This article is from Issue 55 of “On The Move,” a publication of new le arning 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.
A Pentecost celebration of THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
by Coralie Ling
This is an act of worship which I have used several times at Pentecost. At the front of the sanctuary there are seven large red candles. Each hears one of these labels: WISDOM, UNDERSTANDING, RIGHT JUDGMENT, COURAGE, KNOWLEDGE, REVERENCE, WONDER. The candles are lit, each one in its turn, as the words of Isaiah 11:1-3 (seven gifts of the Spirit) are read.We also read the Pentecost story from Acts 2:1-11. (I have found the version in the Fount Childrens Bible good for an all-age congregation.)
Later in the service we celebrate the gifts ofthe Spirit as each person chooses the one they would most like to have. I ask them to think carefully before choosing. I point out that these gifts, unlike the special spiritual gifts Paul wrote about in the New Testament, are gifts which everyone may have. So they are to think carefully and choose the one which seems most important for their lives right now.
We have red flames cut from Contact — enough for everyone to have one. The way they receive them depends on the size of the congregation. With a small group I have asked them to come to the front as the gift they wish to receive is mentioned. In a larger congregation they simply stand up as the desired gift is named, and elders bring the symbolic flames to them.
Either way, it happens within the context of a ‘litany of the gifts of the Spirit’ which comes from Gaynell Bordes Cronin, Holy Days and Holidays (Winston Press 1979). If you can’t find the book, you can make your own litany. This one begins: ‘With the gift of wisdom which helps us to see clearly’, and the people’s response is ‘Let us renew the face of the earth’. There is a pause before each response as those who have chosen this particular gift come forward or receive their flame from the elder. The response from the congregation comes only when all have received their symbolic flame.
At the end of the litany after all of the gifts have been named and distributed — the minister concludes this act of celebration with: ‘Just as the burning bush was a sign to Moses of God’s presence, the flames we wear are signs of the presence of the Spirit within each of us’.
I usually follow the litany with ‘God sends us his Spirit’ (No 324 in The Australian Hymn Book). The service then proceeds in the normal way.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I have used this act of celebration several times. ‘Wisdom’ has been the most popular gift, but I can remember particular instances in which people chose another gift which had special significance for them, such as ‘courage’ in the face of terminal illness. People have always taken the exercise very seriously and have remembered it for a long time.
Coralie Ling is a Uniting Church minister