A visitor's guide to the way we worship
Are you curious to see what we're about, but don't know what to expect? Here’s a brief guide to worship at United Congregational Church.
The structure of our worship service is very simple; there's nothing you need to know in advance. Nobody will call on you or ask you to say anything; you can participate as much or as little as you desire. As you walk into the sanctuary, an usher will offer you a "worship bulletin" to help you follow the prayers and responses for the week. Ask for a large-print version if you need one.
When it gets going. Worship is at 9:30, and we usually start on time or within a couple of minutes. If you're running a few minutes late, please don't turn around; the two doors into the sanctuary (that's the room where the worship takes place) are near the back, so it's easy to slip in without disturbing anybody.
Worship style. Our worship services are rooted in the New England Congregational Christian tradition. We follow a particular order - a liturgy, it's called - but it is easy to follow. Everything you need to know is printed in a couple of pages of our weekly bulletin, and no prior knowledge is needed.
The liturgy doesn't vary a great deal from week to week or from season to season. If you come in on a random week, there won't be the feeling that you are "walking into the middle" of a cycle of worship. And don't feel bad if you miss a few lines; to us, worship isn't memorization, it's about the Spirit.
Music. Hymns are scattered throughout our worship services. We started using the United Methodist Hymnal many years ago and never have seen a reason to change, so you'll hear (and join in, we hope) on a number of favorites from a hundred years ago. Don't worry if you can't hold a tune; we have a good choir and a fairly loud organ.
Children. After the first hymn, we have our Children's Message, when all the kids (as defined by themselves) gather up by the altar for a chat with our Pastor. Children's Message ends with the congregation sining them Jesus Loves Me as they head to Sunday School. Most of the young people go off to Sunday school - though that is certainly not required. We can't emphasize enough that your kids are absolutely welcome at our church, and will probably get a few compliments.
The Lord's Prayer. Most of us say "forgive us our sins," not "forgive us our trespasses," and that’s how it is printed in our bulletin. But you can say "trespasses," or "debts" - whatever is most in keeping with your preference or tradition - and you can say "you" or "thou," "your" or "thy," as you wish.
On a related note, our readings are mostly from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), several copies of which are in every pew. (If you’d rather have a large-print Bible, ask an usher.) We do tend toward inclusive language: for instance, God is usually "God" or "Holy One," not "He" or "Father."
Communion. This takes place on the first Sunday of each month. The deacons pass the bread and juice around in the pews, and we partake together at an invitation from the pastor. Our policy on who can receive communion is very simple: you can. To us it's a sacrament. But it is God's gift, and we think it would be way out of line for our church to deny it to anyone. In that spirit we use grape juice and not wine.
Passing the Peace. At the end of worship, we greet our neighbors with a handshake and a couple of words: usually "Peace be with you," but it could be something less commital, like "Hi!" or "Good to see you again!"
Fellowship. After all this, you are cordially invited to join us for coffee and whatever the Refreshment Committee has come up with by way of baked goods.
Somebody may ask you to sign the guest book or leave some contact information. Feel free to do so. Or feel equally free to say, "Not today, I'm just looking around." Four hundred years of Reformed and Congregational history has taught us not to be pushy.
Dress code. We don't have one of these, either. Some of our members dress to the nines, others dress in cotton and denim. If you want to be inconspicuous, somewhere in between will work just fine.
Still have questions? Call our office and ask to speak with Pastor Ruth.