Some Basic Values
Every church has a way of ordering its worship, known as liturgy ("the work of the people"). Some are more formal, some less so. But, even the most “spontaneous” churches still have a normal pattern. What is important are the values that shape our worship and how those values get expressed.
Biblical Faith: We believe in the supreme authority of scripture. Our worship is filled with scripture, not just in the three readings from the Old and New Testaments, but in the biblical patterns and quotations that fill every part of our service. In this way, week by week, God impresses his Word more deeply into us.
Global Faith: We are connected to the worldwide Anglican Communion. A shared pattern of worship is one of the ways our common faith is expressed. Amidst a wonderful diversity of languages and cultures, millions of Anglican Christians gather to worship each Sunday utilizing a shared pattern that is recognizable from Africa to Asia to America. Our basic pattern of worship has also been utilized by Christians since the first days of the church. Therefore, our worship connects us to Christians through the ages and across the planet!
Embodied Faith: We express our faith in very tangible ways: bowing out of reverence for Christ, making the sign of the cross as a reminder of his sacrifice, wearing robes that symbolize believers' purity in God's forgiveness, and breaking bread at the communion table. In worship we express our devotion to Jesus through our bodies as well as our hearts and minds, as practice for worshiping him in every aspect of life throughout the week! Over time, we are formed in Christ not only by the power of what we say and think, but of what we do.
Participatory Faith: We believe worship is something we do together. Although we need people to lead us in worship, we are not meant to be spectators: liturgy means "the work of the people," after all! In our worship we are expected to respond in word and deed: to proclaim, to kneel, to come forward, to eat and drink. We don’t just watch. We get involved in the action. Sometimes our actions spring from hearts overflowing in worship. Other times, our actions begin to soften our hearts.
Seasons of Our Worship
You may notice the colors when you come into our worship space. Just as the natural world has different seasons, so the church calendar celebrates different seasons as well. Our seasons focus our attention on the work of God in history to set the world right from its current broken state. They allow us - each year - to marinate in different aspects of the gospel story, protecting us from neglecting certain facets of the gospel and fostering a holistic view of God's purposes for us.
Advent (end of November through December 24) anticipates the coming of our King, Jesus. It is typically a bit more reflective. The color is purple, which signifies royalty.
Christmas (Dec. 25-January 5) celebrates the gift of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God. It is a time of great joy. The color is white, which signifies purity and glory.
Epiphany (January 6-February) celebrates the revelation of Jesus to the world, the one in whom God is making all things new. The color is green, signifying life and vitality.
In Lent (February-March), we join with Jesus as he set his face towards Jerusalem, where he would be acclaimed, and crucified, as king. It is the most somber season of the year. The color returns to purple.
Easter (March-May) celebrates the resurrection, the victory of God over sin, death, and hell and the promise that all things will be made new in Christ. It is the most joyful season of the year. The color returns to white.
Ordinary time (May-November) is the season of the church and the new life that comes through the Holy Spirit. It begins with Pentecost Sunday (red), and it focuses on God’s mission to bring new life to the world through Jesus. After Pentecost Sunday, the color returns to green.
The Pattern of Our Worship
The changes in the seasons involve more than a change of color. The things we say and do change slightly as well. These may not always be apparent at first, but over time they can become quite striking and illuminating. The same basic pattern is present most Sundays, however.
Entrance: As a song or hymn is played, the cross is carried forward, followed by a few worship leaders. This reminds us that we are entering into God’s Presence together. Some may bow as the cross goes forward or as they approach the altar. This signifies our reverence for Jesus, our King.
Acclamation: Through a short proclamation and response ("Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit..."), we remember our purpose in coming together, to praise God for who he is and what he has done. In different seasons this invites us to focus on the mercy of God, the kingdom of God, or the resurrection of Jesus.
Prayer of Purity: "Almighty God, to you all hearts are open..." Through this prayer we acknowledge our need for God’s grace as we approach him in worship.
Songs of Ascent: The people of Israel sang as they went up to the Temple. As we come into the Presence of God in worship, we also sing. This invites us to open ourselves to God with the full range of our emotions.
Collect: After the songs, a leader prays a prayer expressing the theme of the scripture readings which follow. In this way, we “collect” the thoughts of the readings as a prayer.
Scripture Reading: An Old Testament, New Testament letter, and a Gospel passage are each read. This invites us to develop an appreciation for God’s Word in its fullness. We acclaim our thankfulness for the Word ("The Word of the Lord // Thanks be to God") after each reading because it is the promise and power of God for our lives. The gospel passage is read in the middle of the congregation to represent the truth that God came among us in Jesus Christ, and that his presence is among us still!
Creed: Prior to the sermon, we proclaim our faith in who God is and what he has done for us, usually with the Nicene Creed. This keeps us grounded in the core truths of who we are and what we believe.
Sermon: Someone seeks to help us understand the Bible amidst the contemporary realities of life by explaining the readings in a faithful yet vibrant manner. We record our sermons and post them at adventdenver.com/sermons, but our sermons are written with the context of worship in mind. Sermons expound the word read before, and prepare us for the communion table coming after.
Prayers of the People: As we have come into the Presence of God together, we bring the cares of the world with us. We take time to recite prayers together, and to add our own either silently or out loud, because we love the world and desire it to be filled with God’s grace.
Confession and Absolution of Sin: We all fail to do what God desires us to do on a regular basis. Here, we stop to remember and confess our sins together because we need his mercy. One of the pastors proclaims the wonderful gift of God’s forgiveness to us on the basis of Christ’s work on the cross.
Passing of the Peace: Having received the forgiveness of our sins, and knowing that we are at peace with God, we share God’s peace with one another. This reminds us that we are not to approach God’s table while retaining bitterness towards anyone. We are a people of peace in Christ.
Offering: As we sing a song of gratitude for God’s grace, we also express our gratitude by giving our lives and our resources to God. We give financially, but this is part of a deeper call to offer our entire lives to God with thanksgiving.
Communion: Each week, we gather around the Lord’s Table. Jesus called us to do this in remembrance of his sacrifice for us. It is also a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, where we will enjoy communion with Christ forever, and a sign of our union with Christ, that we have been joined with him in his death and in his life.
We do not believe in “transubstantiation” (the idea that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus in a literal fashion). We believe that it is more than a memorial, however, in which we simply remember that Christ died for us. It is a time of real presence, when Jesus communicates himself and his grace to us.
The words that are recited and sung invite us to remember and give thanks for the amazing work that God has done to save us from the way of sin and death. They are the gospel message, distilled into a prayer which a pastor leads. However, we are all praying together, which becomes clear with the final, great AMEN that we shout together!
You may also hear communion referred to as “the Eucharist,” which is a word that means, “to give thanks.” This reveals the tone of meal: it is a joyful feast!
Blessing: The pastor speaks a word of blessing over us because we are indeed a people who have been blessed in Christ. We often also use this time to remember what Christ has done for us by “sending our sins to the cross and setting our hopes on the risen Christ.”
Recessional and Dismissal: The service ends with the reversal of how it began. Having entered into the Presence of God, we now take his Presence with us back into the world. We are a people on God’s mission! The cross goes before us and the ministers follow to signify this. One of the clergy dismisses us by inviting us to go forth to love and serve Jesus in all aspects of our lives.