Wilson Whitten here, Director of Worship at Hope since May of 2023. What a privilege it’s been to get to lead Hope Church in worship each week and get to know so many caring and talented members of this congregation.
As we (the pastors and staff) continue to prayerfully consider how to best lead God’s people into Spirit-filled and truthful worship each week, we’ve come across a few points of pressure that we think can be addressed by tweaking our order of worship a bit. I want to lay out those changes in advance and give a brief word on the thought and heart behind the changes.
One of our priorities is having our children present for the Lord’s Supper each week. As a sacrament – a sign and seal of God’s covenant of grace with his people – this practice is deeply formative and instructive, and the invitation should be open to all those in God’s family to taste and see that He is good week in and week out.
Another priority is effective preaching of the Word – another hub of formation and instruction vital to our spiritual growth. Sometimes these two priorities can bump up against each other when the kids returning from their classes for communion coincides with (often) the final point and crescendo of the sermon.
To alleviate this pinch point, we are going to move the Prayers of the People and Offering to after the sermon. The kids will still be dismissed at the same time – at the Passing of the Peace – and will return before communion. However, now they will be returning during the offertory or singing of the Doxology.
This will also give us a bit of a time buffer between the sermon and communion. Our hope is that we will be able to come to the table and savor God’s goodness during this time and not feel like we’re rushing through at the last minute to get everyone out of the door on time.
We believe that this flow is not only practically beneficial, but has a biblical pattern that echoes the other elements of our service. The structure is that God calls us and we respond. One passage that comes to mind when considering this order of worship is Nehemiah 8-9. The scribe Ezra reads the law before the assembled exiles of Israel and the people respond with prayers of confession and intercession for all of Israel. In the same way, as we hear of God’s grace and power each week through the teaching of his Word, we call on him to spread that grace and power among our people, city, country, and throughout the world, until the earth is full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. We back those prayers up by giving of our time, talent, and treasure to the furtherance of God’s kingdom.
With these changes, we hope to keep all our normal elements of worship, relieve some distraction, and ease some of our time constraints. We want to steward our time of corporate worship well, and hope that this leads people to continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever.