Liturgy: The Work-Out of the People

by Stacy Smith
Kat Franchino

The word liturgy, or the public worship of a faith community, is derived from the Greek meaning “the work of the people.” Congregations perform many actions during the liturgy including sitting, standing, kneeling, praying, singing, making an offering, or sharing a blessing. While some traditions include a lot of physical activity during a worship service, many congregations use a more sedentary form of worship that includes a whole lot (too much!) of sitting in pews.

But it does not have to be this way! The liturgy below offers a suggested outline for a worship service that serves as the work-out of the people. While certain elements may not fit your tradition or worship space, think creatively about how you can safely incorporate more movement into your liturgy. By creating a worship service that also provides a full workout, we celebrate exercise and movement as not just a part of our church life, but something that is rightfully embedded in the act of worshipping God.

Call to Worship (Warm up)
Standing in place, the congregation slowly moves their arms in the direction indicated in the prayer.

Thanks be to God for this day:
For all that is above us, below us, behind us, before us,
Around us, within us, beyond us. Thanks be to God for this day.

Opening Song (Warm up) “Guide My Feet”
Congregation steps together to the beat of the song.
            “Guide My Feet”

Prayer of Confession (Stretch)
During the prayer intentions, the congregation stretches their arms and bodies to the left (after “Lord, have mercy”) and the right (after “Christ, have mercy”).

Merciful God, we confess that we have been called into vigorous action in your name, yet we have stood to the side and have been complacent. We have been voiceless in the face of injustice and motionless when we face inequality. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

We are people of movement, yet we have preferred stagnation and idleness. We are people of commitment, yet we have lived in fear. We are people of the world, members of your beautiful creation, yet we have remained isolated and removed from the workings of your world. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

God of giving, forgive us in our times of neglect, forgive the ways in which we wound ourselves, each other and the life of the world. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Assurance of Pardon (Stretch)

Brothers and sisters, our confession stretches us to put into words the ways we have injured ourselves and the world. But the words of pardon also stretch us into new ways of being forgiven. Know that you are a forgiven people of God and be at peace. Look to the person beside you and say, “You are forgiven.”

Song of Praise (Cardio) “Hallelujah, Praise Ye the Lord!”
This song is often sung by children in two groups, the “Hallelujah” group and the “Praise ye the Lord!” group. They jump and lift their arms when their part is sung. To move into the cardio portion of worship, this song might be sung three times, with the speed increasing.

Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah! Praise ye the Lord!

Scripture Reading (Cardio)
During the scripture, the congregation jogs in place.

Suggested text: Mark 8:22–25

Sermon (Cardio)
The worship leader offers a very brief reflection and poses a question to the congregation. Then each member of the congregation finds a partner and walks with them around the worship space to discuss the scripture passage

Blessing of the Water (Cardio)
The congregation gathers in a circle around a table with a pitcher of water and cups to take a water break.

Prayers of the People (Strength)
The congregation finds a space where they can push against an object (i.e., a pew, wall, table). After each intercession, they push with all their strength against that object as a prayer offering.

Closing and Benediction (Cool down)
The congregation inhales and raises their arms as the leader calls out each phrase. Then the congregation repeats the phrase as they bring their arms down.

God of movement, bless our bodies, bless our action, bless your world. Amen.

This service was created for Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and presented in October 2011.

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