Wednesday, June 15, 2016

10 Tips for Organizing a Community Prayer Vigil

Public Domain.
1. Get the leadership of your congregation on board. Ask them to manage the communication to church members and to assist with hosting (ushers, greeters, refreshments if provided, etc). 

2. As you do this, share whom you are planning to invite, and ask them to identify whom you may be leaving out and for any other contacts with other community leaders they may have. Decide together who will commit to contact these persons. 

3. Create a diverse core team of community leaders (probably pastors, rabbis, imams, mayor's office reps etc) to determine time and place for the event and to help get their wider constituencies on board. This team needs to choose a point person who will coordinate the other teams and make final decisions. 

4. The point person names and publicizes a single point of contact (one person) to manage all communications with the wider community about the event. Provide at least three ways (phone, email, social media location) to contact the contact person. The point person generally should not be the contact person. The role of the contact person is not communications/marketing but rather gathering names of attendees and leaders confirmed and giving reliable information about the event to the wider public. 

5. Point person keeps asking "who is not here" and finding contacts to invite them and as appropriate include them in the program. 

6. Point person forms a steering committee (SC, 3 max) to do the core groundwork of designing the event itself (what happens in what order and by whom). The SC should produce a complete tech script with every cue for every stage action and the technology actions needed (which mics, what sound levels, which lights, what slide, what camera and camera angle) for the entire service. Tech crew need this info ASAP. At least 24 hours in advance is good. 

7. Point person forms a small marketing committee to run invitation/marketing of the event to the wider community through multiple means (phone, email, social media, radio, TV and newspapers as available). 

8. Point person gathers all leaders for the event (any who will be on stage, including music groups, sound, lighting, graphics and video crew, as applicable) at least 1 hour before the doors open for a cue to cue rehearsal. This is not a complete run-through, but a rehearsal of key transitions so all know where and how to move and tech folks know what to expect and how to adjust/position sound/lighting/cameras when the service actually happens. 

9. Run the event. 

10. 15 minutes after the event, point person gathers key leaders (tech, major speakers/performers, marketing and communications reps, congregational leaders) for a debrief of where they saw God at work first of all (HT Barbara Day Miller), then after ample time for testimony, a breakdown of what went well, what you learned by doing this, what you can do better next time and how. 

Feel free to add to this list from your experience in the comments below.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Prayers for the People of Orlando and The United States

This is one of my prayers in response to the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

It is just that. It is mine. I don't propose this as a prayer for others to use, though you are free to. But it is one I am praying, fervently.

And it is just one of the ways I am praying just now in the light of the massacre of so many Latino and other LGBTQ+ people in Orlando on Sunday morning (June 12, 2016).

How long, O Lord, how long?
How long will the nation remain complacent,
while our children massacre one another
with weapons no civilian ever needs,
nor ever should have?

How long must we accept excuses
from legislators bought and muted by the NRA?

In your mercy, deliver us, O Lord,
and in your rightousness crush the power
that suppresses wisdom
and lets such ruin and chaos flourish
under cover of law.

Come quickly to rescue us,
and all who cry to you for help.

I invite you to post your prayers in the comments.

I may post more there, too.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

12 Suggestions for Writing Your Own Worship Resources

Public domain.
In fall 2015, those of us on the General Conference Worship Planning Team began soliciting prayers and others resources from across the global church to include as part of worship at GC2016 in Portland.

As part of that process, I posted a brief set of guidelines on the UMC Worship Facebook Group for writing your own worship resources. I then asked for folks to add their own suggestions.

The first six are mine. The next are from others. I've cited their names in parentheses as the end of each suggestion.

Feel free to add your own in the comments, below.

1.Use simple, active verbs.

2. Eliminate every adverb you can.

3. Don't say "We confess that so often we are tempted to X." Say, "We X."

4. Eliminate all use of "so often." Either you do it or your don't. If you do it, say you do it. Don't equivocate.

5. Avoid florid language. (Also see #9, below).

6. If you use a metaphor to address God, it needs to meet two conditions: a) It is grounded in the scripture you are using that day or in that part of the service
b) It is developed within and appropriate to the prayer you compose.

