One Really Intense Worship Service

Sunday’s worship service was very intense. Amazingly so. Before I tell you about Sunday, though, I need to tell you about a book club meeting last June.

The book group had read a book about women’s spirituality. The ensuing conversation led us to a point where we began wondering how we might encourage and support young girls and women on their faith journeys. At that point, one of the women remarked on the recent news that Atlanta is one of the top five cities for the sexual exploitation of children–child prostitution. Bewildered, the woman cried: “We’ve got to do something about this!”

I pastor a really good group of folks, people who, with every fiber of their beings really do want to make a difference in the world. So often though, as with most well-meaning people, the conversation ends with “We’ve got to do something!” because that’s usually the point at which we get so overwhelmed that we begin to feel so very small that we give up. Oh sure. We feel guilty about giving up…but the problem just seems too big. We don’t see how anything we could do would change anything.

So…I asked the next question. “What are we going to do?” Dead silence. More dead silence. Then one person said, “Well, I know this attorney who works with children’s issues; maybe I can talk with her.” And another said, “I can look some things up on line.” “Yeah,” someone else said, “I can do some research, too.”

And from that night, a movement was born. We visited an informational session at a neighboring church. We invited someone from an advocacy group for vicitms of the child sex trade to come speak at our church. We bought Christmas gifts for residents at a safe house for girls who have left “the life.” A large group in the church became and has stayed involved.

Which brings me to Sunday’s worship service. I asked Donna Papenhausen, a UCC pastor who is a member of our church, to preach for me the Sunday after Christmas. The text for the day? Matthew 2:12-23, the passage we call “The Slaughter of the Innocents” (the one where Herod sets out to kill all the boy babies in the area). Donna wrote a powerful sermon (she sent me a copy beforehand) likening Herod to contemporary psychopaths…like pimps of young girls.

Then, the snow came. Church was cancelled. But Donna’s sermon was so powerful, I started thinking of a time when she might preach it. Then it all came together this past Sunday. Donna preached. Allen (my husband and Pilgrimage’s Music Director) picked some amazing hymns (“Little Children, Welcome” which has the line, “Little children, welcome! We, the church of Jesus, we will help your growing, little children, welcome!”) I led a healing ritual in the 8:30 worship service, where all present stood in for healing by proxy for the victims of the child sex trade. And I led a communion service in both services where we were reminded of the brokenness of all children…and of the power of the table–somehow–to heal us, a little bit anyway. (See the communion liturgy below.)

After the second worship service, we heard Pamela Perkins from Interfaith Children’s Movement speak. She showed us ways to become involved in advocacy for children, things we might do to prevent children from becoming victims of the sex trade. On the way out the door, several members already were talking about ways to become involved.

A powerful, powerful day. Powerful because, (1) it was a group effort (very much guided by the Spirit) and (2) it helped us to make the connection between our worship and our service. Somehow, Sunday felt like kin-dom work.

It was powerful…AND we’re not having a worship service like that again for a while. Intense worship is good…when taken in small doses!

Peace for your journey…

Here’s the communion liturgy from Sunday:

Communion: February 6, 2011

The night before Jesus was wrongly arrested, paraded through the streets, abused, and eventually killed, he knew he would need strength for what was coming….so he gathered with his friends for a sacred meal—sacred because it was Passover, and more sacred still because he shared with those friends the cares of his heart, the things he most feared and dreaded and hoped.

If nothing else does it, Jesus at the last supper sharing his final meal with his friends shows us just how human he was, just how apprehensive, just how much he identified with the most vulnerable in our world.

Why else would he have said, “This is my body, broken for you?”
Why else would he have lifted the cup and said, “This is my blood, poured out for you?”

Today, as every communion day, we remember Jesus. On this day, let us also remember the people, the children, especially, who have no safe place to share the things they most fear and dread and hope. Let us remember today the children who are broken—

The children who are unloved…broken…
The children who are uncared for…broken
The children who are hungry…broken…
The children who are thirsty…broken…
The children who are vulnerable…broken…
The children who are homeless…broken…
The children who are beaten….broken…
The children who have to grow up too fast….broken…
The children who end up on the streets…broken…
The children so hungry for love, they go with the first person who acts loving, never suspecting he’s a pimp…broken…

The children who lose their innocence in seedy motel rooms…broken…
The children who contemplate taking their lives they are living are so horrendous….broken…

The children looking for a village, their village to step up…those people who will nurture them, advocate for them, keep them safe, and act them into well-being…broken…

As we come to this table today, let us remember all the broken children and all the broken adults who exploit them. Let us remember, too, our brother Jesus, whose own brokenness, somehow, can heal us all.

Let us pray. Mending God, today we ask that you would indwell each broken piece of bread, each tiny sip of juice—may they nourish us and strengthen us and, somehow, make us a little more whole than we have been. Amen.

(Sharing the elements)

Let us pray. Now that we have visited the table and been nourished, which is to say, healed a little, send us out to do your work in the world God…help us to work for justice, help us to act “the least of these” into well-being; help always, always, always, to walk humbly with you…for the sake of our children. Amen.

We invited Pamela Perkins from Interfaith Children’s Movement to come speak to us about ways we might become actively involved in helping children (hopefully, helping them before they ever end up with a pimp).

About reallifepastor

I'm a pastor who's working out her faith...just like everyone else.
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