The Sunday Sample 3rd September 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Date:  Sunday 3rd September 2017

Location: Bracknell

Special Occasion: none

The service in Bracknell this Sunday was a delight. Most summer wanderers had returned. It was good to see familiar faces again. Many of which had been significantly tanned. 

Speakers

Tim Dannatt preached. I shared the communion talk. Elliot and Emily talked about HOPE worldwide and the Patel family welcomed us. A few notes on what I observed.
Elliot and Emily teased us about a presentation they will be doing about the Zambia HOPE Youth Corp at the beginning of October. They used the technique of repeatedly saying they were going to tell us things then, but not now. This created strong engagement with the congregation through the humour of the repetition. It also meant that there was no way we were going to forget what they were promoting!
I liked the way that Harry and Saroj involved their children by having them read Scripture. We could tell that neither of the children felt pressurised, although, of course, they looked a bit embarrassed. And I especially liked the fact that Saroj clearly had thought carefully about what she was going to pray about and how she was going to pray. In the devotional before we began the service, she asked if there were any prayer needs. Then when she actually prayed, she did so with a good blend of formal and extemporary tone.
  
Videos of Tim’s sermon is here.

Audio available at the Thames Valley churches of Christ iTunes podcast.

Music Worship

I mentioned last week that we were going to try something different. Here’s how it went. We did a three song opening set all in the key of G. Beginning with the first two verses of “Amazing Grace”, then moving straight into “Anchor for the soul”, straight into “How great is our God”, and finishing with the final verse of “Amazing grace”. The congregation loved it!  I can’t claim that I originated the idea – heard it somewhere else. Something about the flow helped the congregation get into the spirit of why we were praising God, and connecting with the God whom we were praising.

Other Thoughts

Here’s a pre-service devotional idea I tried this Sunday. Before starting the devotional I handed a small picture to every person involved in the service. It was a photograph I had taken of a cyclist silhouetted against bright sunlight. I used it to symbolise what God has done for us in bringing us out of darkness into light, 1 Peter 2.9. Then I remarked that we are people praising the one and leading the worship in praise of the one who brought us out of darkness into his wonderful night.

Nothing I said was remarkable, but having a photograph in the hand helped people to connect more strongly with the point. Several of those present mentioned how helpful this was. We must never underestimate the value of physical props helping us to communicate our message.

Last week I said I would:

  1. Experiment with an opening set three-song medley sandwich in Bracknell. Done
  2. Lead a devotional for all involved in the service in Bracknell. Done

The focus for next Sunday: I’m on holiday!

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

 

The Sunday Sample, 23 July 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

Date: Sunday 23rd July

Location: Watford & Lower Earley

Special Occasion: Outdoor ‘Bandstand’ Service in Watford’s Cassiobury Park

Speakers

II spoke in Watford. Johnson spoke in Lower Earley. I really enjoyed listening to him speak, and his wife Cicily sharing. It was good to hear about how God has moved in India.

I loved doing the outdoor service in Watford. The preteens got involved in my sermon in a similar way to the outdoor service at Wellington country park. It helped their attention and provided a compelling illustration for the adults present. An improvement on my lesson in Wellington was the addition of concluding illustration about a missing lottery ticket. I was struck by how much a powerful illustration at the end of the lesson made a difference to people’s reception of the point. Might be good to do something similar more often.

Video of Johnson’s lesson is here. Audio available at the Thames Valley churches of Christ iTunes podcast. My audio is findable on the Watford church podcast.

Note to self: put effort into illustrations. Don’t view them as a bonus, but essential.

Music Worship

The song services went well in both locations. In particular, the variety of songs old and new, more and less familiar, traditional and more modern in Lower Earley helped bring a freshness to the singing. One song we sang, which I wrote, needed more work. It was not helped by the fact that we do not mike up the women. Their part was important because it was only a two-part song. Next time we need microphones for the women.

I have discovered a hidden guitarist in Lower Earley – François. Good news! I shall send him chords for a song this week, and let’s see if he can take part next Sunday.

Note to self: consider whether the men’s and women’s parts need to be heard by the congregation

Other Thoughts

The projector at Lower Earley is not powerful enough. We need to buy a new one. I shall look into that this week. The text is fine on screen, but images are terrible. So much of communication is about images now. It is worth the investment to make sure the pictures are clear.

Last week I said:

  1. Agree in advance who is leading which song at Lower Earley – done, but not perfectly executed!
  2. Use the Psalm 100 devotional for all participating in the service in Watford this week – did not happen.

