith healers and Stephen ministers, can be included in the above prayer, as fits the congregation’s traditions and actual ministries.]

All : Amen.

[At this point, the lay ministers return to their seats and all return to the rest of the service.]

Return to Spirithome.com worship, main page.

Or, if it’s where you came from, the Healing page.


Feedback on Church Words

What applies to words about the Bible also applies to churchly words. The definitions at Spirithome.com are my best attempt to make sense out some of the most important words of the Christian tradition, including words that are better not to use at all, or only when addressing specialists.

I need to hear from you if the Spirithome definitions are right, or most importantly, what they miss. So go ahead. Make my day….

More from La-La Land

Went to a number of the local churches this past weekend. (‘Local’ my butt — it’s like driving to Jersey or Connecticut from Long Island, everything’s so far apart and still LA.)

First stop was West Angeles COGIC, Crenshaw Blvd, where two women were gleefully describing what it is to sing worship there. (One of them does solos on occasion, the other’s a choir singer.) Super smiles! It was just a hello stop, but a good one. As always, some spending in the neighborhood, picking up an accessory and lunch at El Pollo Loco.

At night, it was Saddleback Church. Moving stuff about forgiveness, reconciliation, and Rwanda, with a Rwandan church leader speaking. Rick Warren is on message, giving a teaching sermon on the whys of forgiving. I never seem to get used to worshipping in auditoriums, even when they’re called worship halls. (That applies to many old-style cathedrals, too, for some reason.) I had brief chats with people involved in educational ministries. I was a bit surprised how quickly things wrapped up after the service — longer than LI churches, but shorter than they let on, all the special tent areas and such were picked up and the worship building being locked up around 8:30. No hanging here. It was also not much of a ‘worship service’. To me, it was a very good basic seminar class framed by music and dotted with a prayer at the end.

Next up was Sunday morning, which was started at Lutheran Church of the Master ELCA – Lancaster. They were friendly and had a pretty good supply/temporary pastor, but not much membership. Next after that, Mosaic – West LA. They had to fudge their setup; usually, they are at Beverly Hills High, but they had to switch to an elementary school for this one service. Again, not as much of a worship service as I was expecting; basically some songs followed by an Erwin McManus message, then another song and some hanging out. It felt much looser and less rushed, and I got to talk to some more people. None of those emergent-type worship elements like art, ancient practices, questions, rock music, etc., but then this was on the fly.

None of it really felt like worship. Part of that was me (the phone call that took me out of LC of the Master before Communion, and the fact that this is a vacation). Part was the services (songs – teachings – songs is not, to me, much of an act of worship). But at least I was there. I tried not to go in with expectations, but of course I had them anyway. What was more impressive than the worship was how involved these churches are. Each has made commitments to large-scale projects in LA and in other countries. In the case of Saddleback and Mosaic, they took on large projects involving many volunteers, and working with government and other churches. I’m used to having little money and even less volunteers. Time will tell if this will have any impact on such a big place as LA.

Charismatic report card — 2007 pt 1

How is the charismatic movement doing in regards to some of its most basic aims or signs of the Spirit’s work? Not too good, from where I’m watching.

Let’s take one of the aims : “Spontaneity, openness, freedom and joy in
praise and worship.”

When I first wrote on this one in 1996, I was taking note that many mainline-church charismatic congregations were stiffening. Since then, that process has definitely continued. In many cases, the stiffening has taken them away from charismatic freedom to a rather frozen form of liturgical orderliness that feels like what they were originally objecting to. (This can’t be blamed on the mainline liturgical renewal, a separate thing which is also beginning to show signs of stiffening and has never really been friendly to any charismatic input — to its serious detriment, as I see it. They both in some way attempt to address the same situation in worship — a palpable lack of spirit.) In any event, worship in many formerly charismatic mainline congregations has become, well, lifeless. It took on liturgical forms, which can be good, but then left the Spirit at the door, which is deadly. When returning to liturgy in freedom, the most important thing is that they use each traditional form based on what it means and what it does, and then feel free to modify the traditional form so it can better carry out that form’s core purpose(s).

To be blunt, with the exception of some Anglican circles, mainline-Protestant Charismatics have not only failed to bring freedom and joy into their denominations’ worship, they have for the most part lined up with leaders whose actions have been killing the Spirit in worship for decades — the very ones who created the dead atmosphere that mainline Charismatics used to rail against. Instead of real spontaneity and empowerment of local worship leaders, they’re straitjacketed into watching the ‘experts’ for the next ‘acceptable’ new thing. Those who didn’t line up that way have for the most part headed out the door to independency.

