Christian Worship is at the center of everything we do at First Church. Every Sunday morning, we gather together as a family of faith to acknowledge the holiness of God, hear God’s Word, offer prayers, and celebrate the sacraments of the Church. In 2017 we will have a concentrated focus on why we worship the way we do and what it means to worship at First Church. Throughout the year you’ll notice a variety of special services, events, activities, and media designed to teach more about worship.
Understanding the Way We Worship
THE CHURCH YEAR
The Church Year is an ancient way of telling time. Rather than measuring time exclusively according to the natural seasons, Christians have traditionally measured time in their worship with a calendar built around the life of Christ. Some of the seasons of the Church Year date back to our earliest written records of Christian worship. The current form of the Christian calendar, including its colors, dates, and feasts, was firmly in place by the medieval period. Worship that is centered on the Church Year allows Christians to step into the life of Jesus. Seasons of hope and grief, mercy and penitence assure that all aspects of the human condition are given an appropriate place in the worship practices of the Church. The repetition of these seasons is also an educational tool, gently inculcating the heritage of the faith. The specific season is reflected in the colors used for the paraments in the sanctuary and the clergy’s vestments, the texts read, and other liturgical practices like the lighting of the paschal candle. When certain feast days fall during the week it is not unusual to celebrate them on the nearest Sunday.
THE REVISED COMMON LECTIONARY
The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) is a three-year cycle of weekly lections used by the vast majority of mainline Protestant churches. The RCL is built around the seasons of the Church Year, and includes four lections for each Sunday, as well as additional readings for major feast days. During most of the year, the lections are: a reading from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), a Psalm, a reading from the Epistles, and a Gospel reading. During the season of Easter, the Old Testament lection is usually replaced with one from the Acts of the Apostles. The seasons of the Church Year reflect the life of Christ. Consequently, the gospel lections for each Sunday provide the focus for that day. The other lections for a given day generally have a thematic relationship to the gospel reading for that day, although this is not always the case.
With many other Protestants, United Methodists recognize the two sacraments in which Christ himself participated: Baptism and Holy Communion.
Through baptism we are joined with the church and with Christians everywhere. Baptism is a symbol of new life and a sign of God’s love and forgiveness of our sins. Persons of any age can be baptized. United Methodists baptize by sprinkling, immersion or pouring. A person receives the sacrament of baptism only once in his or her life.
Holy Communion (The Lord’s Supper, Eucharist)
Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, is a holy meal of bread and wine that symbolizes the body and blood of Christ. Communion recalls the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and celebrates the unity of all the members of God’s family. By sharing this meal, we give thanks for Christ’s sacrifice and are nourished and empowered to go into the world in mission and ministry. We practice “open Communion,” welcoming all who love Christ, repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another. At First Church we partake in The Lord’s Supper every week at every service.
NEW! DAILY READINGS
New in each week’s bulletin in 2017
The daily readings expand the range of biblical reading in worship and personal devotion by providing daily citations for the full three-year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary. These readings complement the Sunday readings: Thursday through Saturday readings help prepare the reader for the Sunday ahead; Monday through Wednesday readings help the reader reflect on and digest what they heard in worship.