7. When writing a longer-form prayer, strive to be Trinitarian - don't just pray to one member of the trinity and exclude the others. (Ben Gosden)

8. Short phrases & following sense/meaning when lining out litanies or responsive readings is key. I try to put introductory concepts in the leader's voice & strong words of faith in the congregation's. (Joshua Hale)

9.  More writing like Hemingway & Jesus, less like Cranmer & Paul. (Wes Stanton)

10. Format prayers in sense lines so they are easier to read. Ask yourself where the break or breath would naturally fall and hit return! (Michelle Jones Whitlock)

11. a)  Never say "We are mindful of" when you mean "We remember". Only preachers are "mindful of." Regular people just remember stuff.
b) Never quote Scripture to the Almighty, who hardly needs the reminder.
c) Never use the passive voice.
d) Say "We need" rather than "We are in need of." (Cynthia Cox Garrard)

12. Say "We thank you" or simply, "Thank you," rather than "We give you thanks." (Scott Spencer with Wes Stanton)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

3 Worship Changes from General Conference 2016

Closing worship at the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist
Church. Image Credit: United Methodist Communications. Used
by permission.
Taylor Burton-Edwards,
Director of Worship Resources
May 30, 2016

The 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church adopted three pieces of

 legislation that will impact the worship life of the denomination. It adopted legislation proposed by Discipleship Ministries with The United Methodist Publishing House authorizing the creation of two hymnal committees. It altered the process by which deacons may obtain authorization to preside at the sacraments. And it adopted the Ordinal Revision Task Force's proposal for an updated ordinal.

The Hymnal Committees

Of the three worship-related items passed, the creation of two hymnal committees may be the most well-publicized. The Hymnal Revision Committee, a diverse group of 15 persons nominated by bishops, Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Publishing House, and the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools, will develop a proposal for a revised hymnal and present it to the 2020 General Conference for approval. Its work will begin in earnest in 2017, led by an editor hired by The United Methodist Publishing House. The other, the Standing Hymnal Advisory Committee of nine persons, nominated by Discipleship Ministries in consultation with The United Methodist Publishing House, will continue to vet and recommend resources to be added to the hymnal at each successive General Conference. Its work begins in 2018.

The new hymnal is no longer conceived as a static and fixed set of resources bound in a single volume and intended to last, as is, for the succeeding generation. Instead, it will be a dynamic collection of General Conference approved resources accessible in multiple formats, including a printed edition congregations may customize for their setting. All editions will include a core collection of liturgical resources and congregational song. These will be songs and worship resources the committee believes all United Methodists should use in worship. Congregations may then select from a much larger collection of supplemental resources to fill out their collections, whether in print, in electronic or mobile platforms, or on a subscription basis from the cloud.

Discipleship Ministries and The United Methodist Publishing House will be announcing their process for soliciting applicants for the two committees in the coming weeks.

Authorizing Deacons to Preside at the Sacraments

One of the approved recommendations of the Commission on the Study of Ministry was to clarify and simplify the process by which deacons may be granted authority to preside at the sacraments within the bounds of their appointment. The process to obtain such authorization currently requires a pastor-in-charge or a district superintendent to request that the bishop authorize it within a primary appointment where no elders are present. The new process, effective January 1, removes the pastor or DS as intervenors, and instead allows deacons to request such authorization directly of the bishop where the ministry setting seems to make it appropriate. Discretion about the granting of authorization remains with the bishop. Such authorization remains connected to the appointment, not to the person of the deacon. Thus, should the deacon move to a different appointment where such authorization is needed, the deacon would make a new request and the bishops would consider its merits at that time.

The Ordinal

The proposed 2017-2020 ordinal includes a slight revision of the existing services, streamlining some aspects and clarifying language on two issues. It also contains a new alternative service.

The ordinal is reviewed every four years by the Ordinal Revision Task Force, including representatives from the Council of Bishops, the Office of Christian Unity and Interfaith Relationships, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, The General Board of Global Ministries and Discipleship Ministries. With their approval and input, a proposed revision is reviewed and submitted by Discipleship Ministries for General Conference approval.

One clarification in the new ordinal involves the giving of stoles. The new ordinal states,
"Non-ordained persons are not to be presented with nor to wear the stole in their ministerial practice." This had been implied and was intended in previous ordinals when it was noted that no stoles or signs of office were to be given to associate members at the time of their recognition or to provisional members at the time of their commissioning, but likewise noted that the appropriate stole would be given to a deacon or elder upon ordination.

A second clarification is to the vows of ordination and commissioning. The words "and upholding" or "and uphold" are added to "accepting its order, liturgy, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline" in the General Examination across all services. The change is made to clarify the full meaning of the original use of the word "accepting," which had previously included the idea of upholding, but in more recent times may have lost that connotation.

