Ash Wednesday Interactive Liturgy

Ash Wednesday

February 14, 2018

East Rochester United Methodist Church

Greeting

*Hymn        Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days, No. 269, v.1&3  

Old Testament:                                                                         Joel 2:1-17

Silent Reflection

Epistle Reading:                                             2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Silent Reflection

Gospel:                                                                    Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Meditation

*Hymn:                                   Just As I Am, Without One Plea, No 357

Four Prayer Stations

(Individuals are encouraged to move between the four prayer stations set up in the sanctuary and atrium of the church building. Remain as long as necessary until so moved to approach a new prayer station. When completed, rest in silence in the sanctuary until all return.)

  •  Create “Lent in a Bag”

            Create a “tool box” to use on your Lenten journey from

Ash Wednesday to the resurrection celebration.

  •  John 3:1 Greeting Project

Sacrifice some time weekly to pray for people, then share a

personalized message of encouragement or connection.

  •  Prayer Net, based on the Lord’s Prayer

            Praying the Lord’s Prayer involves trusting Him. Reflect

on where you hope to increase trust and dependence

on Him. As a visual representation of your commitment

tie a ribbon on the net.

  1.     Imposition of Ashes,

(Ashes are imposed with these words: “Remember;  

            from dust you have come, and to dust you shall return.”)

Prayer

Let us pray a prayer for repentant hearts and lives: These days, the fabric of the world is shredded.

       We are coming unraveled in hatred and division.

So many voices are raised in fear, in anger,

       We can hardly hear the Spirit who calls to us.

We enter this season of ashes and sackcloth

       Standing before the Holy in our brokenness.

Heal us, God of mercy, of our hardened hearts,

       Our judging natures, our fears of The Other.

      Walk with us, God of Love, through deserts of

Hopelessness,

      Stay with us through valleys of brokenness.

Take us, God of love, and transform us

      As we find the path that leads to resurrection.   

      Amen.

                              [By- Beth A. Richardson, 2017 Alive Now]

*Hymn:                         More Love to Thee O Christ, No. 453

The Lord’s Prayer   

*Benediction

As you have been blessed with the mark of repentance

you are now called to go out from this place and live out

your repentance.

Go forth to love and serve the Lord.

Amen.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Those who are able are invited to stand in body or spirit.

Bold print indicates a congregational response.

Thank you for silencing your cell phone during our time of worship

  

An Accessible and Meaningful Ash Wednesday

If it is January than Ash Wednesday must be soon! We are preparing our annual interactive Ash Wednesday service that is accessible and meaningful to all people.  That sentence is much easier to type than it is to put into action. Accessible and meaningful to all people…

The congregation of East Rochester United Methodist Church (Upper New York Conference) and their downstairs tenants (a group of people who volunteer at various not-for-profit organizations in the area and who use disability services) are accustomed to celebrating the holidays of the church calendar together.

The process we use to create this annual interactive Ash Wednesday service is simple but time consuming. It requires much time in prayer. I start with reading the lectionary scriptures, available online from Vanderbilt. . Next is a time of pondering and meditating the scriptures, mingled with prayer. The prayer flows around questions:

What do your people need from this season?
What do I need from this season?
How can this diverse community unite in seeking your face and heart for the next 40 days?
How can our senses of touch, taste, hear, smell, and sight be used to prepare our hearts for Lent?

My next step is to visit Pinterest! There are hundreds of interactive faith and prayer stations pinned by myself and other Pinterest users. My Pinterest board for Lent is this link.

Please check back to AbleFaith as I will be sharing my plans and interactive stations for the 2018 service.

Have you used interactive stations for your congregations? What worked? What did not work?

Interdependence

Every profession has its acronyms. We throw them about so freely it may sound like a foreign language to an uninitiated listener. Acronyms can be confusing. In some conversations the phrase, “I am opening an IRA’ means that the person is setting up an Individual Retirement Account. In the context of my professional life of supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, “I am opening an IRA” means that the speaker is part of a team of people opening an Individualized Residential Alternative home for people with disabilities. There is quite a difference

One of the acronyms in the field of supporting people with disabilities is referred to as The 3IPs. Independence, Inclusion, Individualization, and Productivity.

