A Manifesto for Corporate Worship

A couple of weeks ago we had a night at ‘home’ where we reviewed the vision behind what we are about. one of the things i presented was a ‘Manifesto for Corporate Worship’. Now before you all get on your high horse I know that worship is about the whole of our lives etc. but this is a set of values that relate specifically to our times of gathering together, as a community of faith, to express corporately our worship of our God. below are the 11 points that i think inform what we are doing in this aspect of our life together. some of these things are already coming through strongly and some are more aspirational at this point. anyway, see what you think.

God centred : Our worship is not primarily for us. It is for God. We will not indulge ourselves in worship but seek to honour and reverence God before everything else.

Passionate : We want to not be ashamed of an enthusiastic response to God in worship. We will not judge each other for displaying an exuberance before God in worship. We will not judge each other for NOT displaying an (outward) exuberance before God in worship. We aspire to not care what others think of us but to be abandoned to God. We want our worship to be intimate but acknowledge that it is sometimes hard to be intimate with God in front of others. We recognise that passion can be expressed in many different ways.

Honest : We are not into putting on a show in public that does not really reflect who we are or where we are at. We will attempt to find the balance between being honest about our situation as we come before God in worship on the one hand, and CHOOSING to worship God despite our circumstances on the other hand.

Experiential : we do not seek to be ‘seeker sensitive’ but to allow our worship to offer the opportunity to experience the presence of God

Creative : We want our worship to be creative because this is a reflection of our being made in the image of the creator God. We want to distance ourselves from worship that is routine, formulaic, and unimaginative whilst at the same time seeking to avoid doing new things for the sake of doing new things. We aspire to be a community that welcomes artists of all kinds just for who they are and also as those who can help us to honour and delight God by the creation of beautiful, imaginative acts of corporate worship.

Rhythmic : Whilst honouring and highly valuing creativity and originality in our worship we acknowledge the value in a sense of rhythm in our worship which will incorporate the various liturgical seasons of the church year, and a daily rhythm of prayer.

Holistic: we want to bring our whole beings before God in worship so we want to see worship happening that connects us on a mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional level to God. We want to see all of our senses engaged in the worship of God.

Home grown: (linked to creativity) we want the worship of this community to arise first and foremost from this community. That means that we will not import or buy in pre-packaged worship from elsewhere but look to develop our own worship materials because we want our worship to be an offering to God that represents who we are. At the same time we want to acknowledge that we are also part of a wider church both historically and contemporarily, so we will express this by our use of historic material (e.g. creeds) and material from other parts of the church because we do not exist in isolation from the rest of God’s people.

Communal : we seek to recognise that God is far more interested in a people than in a bunch of individuals engaging in a privatised spirituality. Therefore we aspire to worship God in community. That will mean joining together in liturgy, song, meditation, study of scripture etc.and collaborating to create worship material. It will also mean being sensitive to each others needs in the communal setting.

Spacious : In our corporate acts of worship we want to create space for people to encounter God in many and various ways. We recognise that people need a variety of different kinds of space in order to connect with God : physical space, musical space etc. the worship we create will recognise the importance of space.

Open : we want our acts of corporate worship to be accessible to those who are not-yet Christian and for our worship gatherings to be spaces where people can encounter God.

Matt Rees is one of the leaders of a young missional faith community in the city of Oxford, UK, called ‘home’