Wednesday, November 04, 2009

New Member Reception Liturgy

This Sunday we baptized several individuals and held a new member reception for three families who have made their way to our community and have jumped in like bandits! It was a joyous occasion and a very long service, though I did not hear one word of complaint about the time. In fact, I heard several times how great a service it was - and not only because of the baptisms.
Our baptismal liturgy is fairly boilerplate UCC Book of Worship stuff. The only real adaptation I make is that I baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God who is Mother of us all." This is something that I understand began at Riverside Church in NYC and which I've heard used in several contexts. I believe the church should honor Jesus' commandment in Matthew 28 regarding our baptismal language, but I also believe that we should honor expansive images for God. This is a very neat, clear and placid way to do so.
But I am especially proud of our revamped liturgy for welcoming new members, or at least the questions we ask. The ones in the UCC BOW really do not speak to our experience of church, so I'm incredibly grateful to my friend Rob L., who came up with the questions and which I have only slightly tweaked. Enjoy - and if it works for your context, feel free to use!
RECEPTION OF NEW MEMBERS
November 1, 2009 ~ All Saints Day

INVITATION
We invite to come forward those who wish to affirm their baptism by uniting with us in this household of faith.
Friends in Christ, we are all received into the church through the sacrament of baptism. These people have found nurture and support in the midst of the family of Christ. Through prayer and study they have been led by the Holy Spirit to affirm their baptism and to claim in our presence their covenantal relationship with Christ and the members of the church. They are here for service to Jesus Christ, using the gifts which the Holy Spirit bestows.

OPENING SENTENCES
You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are equally citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus along being the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy Temple in Christ. In him you also are built into that structure to be a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

QUESTIONS OF THE CANDIDATES
Do you profess Jesus as the center of your faith?
I do.
Will you be faithful to this community?
We promise our faithfulness to this new community.
Will you challenge this community to be the best version of itself and to live up to the things we say we believe?
We will lovingly challenge this community to be the best version of itself and to live up to the things you say you believe.
Will you allow yourself to be changed, shaped and transformed by this community, living into your called identity as a beloved child of God?
We will allow ourselves to be changed, shaped and transformed by this community as we live into our called identity as a beloved child of God.
By your baptism you were made one with us in the Body of Christ, the church. Today we rejoice in the pilgrimage of faith which has brought you to this time and place. We give thanks for every community of faith that has been your spiritual home, and we celebrate your presence in this household of faith.

QUESTIONS OF THE CONGREGATION
Do you profess Jesus as the center of your faith?
We do.
Will you be faithful to these new people as they join our congregation?
We promise our faithful companionship to these new members.
Will you challenge these new members to be the best versions of themselves, and to help them live up to the things they say they believe?
We will lovingly challenge these new members to be the best versions of themselves, and to help them live up to the things they say they believe.
Will you allow yourself to be changed, shaped and transformed by these new members, living into our called identity as a beloved community of God?
We will allow ourselves to be changed, shaped and transformed by these new members, living into our called identity as a beloved community of God.

PRAYER
O God, we praise you for calling us to faith and for gathering us into the church, the body of Christ. We thank you for your people gathered in this local church and rejoice that you have increased our community of faith. Together may we live in the Spirit, build one another up in love, sharing in the life and worship of the church, and serving the world for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

WELCOME AND RECEPTION (all who are able please stand)
Leader: Beloved, let us greet our brothers and sisters in this family of faith as we offer the hand of Christian love and welcome them into the company of this local congregation.
People: Thanks be to God!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am looking for a new liturgy for the installation of new members into my congregation.

I found yours to be very good..and I hope you won't mind that I adapted parts of it to my service.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Nice! Thanks for sharing..

Blessing Pastor Chris