  • Independence- every person has the right to be as independent as possible
  • Inclusion- every person has the right to be included in the mainstream life and to share a community’s common places
  • Individualization- every person has the right to be honored as a unique autonomous person with specific dreams, gifts, goals, tastes, choices and purpose
  • Productivity- every person has gifts and talents to share to contribute to the community

I would like to propose that there is a fourth I, making it 4IPs. The fourth I is Interdependence. We each need each other. You need my gift for words and I need your gift for numbers. The musicians and artists among us are vital. We all need the gift that some have for growing food . We need those with the gift of listening. We need the encouragers, the thinkers, the teachers, those who can analyze and those who synthesize. We need the slow movement people and we need those who charge into the world at lightening speed. We need the brick layers and the surgeons. We need the dog walkers and horse whisperers.  We need those who pray and those who act, those who smile and those who provide a strong shoulder to lean on.  The knitters and weavers, the dolphin trainers and the doll makers, the egg gatherers and the snow shovelers- all are needed. We each need  these people so that we can not just be alive, but so that we can thrive!

Interdependence. We need the diversity of life to make life. Independence does not happen in isolation. The only way to be independent is for interdependence to be strong and healthy. Every person needs every person. Those without and those with disabilities need each other because all are gifted with purpose. We are gifted for the sake of each other. We are not complete without each other.

Interdependence- every person needs every other person; no one can be left out.

The apostle Paul wrote eloquently in 1st Corinthians 12:

 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work… 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

.

 

Righteous Anger (part 2)

Writing yesterday’s post about what happened to a friend at church had its cathartic effect on my soul. Writing the words and mulling them over provided space for prayer. And the prayer has led me to mercy.

I am still angry about the injustice experienced by my friend and his peers. In my quest to be angry but not sin, I need to find a way for the anger to become an expression of love. God’s love is serious and strong, not sentimental and mushy. The Message bible says that “Love always looks for the best.” (1st Corinthians 13:6) My prayers, plus my musings about the nature of God’s love and how to express it in this situation, have taken me to the sage advice of a friend: see the innocence.

I absolutely believe that the pastor, who stopped his sermon to tell my friend that he needed to leave the sanctuary because his soft vocalizations were a distraction, did not intend harm. The pastor was not motivated by meanness. He likely believes that preaching and interpreting the word of God for a congregation is a very serious task and should be handled with utmost respect and decorum. His application of the apostle Paul’s words in 1st Corinthians 14:40, “Let all things be done decently and in order” is that those who are gathered to hear a sermon must be respectful and that equates to silent. He and I disagree on how the words “Let all things be done decently and in order” are to be experienced.

I see the innocence on his part. I understand that he only intended to maintain a ‘decent and orderly’ service. I attended a church with that culture for many years when my children were young. I lost count of the number of times an usher quietly tapped me on the shoulder with an offer to carry the diaper bag for me as it was indicated that the fussy or fidgety child needed to leave the service to not be a distraction. I, and the other parents of restless little ones, understood the church culture. We were not dealt with in an embarrassing way or publicly signaled out as a disruption to an otherwise orderly service.

Very gradually the culture of the church my family attended began to change.  As I sifted through memories in search of why or when the change began I recalled an older woman who had Alzheimer’s disease. She continuously paced at the back of the sanctuary. Inclusion of her may have been the catalyst that led to a change of culture that engaged active, young families in the worship services. The desire to include a woman with a disability and accommodate her unique needs led to open doors for more people in that church 25 years ago. Today that church is a model of inclusive worship.

So, how does this memory and experience guide an expression of love for the pastor who humiliated my friend?  In attitude, I am attempting to be merciful and  see the innocence. In practice I am not sure, yet, beyond continued prayer. That developing wisdom may make a part 3 of Righteous Anger.

Righteous Anger

I am angry. I am so angry that I hesitate to write while feeling what I am feeling. But, perhaps putting my anger into words will help me begin to simmer down and be angry but not sin. Righteous anger has its place (Ephesians 4:26).

What has happened to cause my anger? Injustice. Injustice to a friend of mine. I know, the world seems to be flooded with injustice right now, so what is one injustice to one man? One is one too many.

Okay, deep breath. Count to ten. What happened? In a nutshell, a friend, who has a disability, was told that he needed to be removed from the sanctuary in the middle of the service because it was felt that his soft, happy vocalizations were a distraction. My friend, his friends and those supporting them were humiliated when they were told, by the pastor using a microphone in front of the congregation in the midst of a sermon about loving all people, that he needed to leave. His communication style made him unacceptable. Did you get that? In the middle of a sermon about loving all people someone was told to leave.  And I am angry.

