Friday, February 4, 2011

Into the New Year: remembering the past and looking to the future

After the Summer Break
If your faith community is anything like mine, the place goes into semi-hibernation over the summer break. Sure, worship continues, but all other regular connections are put-on-hold. When we return, people's lives have invariably altered. Some have endured personal crisis, others have resolved to change in some way, and many return refreshed to tackle new challenges. Knowing that people are in this renewal mindset, I find it disheatening when the welcome back presumes everything will continue on as before.

Responding to this new-year mood in worship?
In Australia this summer our nation has endured natural disasters on a scale never before experienced in this land. For this reason, and in this context I have laid out here one way these events may be coupled with a new year mind-set.

While this skeleton plan for worship, or for part of a meeting, is not strictly a musical exercise, I hope it may help to spirit your gathering into the new year with courage and hope.

Bare Bones for New Year Worship
  • Arrival
  • Sing a well known song of welcome together (eg: Come as you are, Gather us In, Come into his presence sing alleluia etc...)
  • Welcome
  • Pass the Peace
  • Explaining the process - worship will involve people in small groups, reflecting on the summer just past and looking to the new year. They will be given one minute to spend in personal reflection for each area, and then each group member will be invited to ofer their reflection. It is important groups are evenly sized so that they all take about the same time. Suggest members of each group limit their contributions to about 30 seconds each as a guide. Remind them that conversations can be taken up over coffee later, and that what they say in their small group is just a taster, a starting point. If it seems appropriate for your community, have someone indicate non verbally when each 30 seconds has elapsed. One non-invasive method is to gently strike a chime bar or a triangle. Don't be too rigid with this - if 30 seconds seems too brief, extened it to 40 seconds. Explain that this is not designed for people to have in depth conversations - its just a snapshot. It is most important to make sure ALL group members have a equal opportunity to share.
  • Create the groups - Group people in fours, mixing the ages - and yes children have had valid summer experiences too, and should be included as long as they are comfortable to do so! Remember to separate members of households.                                                                                                                            
  • Sing together - something about the diversity of those gathered
  • Invite everyone to reflect on their summer - 1 minute silence. Don't offer any specific input, or attempt to guide people's thoughts. Honour their personal experiences simply by offering this space.
  • Now invite people to remember a win, celebration, personal acheivement or success - give them 30 seconds to think about this then share 30 seconds each with ther small group.
  • Mark the moment as a whole community with bubble blowing, streamer throwing
  • Sing a song of celebration and thanks
  • Invite people to remember a mistake, a sadness, a personal disaster or disappointment in silence, then share (for 2 minutes) in small groups
  • Mark the moment by writing/drawing on a river stone and dropping into a transparent bowl filled with wateras music is played.
  • Sing together: a song of healing, and of burdens being lifted.
  • Remember and then share in small groups (2 minutes) a kindness done to you, a gift, a social encounter, a warm fuzzy over summer
  • Offer a snapshot of the events of summer (floods, bushfire, cyclone), unrest in Cairo, landslides in Brazil and other matters that may be a special concern to your community. This may be done pictorially, verbally, as a guided reflection.
  • Remember victims (in small groups) by recalling a moment of empathy, sympathy, a story of service, an image of hope
  • Mark the moment by lighting a candle
  • Prayer led by worship leader on behalf of the gathering
  • Sing something hopeful and uplifting
  • Now in small groups share a new opportunity or resolution for the new year.
  • Mark the moment by writing a short letter to yourself. You may chose to save these letters for distribution later in the year, or invite people to take them home and put somewhere they will be reminded of their resolution from time to time.
  • Sing each other out into the world. 
You may also be interested in 20 (New Year) Resolutions for the Church Musician

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