We had a local arrangement today at our Church. For those of you who don't know, a local arrangement is when there is no minister or local preacher in attendance, and the church fellowship arrange and create a service of their own.
The Church in question Gillingham Methodist Church welcomes a mixed fellowship in age, gender, race and social demographics, which is part of what makes it such a welcoming place. This morning there were about 100 people in attendance. The service was led by one of the stewards who is undertaking a worship leaders course. She was supported by the full worship group and other members of the congregation in the delivery of the service. The theme of the service was created around Psalm 139. The service followed a normal pattern of a mixture of worship via music starting off with "Lord I lift your name on high" and "Light of the World". Prayers of adoration were provided by one our Prayer ministry ladies, followed by an inspiring rendition of "Potters Hand". During this song, I took the opportunity of looking around the Church and witnessed several people engaging in the song in a very emotional way, opening their heart to the Spirit.
Psalm 139 was provided as the Reading, using the Message version, offering an insight delivered in contemporary language, followed by a video of the Skit Guys (based on Psalm 139) which filled the traditional Sermon Slot. These two guys are highly talented in their delivery offering humour as an introduction to delivering a very serious message. I find the approach of the Skit guys very refreshing for use in Church, and it is an approach that is not only useful for the younger age group in the audience but also for those people who may have been attending a Church for the first time. They provide a resource which can be a very helpful evangelical tool. Unfortunately, this morning, the Junior Church had already left for Sunday School hence they missed this very enlightening part of the service, which was a shame in some ways.
After some more worship in music, there was a time for reflection, which the leader led very capably, bringing a personal story of how Psalm 139 had had an impact on her life and encouraging the congregation to reflect on their own life journey; including a story of how she found a prayer by Thomas Merton in a Norfolk Church, and how this led to her learning more about this hugely inspirational monk; via the use of small crosses provided to the fellowship to either write on and place at the cross, or prayerfully think about and take away with them. This was followed by an opportunity for the Church to join together in meditatively offering a response in song with the Hymn, " We fall down".
Following the prayers of intercession and a corporate rendition of the Lord's Prayer, we finished with a well known Hymn, "Great is thy Faithfulness", after which the service closed with the saying of the Grace.
Thinking of the impact of this service, I was left thinking that it was a very useful use of video technology which successfully engaged the congregation in the theme of the service. The service flowed well, and the theme was resonant throughout the service. Using members of the congregation allows those who do not normally speak up in services to have a voice, and can often unwrap a calling from God in their lives. I remember distinctly that the very first time I gave a sermon was in a local arrangement, so this style of service always holds a special place in my heart. I was left reflecting on the message of today, that God is with us through all experiences, that he knows my innermost thoughts and emotions, and wants me to open my heart and mind to him to allow him to lead me further into an awareness of my true self. The self that God created, and not the one that I have.