Yes, his vocalizations may have been a distraction. The support staff who were with him are professionals who are trained to understand how the people they support communicate. They are also trained to protect and promote human dignity. If my friend had been communicating dissatisfaction or discomfort the staff supporting him would have helped him quietly leave the service to address his needs. If they felt that the volume of his voice was a distraction they would have helped him quietly leave the service to protect his dignity in the eyes of his fellow worshippers. In their judgment his quiet, under the breath, vocalizations were not a distraction to the level that he was bothersome to those around him.

I am not angry that he was asked to leave the service. That quietly happens from time to time. I am angry that he was devalued as a person and humiliated in the process. Isn’t there a way that this could have been handled that did not humiliate him? Were his happy sounds so disruptive that the sermon could not be finished and then after the service have a quiet, private conversation to discuss the issue?

I am angry that this man, a  person created in the image of God, a man who loves Jesus with his whole body, mind and heart was humiliated by a church leader. I am angry that his friends, who also have disabilities, had to share his humiliation. I am angry that the support staff (who maybe unsure about this whole church and religion thing) felt the rejection and embarrassment as well.

I am angry that in a sermon about love for all people the real message that was conveyed was that disabled lives do not matter.

#disabledlivesmatter

Words Matter

My words matter.

My words paint images in your mind.

I can use my words to manipulate the image they paint in your mind.

If I tell you “She is a cripple” I say those words for a reason- for pity.

If I tell you “She is an artist” I say those words for a reason- for admiration.

Both sets of words maybe accurate about She, but only one set of words is true.

Only one set of words about She matters.

The words about She’s purpose, She’s giftedness, She’s difference that she makes in the world; those words matter. Those words make She matter.

The other words describe what the environment does to her.

The other words make She not matter, they make her different. They are not true about She.

“She is a cripple” is not about She, but about the non-accessible world She inhabits.

Crippled. Crip. Handicapped. Bound to. Confined. Suffers with. Words that are not true. Words that do not matter.

Artistic. Fun. Creative. Adventurous. Contributor. Delighted. Cherished. Words that are true. Words that do matter.

Words matter.

 

 

Ash Wednesday Tears

I shed some tears today during the Ash Wednesday service at a local church. These were not tears of repentance for sin (although I could shed tears concerning my sins). These were tears of joy for community.

Almost three years ago the congregation at East Rochester United Methodist Church (New York State), dived off the deep end to become an inclusive congregation. They put mission ahead of margin and invited a local human services organization (Heritage Christian Services) to share their building. The organization serves, among others, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The East Rochester church opened their doors to become a day habilitation site for a handful of people who volunteer in the community and use disability services.

Since the doors opened the two groups have sought to become one community. They built bridges of communication, accepted diversity, overcame stereotypes and asked deep questions. The church people invited their new tenants to join their midweek Bible study and potluck luncheons. The new tenants invited the church people to volunteer with them as they made bread for communion and sorted clothing donations for charity. They celebrate holidays together, and (as Methodists are prone to doing) they often share a dish-to-pass meal. There have been some bumps along the way, but they believe that the relationships are worth the effort to overcome the bumps.

The pastor at East Rochester UMC has been diligent about including me in worship planning for the holiday services and events that include both groups of people. When we began our planning of an Ash Wednesday service I made the suggestion that we create a service that would be universally accessible and participated in by all of the attendees. Pastor Todd Goddard did not have to think twice about working together to create a non-traditional service for this traditional Christian observance of the beginning of the Lent season.

The service began with a prayer in unison and the singing of “Have Thine Own Way Lord.” After the song we introduced the four interactive stations that we created in the sanctuary and narthex.  The four stations ran simultaneously and the worshippers had as much time as they needed to prayerfully participate in each station. Rocks represent disciplines to commit to practicing; strips of cloth serve as reminders of the work that Christ did for each of us; woven ribbons express love for God and neighbor; and, ashes represent God’s love for us with the ancient words, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

Here is where my Ash Wednesday tears happened. I watched as these two formerly separate groups of people worshiped as one. They assisted each other, prayed together and loved as one. Where there had been fear their was love. Where there had been distance there was acceptance. Names were spoken. Hugs were given. Ashes were received.

One devout man stood in the center of the sanctuary, gazed heavenward and repeated, “I love you God, praise you God” as the other worshippers silently bowed their heads at the simplicity of his expression of love.