The focus for next Sunday:

  1. Involve Francois in the musical accompaniment
  2. Use the Psalm 100 devotional for all participating in the service in Watford this week – carried over

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you? Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

 

The Sunday Sample – 2 July 2017, “Sweltering at Wellington”

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Date: Sunday 2nd July

Location: Wellington Country Park

Special Occasion: outdoor service for the Thames Valley Church

After last week’s adventure in Dunstable for the Watford church, it was the turn of the Thames Valley church to go outdoors this week. We took everybody to Wellington country park for our annual outdoor service and barbeque.  Personally, I was relieved to see the sunshine. The last two years it’s rained on me!

Speakers

The speakers all injected the energy required to communicate in an open space. I was especially pleased to see the zeal and joy exhibited by the youngest speakers, Ben & Emily. Not to mention the excellent reading of scripture by our teen, Bryana. The younger members continue to give me cause to be confident of the future. CJ used a prop for his communion – very helpful. My own sermon was well received (feedback welcome, please). Positive comments included its brevity, applicability to visitors, clarity of the single point, the inclusion of children, and interactivity. My own reflection is that I hit all the main things I wanted to achieve, but at times could have spoken slower for greater clarity. Video is up here.

Note to self: I remembered to instruct all speakers on the need for energy and extra clarity – it made a difference. Thus must to remember to give guidance when circumstances vary from the norm.

 

Music Worship

The singing was good – perhaps the best of the last 3 years. The chairs were nearer the musicians, and this helped us feel we were worshipping together. All the songs worked well bar one – “Indescribable“. A super song, but a trickier tune than some, and not upbeat enough for the pre-sermon slot. An adjustment we can easily make for next time.

Note to self: next year keep the chairs close

 

Other Thoughts

Last week I said:

  1. I will emphasise to all speakers the significance of being ready to move up front to do their part – done. Made a significant difference to the flow.
  2. I will not be at the Watford service this week, but I will ask the speakers and song leader (Danny) if there is any way I can support them in my absence – done

Focus for next Sunday:

  1. Agree in advance who is leading which song at Lower Earley
  2. Set myself the goal of a sub-25 minute sermon in Watford

 

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you? Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

The Sunday Sample, June 18 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

Dr Ben Dannatt sharing about the Lord’s Supper

Date: Sunday 18th June

Location: Watford and Bracknell

Special occasion: Fathers’ Day

“There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”” (Deuteronomy 1:31 NIV11)

It was a special joy celebrating fathers’ day with all the dads in the Watford and Thames Valley churches. We’re lucky if we have a good relationship with our earthly fathers, for not all do, but we are especially fortunate to have a loving heavenly father who gives us the perfect parenting no human father can provide.

Note to self: we could have made more of this theme in the Watford service. The handing out of chocolate byt the chidlren to their fathers in Bracknell delighted both dads and their kids!

Speakers

Mike Desouza was our visiting speaker in Bracknell. It’s always good to see and hear from an old friend. He did not disappoint. One of Mike’s signature speaking strengths is his use of illustrations and media. Video clips and powerful images gave his message extra punch.

Note to self: add video into my lessons more often

Music Worship

The heat in both locations meant the physical enthusiasm was a little lacking – especially in Watford where we had an oven of a hall in which to meet! The weather was stiffling.

Note to self: bring fans when it’s hot. Open all windows etc as soon as arriving at the venue.

Other Thoughts

Last week

  1. Agree who is leading which song in advance – done
  2. Use scripture to help us focus – not applied

Focus for next Sunday

  1. Continue to focus on agreeing who is leading which song in advance (Lower Earley)
  2. Prioritise ventilation

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. Share ideas with us so we can grow and please God.

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

The Sunday Sample: 4 June 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

Date: Sunday 4th June

Location: Bracknell

Special occasion: themed service – “Elected”

Although the picture on the left is from the morning service in Watford (the kids were magnificent – singing and performing the actions to the song, “Great big God” – “thank you”, Danny), I’m going to focus this review on the Bracknell event because it was a special themed service.

The title was “Elected” as a pun on the forthcoming general election and the scriptures about our spiritual election.

Outline

The service outline is below:

Item Details Who Other
Song Thank you Lord – Voices & Guitar Tidu/Roger Band
Song I Will Rise – Band Tidu Band
Song Hallelujah (Lord we sing ….) – Band Tidu/Roger Band
Welcome & Prayer Watkins
Slideshow Children go to classes
Song Transcend – Voices & Guitar Alex Band
HOPE talk It’s not about governments, but us here in this room Tony
Song Take my Life – Voices & Guitar. While HOPE collection taken up Tidu Voices & Guitar
Introduction Malcolm Explain group work
Group work Together with the person sitting next to you, discuss a time you felt chosen and how it felt (not about God). 2’s or 3’s
Sharing Get a few responses.  Introduce testimonies. Malcolm
Testimony 1 Shevvy
Sharing What did we notice about Shevvy’s testimony? Malcolm
Testimony 2 CJ
Sharing What did we notice about CJ’s testimony?
Communion Describe how God chose/elected us because of Jesus. Take the bread to choose Jesus. Malcolm Holding loaf. Break at end & distribute.
Song Amazing Grace – Voices. Bread and wine passed Obi Voices
Song Here Am I Send Me (Brian Craig version) – Band Tidu Band

Handout

We gave a handout to everyone who attended so they could reflect on what they were hearing, and take something away for further quiet time and discussion material. You can see a copy here: Election Service handout.

