This article is from Issue 67 of “On The Move,” a publication of new learning possibilities for churches, at one time published by The Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand.
Although some ideas and liturgies may appear somewhat “dated” in style, concept, imagery or language, they may nevertheless offer a spring-board for new ideas among people who find themselves leading worship, perhaps in a new context, and with some trepidation.
Reproduced with permission. May be reprinted for use in local congregations only.
CELEBRATING PENTECOST with all-age participative worship
by Merle U’ren and June Wright
Breath, wind, soul, power, change, life, helper, comforter—these vigorous descriptions and attributes of the Holy Spirit suggest that a celebration of the coming of the Spirit of God at Pentecost should allow for active involvement by worshippers. This was certainly in the minds of those who planned the worship-in-the-round service described in this article.
The service began with singing and sharing of news by members of the group. Then there was an explanation of the theme—the Holy Spirit in the Bible story, and in our own lives, and a brief exposition and some discussion of the doctrine of the Trinity and of the Holy Spirit as God’s personal expression in the lives of men, women and children.
The words “wind”,”spirit”, “soul” and “breath” are closely associated in Hebrew speech and thought. Indeed, to speak of God as Spirit is to use a figure of speech likening God to the wind, with its power and independent and unpredictable activity, and to the breath which makes the difference between life and death to our human bodies. To deepen awareness of this aspect of God’s Spirit, several minutes were spent on breathing exercises. These were done slowly and rhythmically, with eyes closed, focusing attention on the breath and the effect on the body and mind of the deep breathing. For example:
Follow these steps, slowly counting to four for each step: Breathe in, raise arms above the head. Hold the breath, arms held up. Breathe out, lower arms to the sides. Hold empty of breath. Repeat 3-4 times. Relax. Be aware of the stimulating effect of the breathing.
Do this slowly, with feet a little apart: Breathe out, crossing arms over the stomach. Breathe in, swinging arms up and crossing them above the head. Do this 4-6 times. Relax. Be aware of the tingle in hands and feet.
Imagine you are a palm tree exposed to the powerful winds of the Pacific Ocean: Stand with feet together, arms by the sides. Breathe in, raising arms to shoulder level and placing feet apart. Breathe out, raising the right arm above the head. Breathe in, tensing all four limbs as far as possible. Breathe out and relax, feet together, arms by the sides again. Do it again, raising the left arm this time, and then repeat the whole sequence once or twice.
After sharing a few impressions of this activity, there were three Bible readings:
Genesis 2:4-7 God breathed into the human form and created a human spirit. The Spirit of God within us is an essential part of our humanity
Ezekiel 37.1-26 Ezekiel had a vision of the exiled and dispirited people of Israel in which they appeared as dry bones. God breathed into the bones and they were restored to life and hope.
Acts 2:1-6, 14-18 God came as fire and wind to the assembled disciples, who shared their vision with the crowds in the street, and attracted believers together to establish the church and continue Christ’s work.
Discussion and handwork
Members were given three choices for group work based on these passages. There was both discussion and handwork in each group, so that all ages could work together. All groups discussed the same questions:
What difference did the Holy Spirit make in this situation?
What difference would it make to us if we took more time to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
To express some aspect of the story with handwork, the Genesis group used clay, the Ezekiel group used pipe cleaners, and the Acts group used paper and crayons. Then, after sharing the handwork and discussion of the issues raised in groups, a hymn was sung, “The Helper” (No. 10 in Songs for Worship). The last verse was repeated, because it seemed particularly relevant for the session:
Disciples of Jesus, we meet here today,
We will learn how to follow our Lord;
The Spirit is with us as Jesus has said,
As Jesus has said,
A fire in our hearts and a light where we tread.
With hands joined in a circle, members prayed fo: one another, the church, and the world, and listened, as final affirmation, to these words from Peter’s speech (Acts 2:25-28):
I saw the Lord before me at all times;
he is near me, and I will not be troubled.
And so I am filled with gladness, and my words are full of joy.
And I, mortal though I am, will rest assured in hope,
because you will not abandon me in the world of the dead;
you will not allow your faithful servant to rot in the grave.
You have shown me the paths that lead to life,
and your presence will fill me with joy.