The most significant change is the addition of a new alternative service. The new service retains the same questions and vows, but offers substantially greater interactivity between bishop and people throughout, particularly in the acts of ordination proper. A new and more interactive Great Thanksgiving is also made available as part of this service. Bishops are authorized to use the new service as provided, or to include selected elements from the new service in the updated version of the traditional service as they see fit. This will give greater flexibility to bishops and planning committees to tailor the services of ordination to their particular contexts.

The current ordinal (2013-2016) may be downloaded here. The 2017-2020 Ordinal will be made available on the Discipleship Ministries website when final editing is complete, later this summer.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

RCL-Based Series for the Season after Pentecost and Extended Advent 2016

Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship Resources, Discipleship Ministries


The Vocation of the Prophet
Mission in the World, Not of It
Learning from the Master
May 29
Who or What Is God?
Operate Out of Divine Authority
Expect Surprise!
June 5
“Ministry With” or “Where Are God’s People”
One Christ, Many Cultures
Compassion in Action
June 12
How a Prophet Speaks
The Faith OF Christ Justifies
Responding to Lavish Love Because of Lavish Forgiveness
June 19
Time Out
From Pedagogue to Christ Himself
Delivering the Possessed, Reconnecting the Marginalized
June 26
Passing the Mantle
Works of the Flesh, Life in the Spirit
Dealing with Resistance to the Call to Discipleship
July 3
“Prophetic Ministry Is Toward All,” OR “Bureaucracies May Be a Means of Salvation, Too!”
Freed from the Flesh: Paul’s ALL CAPS RANT
Mission Being Accomplished!

When God Speaks Judgment
Our Life in Christ
Loving God and Neighbor
July 10
A Plumb Line for Leaders
How We Grow in Christ
How to Be a Neighbor
July 17
Righteousness and Justice for People
Christ in Y’all, The Hope of Glory
Loving by Listening
July 24
When Pity Is Exhausted
The All-Sufficiency of Christ to Save Us
Letting God Love You
July 31
Judgment for Restoration
Out with the Old, On with the New
The Love Never Stops Here

Extended Bible Study: Through Judgment toward Renewal (11 weeks)
What Faithful Living Looks Like
Getting Ready for the Coming Kingdom
August 7
Right Living Comes First
Seeking the Unseen
Get Yourself Ready
August 14
Why Judgment Will Come
Faithfulness Everywhere Under All Conditions
Signs in the World
August 21
To Destroy and to Build
Worship with Thanksgiving, Reverence and Awe
Signs among the Faithful
August 28
Idolatry and Broken Systems
Money, Sex, and Displaced People
How to Dine in the Kingdom

A Church for Saving Sinners*
September 4**
The Potter: A Call to Repent
Philemon: Setting People Free
Let All Possessions Go
September 11
The Threat: Uncreation
God Is Out to Save Us All
Reclaiming Lost Possessions
September 18
The Siege Begins
The Church that Prays for All
Being Shrewd with Possessions
September 25
A pledge for the Future
What Leaders Pursue
Distracted by Possessions

Leaders Persevering
Keep on…
October 2***
Lamenting Destruction
Stay the Course
October 9
Work for the Welfare of the City
Don’t Let Suffering Deter You
Healing All
October 16
The Hope of Restoration
Teach the Scriptures

After the Aftermath

October 23
Promises for After the Aftermath
Live as a Libation
Trusting in God’s Mercy

The Coming Judgment

October 30
Questions After the Aftermath
God’s Judgment Is Just
Seeking and Saving the Lost
All Saints (Nov 6)

November 13
All Things New After the Aftermath
Keep Working

Extended Advent: Thy Kingdom Come!
November 13

Resurrection: Life Together
Nov 20 Christ the King

Crucifixion: Forgiveness and Blessing Reign
November 27
Advent 1(3)

The Days of Noah
December 4
Advent 2(4)

December 11
Advent 3 (5)

Signs Abounding
December 18
Advent 4(6)

What the Angel Said

* Alternative: Do September 4 as a “one-off”—Labor Day or Back to School or Laity Sunday, or Philemon,  then start a 7 week series in I Timothy, skipping the 2 Timothy readings entirely. Conclude on October 23 with what is now week 3 (September 25). Add the following themes: September 25: I Timothy 3: 1-13 “Qualification of Spiritual Leaders: Head Pastors and Deacons;” October 2: I Timothy 3:14-4:5 “Living Out the Mystery;” October 9: I Timothy 5:1-21, “Honoring One Another;” October 16: I Timothy 6:6-10, “Cultivating the True Riches”

** Alternative for All Tracks during September: Season of Creation resources

Either complementary to or alternative for all tracks during October: A Season of Saints