Worship content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, (c) 2020
As we continue the selfless practice of restricted physical contact, as we adapt and welcome new ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.
- You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
- Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed, including items for Holy Communion – a cup with a beverage and some bread or other finger food.
- A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
- Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
- Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
- Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence.
Time for Children of All Ages
Out of the Bag: “Special Tables” on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber
Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.
Poem of Preparation “Love One Another”
Love the sunrise which wakes you up.
Love the warm body bedside you in bed or resting in your eternal heart.
Love the farmworker who picked your coffee beans or tea leaves.
Love the bold crow cawing “day” and the hidden owl cooing “night”.
Love the reporters (of all types) who tell us about each other.
Love the children you asked for and those you didn’t.
Love the roof over your head and those who built it.
Love the sibling who hurt you yesterday or decades ago.
Love the hymn that trails you like a faithful dog.
Love the neighbor who never, ever smiles.
Love the way you keep learning how to grow older.
Love the friends who return with food and hope.
Love the people others tell you to hate.
Love the building blocks of life – earth, wind, fire, water, and soil.
Love the gentle way God turns your heart toward compassion.
Love the human beings a sea away with whom you share DNA.
Love the ones who are present and those who are long gone.
Love the person you see in the mirror.
Love the Spirit who tugs us into relationship.
Love the Christ who invites us into transformation.
Love the Creator who leads us into life and life eternal. Amen.
Light the Christ Candle
Song for Welcoming the Presence of God
“I’m Gonna Eat at the Welcome Table” African-American spiritual, WELCOME TABLE (#424 Chalice), video: “Welcome Table” performed by A Southern Gospel Revival – Courtney Patton; version published with lyrics by “philsabine1”. YouTube: https://youtu.be/PDasYUepo1c (used without permission)
Unburden and Gather Hope
Naming Our New Reality
Whether you are alone or with others, may this be a time for private reflection. How is it with you today? Is this a good day or one that requires kindness and patience? Honor the swings of contentment and concern that are a part of every life, as well as the unique shifts that are new to this era. Invite God to help you reflect on the people you encountered the past week. Find one memory to talk to God about: a warm remembrance, something surprising, or even a challenging encounter. Tell God about it. God is listening even when we can’t sense God’s presence. God adores hearing the stories about our lives.
We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:
Be still and know that I am God. (pause)
Be still and know that I am. (pause)
Be still and know. (pause)
Be still. (pause)
Try to sit quietly in a state of calm devotion. It can be very hard to still the mind. Our thoughts wander, feelings arise, our bodies wiggle. It can be shocking how quickly our good intentions go astray! Do not fret, dear one. The mind likes to think. With compassion, acknowledge what rises but try not to engage any thought or feeling. (Important matters will return later.) Practice choosing to refocus on God. Take a breath and try again. Each time we choose to return to God, gently turning away from our over-active mind, is a gift we give God. When you’re ready to move on take a moment to thank God saying, “Amen.”
Acts of Unburdening and Affirming
Write down whatever you wish to release to God and leave at the base of the Christ Candle. If it is safe, burn these prayers. If you don’t have the words yet, offer God what you can. This is fine. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive.
God’s forgiveness is the gate through which we pass to arrive at the blessing from all holy communions – reunions and new connections with God, others, and our own souls. As we offer our regrets and mistakes to God we allow God to heal us. As we are healed, we are freed to offer mercy and forgiveness to others. Let us prepare for Holy Communion with a private, prayerful confession. Let us also rest for a while in God’s eternal forgiveness. (silence) Amen.
Scripture Readings: Romans 13:8-10 and John 13:34-35
(from St Paul’s letter to the church in Rome written 58 CE)
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
(from St John’s Gospel written in the 80’s or 90’s CE)
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.
Reflection Upon “Big Love Table”
(This content is created for private reflection. If your pastor has prepared a written or recorded message you may use it instead.)
It wasn’t that long ago that in most churches the Communion Table was a High Altar – a solid structure on the highest platform in a church’s sanctuary usually made of special material built against the front wall of the chancel. During Holy Communion the minister or priest would turn their backs to the people to offer God items for blessing. Once the words and sacred rites were performed over the cup and loaf the officiant would turn around and offer the consecrated meal to us, the people. That was when The Table was The Altar which we watched.
In the 1960’s most Roman Catholics and Mainline Protestants began making major worship reforms. In many sanctuaries, High Altars remained in place while an additional, portable table, was brought in. This new table was used for Holy Communion. It was placed on the same level as the people and located so that the officiant could face the congregation. Some congregations removed their High Altars or pulled them out from the wall that they might be used like a table. As the sanctuary furniture changed so did the experience of Holy Communion. The Altar became The Table were everyone was an active participant.