Reflections

Several people remarked on the helpfulness of having a theme for the entire service. It helped them to concentrate, focus and dial down deep into the topic. The testimonies were terrific. Very different characters and circumstances clearly illustrating that God chooses all kinds of people. The speakers remembered to include points for the teenagers in the room, which I would hope will have made the messages more relevant for them.

Have you run a specially ‘themed’ service recently? If so, what worked, and what did not? Do you have any recommendations for events such as these?

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a message here, or send me an email: mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm

The Sunday Sample: 14th May 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

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Location: Helsinki

Special occasion: worship with the Helsinki church of Christ. Yes, you read that right – I was in Helsinki for church yesterday. The occasion was a retreat for the staff of the UK, Irish, Scandinavian and Nordic churches of our family of congregations. We met for two days of meetings and then had our corporate worship together with the very hospitable members of the Helsinki church

Speakers

Mohan preached and Forrest spoke on the topic of communion. Notable from communion was the sharing of Forrest’s wife, Mandy. She helped draw us into the emotional aspects of some of their challenges as a family over the past few years. The connection she made between the spiritual lessons such suffering had taught them helped us to connect with the purpose of the cross.

Mohan spoke with clarity and passion. His conclusion was clever. He wrapped up the lesson by giving us a summary, but using different wording from the actual titles of his points as made earlier in the lesson. This had the double effect of reminding us of the main points, but creating a deeper absorption due to the use of alternative words.

Today’s lesson: remind communion speakers to not neglect the emotional aspects of the sufferings of Christ as well as the physical. Plan my next conclusion better.

Music

The singing was all a cappella. Bruce, Toks, Harri and I led the songs. Bruce & Harri exuded joy. Toks projected passion. It was hard not to be transported into the meaning of the songs with such expressive leadership. The men leading the songs had demeanours and countenances which communicated the heart of the lyrics.

Today’s lessons: remind myself and worship leaders to allow their faces to communicate the meaning of that about which we are singing.

Connection

The connection was strong, even though some of the people could not speak English! Part of this was down to the experience and confidence of the speakers and worship leaders. Confidence in the one leading worship has a calming effect on those participating such that they can relax and enter into the worship more fully.

Today’s lesson: train public speakers and singers in confidence as much as technique.

Other Matters

  • The enthusiasm of the group was greatly enhanced by the packed nature of the room. There were barely enough seats for everyone.

Today’s lesson: encourage people to sit close together.

Last week I said we would prioritise:

  1. Put a children’s song in the first part of the service – N/A in Helsinki
  2. Teach a cappella harmony songs to the singers – N/A in Helsinki

This week I’ll prioritise:

  1. Put a children’s song in the first part of the service
  2. Teach an a cappella harmony song to the singers

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a message here, or send me an email: mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm

The Sunday Sample: 30th April 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

Date: Sunday 30th April

Locations: Lower Earley and Watford

Special occasion: none

Speakers

Barry Edwards spoke eloquently in Watford and I preached in Lower Early. We tried a mixed teaching/small group approach in Lower Earley and three people told me they enjoyed the interactive style. I know this suits some people, but not others, so I’ll not do it every week, but it was good to hear that it worked for some. Barry gave us some good insights from Luke 19 – I think it’s so important to have a variety of speakers. We all have different life experiences and perspectives, which, when brought to the Biblical text, enrich us all. The communion in Lower Earley by Richard Bailey contained a very striking mental image. It reminded me that painting a clear and compelling picture using words is sometimes just as effective as using an image or prop.

Today’s lesson: continue to have a variety of speakers. Consider using a mental image in my next lesson.

Music

The Watford service was relaxed and started just about on time. The Lower Early service started late, but there was not a lot we could have done about it. We prayed together before starting in both places. The singing in Lower Earley was helped by Rudie’s selection of songs which were varied in tempo and style. I especially liked his slower take on “Come, now is the time to worship” which led to a more reflective sense of worship. Some of the songs did not end well.

Today’s lessons: consider experimenting with different tempos for songs – faster and slower. Work on the end of songs in the practice session.