Our Lenten discipline- community.  Being the beloved community.

Amen.

Ash Wednesday rocks and water station
River rocks and drift wood, made smooth by constant washing

 

Fairytale or Real?

The story unfolds in such beauty that it seems like a fairy tale. Perhaps it is just a fairy tale, or perhaps it really is a true unfolding tale that will someday end with, “and they all lived happily ever after”.

Once upon a time a charming prince wanted to go somewhere to learn more about God and make friends. He visited a church with lots of smiling people. He enjoyed the lovely music and the opportunity to make new friends; but, alas, there was a problem. You see, the prince does not talk and when he is happy he likes to bounce in his wheelchair. His bouncing wheelchair makes noise. The music and the smiling people made him very happy so he bounced in his wheelchair to share his joy. Sadly, this was not a place where people bounce when they are happy and they did not like it when he bounced. The prince left and stayed at home and listened to joyful music by himself.

One day a kind maiden in the kingdom invited the prince to visit her church so he could learn about God, make friends and be free to bounce when he was happy. He went with the maiden, but he was unsure if he really would be welcomed. Would people shake his hand at the exchange of peace? Would people turn and shush him when he sang? Would he be asked to leave if he was happy and bounced? He was surprised to have a delightful time! The smiling people from the church helped him off his horse drawn carriage (a.k.a. a wheelchair accessible van), and held the doors open for him as if they already knew that he was royalty. The maiden proved herself to actually be his ambassador as she introduced him to her friends. The smiling people seemed genuinely happy that he was there, but would the smiles disappear if he started to bounce? He quickly learned that no, the smiles would not disappear and the shushes would not happen! He was free to be himself! The pastor even said during his sermon that he was happy to have the prince present!

Now, almost every week the prince goes to church. Friends from his church visit him at home and share their music and hearts with him. He has his own offering envelopes so that he can help make a difference; he sings as only he can sing, he prays, he listens, he bounces, and if he cannot be there on a Sunday morning than the people tell him that they missed him.

Is it too soon to write, “and they all lived happily ever after”?

National Day of Prayer

ImageRomans 15:6 “So that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Can you imagine it?

Can you see it really happening?

Can you hear it?

Imagine what?

See what? Hear what?

One voice of praise rising up from many.

People of many colors, many vocal qualities, many languages, many tribes and nations.

People of many abilities. People of differing abilities.

People of many socioeconomic backgrounds.

Many united in one voice and mind to glorify God.

Including the voice of the silent. Including the voice of those who have never heard sound.

Including the voice of those who speak with their eyes and hands.

Including those with labels to categorize their intelligence.

A lifting up of the voices mixed with tears, voices from toddlers and the very aged.

Voices of those forgetting who they are, and the voices of those who care for them.

Voices singing, voices praising, voices begging, voices wondering.

Voices that echo off mountaintops and voices lost in noise.

A lifting up of voices from prisons and brothels, universities and hospitals, park benches and fox holes.

Voices rising from woven corn stalk and plastic covered huts, voices from McMansions and voices from Red Cross shelters and UN refugee camps.

Many praying with one mind and one voice together glorifying the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Note- Picture is from chapel at Fairport Baptist Home, Fairport, NY

Celebrating World Autism Day

I thought about the title of this post for awhile before deciding on “Celebrating World Autism Day.” At first I was going to title this “Honoring World Autism Day”, which would be a correct view of the day, but I decided to use of the word celebrating. Celebrations are happy, joyous gatherings with cake and balloons. Celebrations are a joyous recognition of something wondrous, such as the birthday  of a loved one; so ‘celebrating’ is the correct word.  What are we celebrating joyously with cake and balloons? The joy of sharing the world with wonderful people who have autism.

What is autism? The autism advocacy group Autism Speaks defines it as “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Wikipedia describes autism as a disorder of neuro development. People who have autism interact with and interpret the world differently than more typical people. People who have autism are complexly different and complexly similar to other people. Today we are celebrating those differences and similarities. Today we are celebrating the lives of the 1 in 68 children who have autism around the globe.

What are we, as people of faith celebrating? All people are amazing gifts from God to each other. Today we are celebrating the wonderful gifts that people who have autism bring to the world. We are celebrating the opportunity that we have to journey through life with people who have autism, their families and their caregivers. We are celebrating the joy of sharing our faith with people who interpret the world differently. We are celebrating God at work across the entire spectrum of humanity.