Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"And I Mean to Be One, Too": Stories of United Methodist Saints

Orthodox All Saints Icon. Public Domain.
"Come, let us join our friends above who have obtained the prize,
And on the eagle wings of love to joys celestial rise.
Let saints on earth unite to sing with those to glory gone,
For all the servants of our King in earth and heaven are one."
-- Charles Wesley, 1759 (UMH 709).

We're on the second year of an experiment at the GBOD Center for Worship Resourcing, and I'm inviting you to join in.

Here's the experiment-- what if we keep the weeks of October, starting with World Communion Sunday and concluding with All Saints Sunday (November 4 this year) as a "Season of Saints?"

This year we'll have five weeks for the "saints on earth" with whom you gather to "unite to sing"… and pray, and move toward perfection in love in this life, "with those to glory gone."

Think of the fun this could be! Really... fun! Think about creative ways to tell the stories of these saints -- maybe saints videos, or children telling the stories. Use them as part of a testimony time after the sermon each Sunday. Post information about them on Facebook or Twitter during the week. Schedule an "All Saints Parade" on All Saints Sunday, with people coming to the event dressed as a saint whose life and witness speaks deeply to them. Whatever you do, make this a congregation-wide emphasis, involving not just worship, but also Sunday schools, youth groups, mission teams, caring ministries, small groups, and of course the choir and/or praise team.

Here are two suggested calendars for these celebrations: 2012 and 2011. The saints for each Sunday were chosen to correspond with the lectionary readings and/or the denominational emphasis for each Sunday in these two years. But feel free to "mix and match" or choose other persons entirely.
I'll provide more specific ideas for saints to focus on each week-- saints in our United Methodist traditions and the larger Christian tradition-- in the weekly worship planning helps at GBOD. The more detailed ideas are already posted for 2011. 2012 will be coming soon.

Now, this would not have to involve changing any of the current lectionary readings, or even any major change in the color of the paraments or other "worship space decor" you use. You might consider adding some gold in with the green to catch the color of All Saints Sunday (White and Gold).

When I first shared this idea on the UMC Worship Facebook Group, one of our members there suggested we make room for folks to tell stories of saints they know in worship. I thought that was a great idea as a response to the word-- part of a kind of testimony time-- and suggested one way to help that happen through this blog.

Here's my suggestion: don't tell just one story, tell two. Tell one from your congregation (with the person's permission) plus one from another congregation to enhance our sense of connection in the living communion of saints. 

That's where you come in-- and this blog comes in.

In the comments below, share a brief story of a saint you know or have known in your local United Methodist congregation or ministry. This blog can then become a resource for others to find their story from another congregation to tell each week. 

Are you up for this?

I can't wait to see the saints stories you will tell!

Peace in Christ,

Taylor Burton-Edwards
Director of Worship Resources


  1. What a wonderful idea! We will utilize this in our worship services throughout October! Looking forward to hearing and sharing our saint stories!

  2. What a fantastic idea! I love it! I think that by and large, we have abandoned our heritage. We need to remember the stories of the saints of old, both those who were in our church, and the saints of the larger church, the church universal and triumphant.

  3. season of the saints sounds like a fantastic idea.
    will work on stories of the folks I know that persevered. A way to show "fruits" - a great Wesley/Methodist concept.

  4. We have enjoyed highlighting a Methodist saint each week. We are celebrating the life of our own saint here at Trinity this Sunday as we dedicate our Homecoming celebration to the memory of a life well lived by Betsy Overstreet.

  5. We have been observing "A Season of Saints" throughout October, which will culminate in our traditional "All Saints Sunday" worship on Nov. 6. We took the idea a little deeper by identifying a 'theme' for each Sunday:
    Oct. 2 "Rebels With a Cause"- St. Francis and Mary Bethune
    Oct. 9 "Mystics" Catherine of Siena, Joan of Arc
    Oct. 16 "Missionaries" Luke, Lizzie Hoffman
    Oct. 23 "Martyrs" Stephen, Thomas Baker, Tom Fox, Oscar Romero
    Oct. 30 "Visionaries" Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, Phoebe Palmer
    Nov. 6 "Communion of Saints."
    By focusing thematically we've been able to call attention to the different lifestyles and attributes of some well-known saints, and to help the congregation take note of similar attributes in people in their own lives.
    J.Duncan;Countryside Community UMC, PA