We Need More Cowbell! And Communion and Baptism, Part 2.


Note: This is the second post in a 2-part post on a UCC clergy gathering on the sacraments. Part 1 on communion is here. 


In September I went to Cleveland, the city that rocks, for a UCC clergy conversation on the sacraments. I was invited by my beloved liturgical co-conspirator, Sue Blain, who I met while I was at Union and worked at The Riverside Church.  Sue had just left Union as the Director of Worship to head-up worship at Riverside and working with Sue was part of my work-study job. One of my tasks–organize Sue’s paper files!

Sue is now the Minister for Worship and Formation for the UCC, working in Cleveland at the UCC’s Church House.

Sue and Ivy Beckwith, Faith Formation Team Leader, gathered about 10 UCC clergy for a 2-day conversation on the sacraments.

We noticed in our conversations in Cleveland that talking about communion came first and foremost. Baptism seemed secondary.

Clarification moment: We do communion more than baptism at Pilgrims so of course it’s on my mind more.

Follow-up clarification: We need more baptism.

Not just the baptism of human beings…the renewal of baptism, water in the font, the touching of the water, singing about the waters of baptism, the story of baptism, telling our own stories of baptism.

This is how we added baptism into 3 of our liturgies at Pilgrims this fall.

These are the communion trays we use for communion on the streets during Capital Pride. We used the trays for our Stewardship Sunday.

These are the communion trays we use for communion on the streets during Capital Pride. We used the trays for our Stewardship Sunday.

All Saints: We pulled our font, which lives right at the entrance of the sanctuary, right up against the communion table.

We gathered around the table to share the bread and cup (next time–cup and bread) and to share the memories of those who had died. What we added this year was marking ourselves with water from the font after the sharing of a name/memory.

As the person marked themselves, we all said, “remember your baptism.” The ethic behind this action is that the baptism of the person died hasn’t ended (contrary to what we say in the funeral liturgy “their baptism has been made complete in death.”

Not quite. That’s a really linear way of seeing baptism and death. Start. Finish. Done.

As we marked ourselves with water, we were saying that we now take that person’s baptism and live with the sacramental waters. We carry that person’s baptism forward. Their baptism is now part of us in a physical, kinetic way with the marking. Friends: There is no beginning or end with baptism.

Stewardship Sunday: Our Stewardship Sunday was the Sunday before Advent. For the past several years, we’ve had an at-table service on this Sunday. We drag a bunch of tables and chairs into the sanctuary, have a simple meal, share in the bread and the cup.

This year we added a renewal of baptism into the service as a way of re-committing ourselves to the life of Pilgrims for another year. We modified our baptismal liturgy including the sharing of hopes and dreams. During baptisms, people are able to share a hope and dream for the human being baptized. After a hope/dream is shared, the sharer pours a bit of water into the font. The human is baptized by those waters of hopes and dreams.

On Stewardship Sunday we asked folks to share their hopes and dreams for Pilgrims for the upcoming year.

As people shared, two people stood around the font and poured the water. Then we took lavender and rosemary, dipped the branches in the font and flung the baptism water over Pilgrims. Remember your baptism!

Advent Prayer Station: We have prayer stations as a part of our prayers of the people for Advent. Each station is based on our Advent candles: groundedness, healing, becoming, and new beginnings.

One of our stations is at the font and uses four big pieces of slate that were back in the trash area of Pilgrims. The font is full of water and folks are invited to dip a paintbrush in the font and paint on the slate, responding to a prompt at the station that asks you to ponder becoming.

As you paint, the water almost instantly starts to evaporate into the air. Your becoming comes and goes, you can paint over it, others can paint on the same piece of slate. The prayers seem to ebb and flow on top of each other with the slate, water, and brush as you paint with the waters of the font.

Lent 2014 at Pilgrims, Part 1

Now that we are nearing the end of Lent, I've got a handle on our Lenten liturgy and know what the hell is happening each week.... This Lent we are focusing on "the body." I wrote out our initial planning stage in this blog post, lifting up our playful and intentional exploration of our liturgical space and it's relationship to the body, our bodies, all bodies, preacher's body, liturgist's body....all these thoughts have been incorporated into our Wednesday night Lenten series that focuses on the body and Adult Ed on Sunday's that is focusing on death, dying and final rituals.

After our planning session and several weeks of tossing ideas into the air and lots of back and forth between me, Jeff, and Rob Passow, our music director, this is what we've come up.  We sub-themed each Sunday: hunger, vulnerability, movement, touch, and dying.

We begin by singing "Somos el cuerpo de Christo."

Somos el cuerpo, we are the body of Christ, Hemos oido el llamado; we've answered "yes" to the call of the Lord. 

Somos el cuerpo de Christo. We are the body of Christ. Traemos su santo mensaje. We come to bring Good News to the World. 

The music dims and the first part of the call to worship is read at the font. This was written by our intern, Jess Fisher.

When the time was right, Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem. Today, the time is right for us, so we set our faces towards the cross. Our journey begins with water. Like the deep water that the breathe of God swept over in the very beginning, like the overflowing water that sustains us in the earliest of moments of our vulnerable lives, like the living water that connects us in Baptism as we join the Body of Christ. 

The person saying the words moves forward to the table with a second person, carrying a THURIBLE. Yes! We are using a thurible to "mark the path" from font, table, and cross and to give a visibility to the Holy Spirit. While these people are moving forward, we sing the "El Cuerpo" song again.

At the table, these words are read: In between birth and death, we answer God's call, as we come to the table and meet at God who became human and moved amongst the broken, learn what we hunger for in our stomachs and our hearts, and reach out to touch our neighbor in the midst of life.


The two people move towards the crosses (thurible kicking out incense) and we sing the song again.

At the cross, these words are said: The journey leads us to death, at the foot of the cross, we bring an offering to God, one of incense and oil, which in life reminds us of the presence of God's Spirit and in death prepare our bodies to be returned to the earth. But even here we find Good News: our God goes before us in birth, in suffering, in death, and in new life. 

The thurible is placed at the bottom of the crosses where compost and remnants of wood rest--showing from dust and compost we come and return and executions are a human creation.

Pilgrim Matt Webster in Mountain Pose, with Dana  Olson guiding us through a meditation.
Pilgrim Matt Webster in Mountain Pose, with Dana Olson guiding us through a meditation.

We sing the song again, and when the song is finished, everyone is still standing.

Folks are then invited to stand in mountain pose, taking on the place where Jesus looked out over the horizon on the first Sunday in Lent. A guided meditation is used in this moment to connect with body, and the primary working theme of the liturgy (hunger, etc).

We gently sit after this, and sing another song.

Someone tells the very long Gospel story by heart. Phew!

Creating the story of the Woman at the Well.
Creating the story of the Woman at the Well.

Jeff then invites people to name an part of the story that stands out to them. A moment in the story is called out and people are invited to create a "tableau" of the story with their bodies. One requirement---you have to be touching someone in the tableau. This is an improv game we've adapted for worship.

Below are more pictures of our sanctuary. In my next blog post, I'll share what we are doing with the sermon and communion + my analysis of the liturgy.