Connection

The connection in both places was good today, although Watford lacked a little energy. Perhaps some absentees and latecomers did not help.

Today’s lesson: consider how to inspire people to arrive on time.

Other Matters

  • The setting up in Lower Earley, for the most part, went well. We’re getting better at sticking to our tasks. The laminated set up sheet helped.

Today’s lesson: continue to work at making the set up slick so we can spend more time on the songs.

Last week I said we would prioritise:

  1. Involving children – happened in the welcome in Watford. Needs continued focus.
  2. Think through chorus repeats and write them down – again. Need to establish the habit. – needs more work
  3. Start on time – Watford, but not Lower Earley

This week I’ll prioritise:

  1. Ending songs well
  2. Children’s involvement
  3. Do one song at an unexpected tempo

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a message here, or send me an email: mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm

The Sunday Sample: 23rd April 2017

Reflections on corporate worship

Date: Sunday
23rd April

Locations: Lower Earley and Watford

Special occasion: “Allotment” Sunday in Watford

Speakers

Mikko gave us a very encouraging lesson in Lower Early, while the Watford situation was a little different from usual. Joe shared some thoughts about God’s heart as revealed in nature. The outdoor service on Joe’s allotment was a very different scenario from usual – and felt very first-century! Scriptures like the parable of the sower sound very different when explained outdoors.

Today’s lesson: continue to vary locations so as to create different contexts for scriptures to be heard.

Music

The Watford service was very informal. Charl’s acoustic guitar was just the right accompaniment. The Lower Early service started on time, and we prayed together before starting. The atmosphere in Lower Earley was positive and led to some enthusiastic singing – helped by involving the children and adults with hand movements to the song, “Open the Eyes of my Heart”. A new song did not connect so well.

Today’s lessons: use hand movements more often with children and songs while they are in the service. Teach a new song before singing it.

Connection

The outdoor service in Watford made connecting harder, but song sheets, a loaf of bread for the communion and practical things to do on the allotment more than made up for that. The connection in Lower Early was helped by the Gouws family all welcoming us at the start, and by involving the children in the singing.

Today’s lesson: continue to involve children in the service

Other Matters

  • Watford: the physical work on the allotment drew us closer to some of the teachings of Jesus since many of his parables and illustrations were drawn from an agrarian lifestyle.

Today’s lesson: continue to be creative with physical tools, locations and activities

Last week I said we would prioritise:

  1. Think through chorus repeats and write them down – again. Need to establish the habit – got it right, but did not write it down. The habit is not secure, yet.
  2. Add a hymn to the service in Lower Earley – done
  3. Start on time – done in Lower Early, not in Watford – but that did not matter given the informal setting

This week I’ll prioritise:

  1. Involving children
  2. Think through chorus repeats and write them down – again. Need to establish the habit.
  3. Start on time

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a message here, or send me an email: mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm

The Sunday Sample

Reflections on corporate worship, 16th April 2017

Date: Sunday 16th April

Locations: Bracknell and Watford

Special occasion: Easter Sunday

Speakers

Myself and Tony Heath spoke in Watford and Bracknell respectively. A change from the normal service pattern happened in both locations. In Watford we had a story instead of the sermon – with the children holding up pictures they had coloured as part of the reading. In Bracknell the communion followed the sermon and Peri read the lyrics of a song instead of the congregation singing as bread and wine went around. Children were very visible in both locations. The Wakefield family all spoke, read or prayed in Bracknell – very encouraging for us all to see.

Today’s lesson: vary communion presentation more.

Music

Both services started close to on time. We prayed together in both locations before starting. We sat in a circle and used song sheets in Watford instead of PPt. Not sure if this made much difference. The singing in Bracknell went very well. It was noticeable that some older hymns went downs well with a segment of the congregation, who sang more lustily than at other times.

Today’s lessons: include some hymns more often in Bracknell. 

Connection

As noted above, hymns made a difference for some. The physical holding of pictures helped the children connect with the story (see below).

Today’s lessons: consider the preferences of different parts of the congregation more carefully when planning a service.

Other Matters

  • Watford: we’ve done story sermons with the children in the past, but this one might have been the best so far, and I think it was because the children had pictures in their hands and felt like part of the story. The tactile nature of the pictures they’d coloured in gave them skin in the game.

Last week I said we would prioritise:

  1. Think through chorus repeats and write them down – went better
  2. Fewer chairs – forgot
  3. Start on time – done

This week I’ll prioritise:

  1. Think through chorus repeats and write them down – again. Need to establish the habit.
  2. Add a hymn to the service in Lower Earley
  3. Start on time

Let me know your ideas. You can leave a message here, or send me an email: mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm