An act of service to One who we (worshipers) recognize as being infinitely superior to them and One who is entirely worthy of that worship. Worship is a way of being in love, of glorifying and enjoying the One of whom we can say, “We love, because He first loved us” (1John 4:19)
Wesley’s liturgy and worship method, the Sunday service of Methodists, was an adaptation, and above all, the abridgement of the Anglican Prayer Book. In all the Methodist tradition (black & white), the identity of the rite has been preserved as much as possible, but great variation have also taken place.
- B. THE PLACE OF LITURGY IN WORSHIP
The word liturgy came from the Greek words: “Iaos” (which means people) and “ergon” (which means work). Liturgy then could be described as the work of the people (worshippers) i.e. dialogic encounter between God and His people.
Methodist liturgy, for many “new” church members, conjures up images of rigidly structured routine, old-fashioned and sometimes boring forms of worship. Today’s lesson tries to correct those misconceptions and teach our new church members the importance of liturgy, its structure and congregational involvement.
- C. THE TYPICAL METHODIST SUNDAY WORSHIP CAN BE DIVIDED INTO FOUR MOVEMENTS
- The preparation (which includes call to worship, two opening hymns and Confession and Pardon)
- The proclamation of the word (which includes our song of praise – SIYAKUDUMISA, scriptures – NEW & OLD TESTAMENT, fellowship prayers and affirmation of faith – NDIYAKHOLWA)
- Ministry of the word (sermon & response) – INSTHUMAYELO
- Sending forth (with blessing) and closure – UFEFE
- D. WHY THE WORSHIP RECEIVES SPECIAL ATTENTION IN THE METHODIST CHURCH
- Worship expresses the unity of those gathered and is an obligatory component of their quest for growing unity
- Worship is the only corporate activity in which we profess verbally or otherwise, what we claim to believe
- It is a call to faith
- Methodist worship is an arena in which more and more cultures find a voice, and this extends our apprehension of the Gospel
- Worship manifests the God-relatedness of secular world within which the laity (non-clergy), work out their vocation.
- Our style of worship acknowledges the mission of the church
- In our worship, we live our life, which is hidden with Christ in God
Christians, in obedience to Jesus Christ’s invitation (to “follow Him’) particularly on Sundays, gather with others who have heard the same call in order to listen to Jesus, speak to Him and celebrate His work in the world.
Our worship experience begins by acknowledging God’s graciousness and love towards us in calling us together e.g. Psalm is read (“Ndavuya bakuthi kum masiye endlini ka Yehova” –Psalm 122:1), followed by a hymn composed for this special day – e.g. Hymn 263 – 272 from the Xhosa/Zulu Hymn book.
Confession and Pardon (umbedesho wemini yeCawa/Inkonzo yosuku lweSonto) – relevant Biblical abstracts and prayers are read to the congregation and call for repentance (“Okhohlakeleyo akuguquka ekukhohlakaleni akwenzileyo”) made by the worship leader very early in worship.
The proclamation of the word:
During this period, one to three scripture readings from the Old Testament, The Epistle, and Gospel are read to the congregation.
- Praise is best done by singing a hymn, anthem or poem. When we sing the Methodist Anthem: “Siyakudumisa Thixo siyakuvuma ukuba ungu Yehova”, we fulfil our main purpose in Christian life and our chief end.
The church was born with the proclamation to all nations of the mighty works of God (Acts 2:11). When the Book of Revelation describe the many groups or angel that sing “Alleluia”, Holy and other hymns to God, the author is using his own experience/imagination as a model for the practise of heaven.
This singing must be filled with the Holy Spirit and be an expression of a conscious faith. We also express the abundance rather than the need, our actions and attitude must agree with the psalmist, “my cup runneth over” (Psalm 23), as well.
Praise is the spontaneous, fresh and often unexpected applause of the “church” like the statement, “Ah! Nkosi yeSabatha ndisekho emhlabeni…” (Hymn 269, verse 5) which is a response to something really wonderful. As you stand passionately sing, there is something within you that tells you this is what Sunday in the Methodist is about, the rhythm that John Wesley ignited more than 300 years ago.
- 2. Music is the Methodist way of worship:
ü Communicates the Gospel better
ü Unites the congregation/worshipping community
ü Opens our heart to the Devine
ü It cultivates nurtures and habitualize our emotions of gratitude, courtesy and selflessness.
- Fellowship prayers come from Paul’s teaching of the early church to “always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances” (1Th 5:15 – 18). This is worship flowing back to our everyday lives or real experiences.
- The affirmation of faith (Apostle’s Doctrine/Creed) is every member’s response to the word read (in scripture) and heard (in sermon). “I believe” (Ndiyakholwa…) has a special meaning of: “I commit myself to this” or I wholly believe” in the tradition of the church. The Creed is the Church’s earnest and continual attempt to witness to the facts of our faith. It is a hymn in the MethodistChurch, a joyous shout because with others, you are advised at the least to say “I (wish I could) believe” till you truly understand the beliefs in the Creed (see next lesson).
- 5. Ministry of the word: Our singing, our confession and pardon, our reading scriptures prepare and lead us to the sermon. The scripture read interpreted/applied to our lives becomes the climax of our worship in the traditional churches. A sermon is experienced by some people as a basically passive endeavour i.e. one person speak and the others sit quietly and listen. This thinking is wrong in the Methodist Church. It does take more than one to preach the Gospel. Like any other act of worship, the sermon is as also an activity, an active engagement of your powers of praise and adoration of God. Methodism allows the worshippers to still express themselves in response, the way the “word” inspire or touch them. The preacher expects to be lifted up by the congregation. If you had always regarded preaching as authoritarian, dull, one-way communication which can’t compete with the flashiness of your favourite celebrities on television, think again.
- 6. Conclusion: Methodist worship has a natural flow as outlined above, an enhancement of emotion that leaves the worshipper at the end of the service feeling he or she has been spiritually fed and also challenged.