Sixty years ago, inspired by global social changes – colonies casting off foreign imperial rulers, challenging social codes regarding race and gender – as the world changed so did God’s Table. It evolved into a “Welcome Table” more like the one envisioned by freed African American slaves – a place of welcome and inclusion for those who had been excluded or treated as second-class.
Sixty years later in 2020, The Table is still changing. Instead of going to a building to be with The Table, we are currently remaining in our own homes sitting at many tables. We each provide our own communion elements. Each person takes on the priestly tasks of blessing the elements. Now, there are many Tables, many pieces of Bread, many Cups, Many officiants. Yet, we are united one to another by a singular virtual Big Love Table. A mystical place where each one is equal and we all face each other.
Like the social revolutions of the 1960’s, we are living amid massive, public, and passionate demonstrations that sometimes become violent. Power and values clash daily. We exist amid serious political polarizations. So many “US verses THEM” tensions as there were in Jesus’s day.
Jesus Christ, in thought, word, and deed, brought people together – all kinds of people. Jesus knew that all human beings are eager to be fed immortal hope. All human beings are soul-hungry for divine forgiveness. We come equally to God’s Big Love Table needing an outpouring of divine kindness, compassion, mercy, and grace. We always have. We always will.
Spiritually, Holy Communion was always a virtual event transcending time and place. Now, as we know we are physically separated yet spiritually connected, it might be easier for us to assemble at God’s Big Love Table entering eternity, dwelling in the Big Love which gave us life, calls us through life, and will usher us into Life Eternal. Amen.
“We Shall Overcome”African-American spiritual, MARTIN (#630 Chalice), video: performed by Henry Lee, original jazz improvisation, 8/2020. YouTube: https://youtu.be/I1i84ITIavo (used with permission)
Invitation to Holy Communion
All are welcome here. Though we may be alone in our private homes, we can share this meal with a wider spiritual community. Speak the names of those who are not physically present, but with whom you wish to be gathered in the Holy Spirit: (say names out loud)
Consecration of Elements
Place your hands on the cup and the bread or food you have prepared. Let us pray:
Holy God, Your Big Love moves through the gifts of this earth, the skills of farmers and bakers, the kindnesses of soul friends. May Your Big Love move through us as we share these items at Your Big Love Table. Amen.
“Let Us Break Bread Together” African-American spiritual, LET US BREAK BREAD (#424 Chalice, #234 HOL), video: performed by Joan Baez 6/2020. YouTube: https://youtu.be/z7JUSSPQg7Y (used without permission)
Sharing the Elements
Jesus lifted up and loaf and said: “Take, eat. This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Because we are God’s Beloved, we can love each other. May we receive God’s sustaining Big Love with this Bread. (eat bread)
After super, Jesus lifted up the cup, saying: “Drink this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Because we are God’s Beloved, we can love each other. May we receive God’s merciful Big Love with this Cup. (drink from cup)
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Dear God, again, through the wonder of Your never-ending Love we are redeemed and repaired. You reconnect what is broken and give what we did not even know to ask for. Thank You, most Holy and Generous God! Amen.
Prayers of Petition
Though distant, when we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, we are connected one to another in the Holy Spirit. We never pray alone. What prayers does your soul ask to be lifted up – joys and concerns? Speak them. You may wish to use your body as movement or sound, dance, tears, or silence. If your community shares prayer requests please include them at this time.
The Lord’s Prayer
Imagine a place where you feel close to God, maybe a sanctuary where you’ve worshipped. Welcome the memory of your Beloved Community filling your soul with companionship as we pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
We Give Thanks
This week we are reminded of the fundamental call to love each other. Today, offer thanks for a fellowship of faith where you encounter God’s Big Love Table. Ask God to protect and tend this Beloved Community and all your relationships – divine and mortal. (also see donation footnote)
We Continue in Hope
Song of Hope
“We Shall Overcome”African-American spiritual, arrangement: Paul S Morton, video: performed by 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders of Baldwin Hills Elementary, 3/2018. YouTube: https://youtu.be/5vevW8pv9CQ (used without permission)
Beloved Child of God – You are loved. As you are loved, may you so love. May God build us into a universe of Loving Siblings. Amen.
(the service is concluded)
Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source. (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Chalice: Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995
TNCH: Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995
HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.
YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results
Worship Credit: © 2020, Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, Living Liturgies.
Online Publishing Date: September 3, 2020.
Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.
Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However, you may express your gratitude financially by making a donation to a person or group which helps us love each other. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!
Living Liturgies online: www.inthebiglove.com; Facebook: “Living Liturgies”; YouTube: “Kathryn Schreiber”