Add to that a sense among Christian leaders that the mainline Charismatic movement’s time has passed, and thus they are free to totally ignore them. The former part is true, unfortunately. The latter part is a continued serious breach of the near-absolute responsibility and duty to listen to, understand, bring to bear, and fully and fairly account for, all the parts of their church, whether in vogue or out of vogue. (But that’s for a different rant….)

The independent churches and church networks have a different problem. They are not aware of their own set patterns of worship – they don’t think they have any. Thus they don’t know when they’re just vamping for time, or when they are not maturing from an earlier set of experiences. Many of the newer worship leaders are keenly aware of charismatic worship’s obsession with “me” and “I”, and are working hard on ways to keep that sense of “my” intimacy with God and yet also be into “You” and “us” and “together”. They’re a promising development. Yet when the newest hit worship song makes the rounds, it’s still usually an “I me mine” song, or is prone to misstate God’s promises as if done by push-button. HELLO — God is not focused on just you!! Worship leaders also have to be careful that certain false teachings about prosperity or about the end-times do not start worming their way into the worship service. Also, they must be more cautious about talk of receiving divine power — power-talk can breed power-addiction.

So there are still signs of worship life in the independent circles. There may yet be some new positives coming from there. But for the most part, the non-Anglican mainline-Protestant charismatics have lost their first love. It’s sad, but it’s true. And if you’re one of the exceptions, as a mainline-Protestant charismatic and/or a worship leader, you need to think hard and pray harder, in hopes that maybe you can be a part of a new and different thrust within the mainline churches, less stuck on worship rules and more firmly connected to the Holy Spirit as found in Scripture. A thrust that is self-consciously not an extension of the previous movements.

Three Days experiences

The Three Days (or, to Catholics, the Triduum — uh, hello, Latin’s dead?) always gets to me. Not that the design of the services helps a whole lot. Good intentions, I’m sure, but it’s more important to get the feeling of gloom and darkness on Good Friday than to read a bulletin. Have just enough light to get to a seat, perhaps with an usher’s help. It’s something to experience, so you can explain it afterward, if you wish, but pre-explanations dull the impact. I realize most traditions read the whole ending up to Jesus’ death on Maundy Thursday, but shouldn’t the service focus on Thursday’s events, the last supper and the betrayal? The Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter services have their own special emphases, even when seen as continuations of each other. Use the stream of continuity to take people through the days — a mental pilgrimage traveling through the Gospel story. You can’t get that experience by overtly tipping the hand (that’s where symbolism and allusion can help).

Only once has an Easter Vigil given me the sense of anticipation or waiting for God to act. That once was where it happened in the early morning before sunrise. (Sparsely-attended, of course; just three church women, 6 theology students, an Episcopal vicar, a Vineyard minister, and me.) It led right into the praise music hour that led up to the somewhat-high Episcopal Easter sunrise service at 7 am. It made me think of the Marys who went to the tomb, the loss they were feeling, the surprise they had when they got there, the joy at the incredible news. In a way, I entered into what they went through, by way of the flow of the worship services. Unfortunately, it also left me totally spoiled.

The congregation I’m a member of has a fairly good time of it on Easter. The place is full of balloons and butterfly cut-outs and vigorously-loud organ music. My worst Easter experience was about 12 or so years ago, when I was visiting a church in New Jersey I had heard good things about some 8 years earlier. (I was on my way back to Long Island from Maryland, and chose a church to go to along the way.) Unfortunately, 8 years can be a long time when there’s a lot of change going on. The newly-hired pastor was doing his first Easter service there (he’d served nearby for 5 years, arrived a month or so ago). Have you ever been to a service where noone gets it? The music was noise with no flow, no harmonies, and a relentless tone of “look at me, I’m saying God loves me”. The lectors talked almost like robots from the old sci-fi movies. The assistant looked and acted like she had snorted a whole bag of coke, with the ghastliest painted-on grin — I giggle thinking about it. The pastor had obviously used the sermon before, I suspect so he could feel more comfortable in his new surroundings. He should’ve burned it. He spoke as much of TV shows as Jesus. And he was having great trouble reading his sermon — meanings can change greatly by mistaking one letter. Two of the mistakes were rather racy – freudian slips, perhaps? The acolyte stumbled twice — once over the robe, once from playing around with the crucifix. There was even a sharp but indirect reference to the firing of the previous minister. (Even the sharpest of visitors should never be able to detect that during a worship service). Of course, I was totally ignored on the way in and out, since I am a stranger.

Yes, Holy Week has its lessons.