Coming to church shouldn't be complicated. But we should not expect the worship practices of a 2000 year old church to be completley transparent to our guests and visitors. Even among our congregation, sometimes we need reminders as to why we do what we do. Is the Lord's Prayer necissary for a worship service? Does God care if we say the creeds?
Whether you are Anabaptist or Quaker, Catholic or Congregational, or anything in between; whether you have been attending church your entire life or you just walked into a church for the first time, we want you to feel welcome at TCC. Some parishioners come from traditions of formal liturgy, others from informal worship services. Our corporate worship draws from a variety of traditions and styles so that people of all traditions and all ages may experience the grace and love of Jesus Christ and worship God with their whole hearts, minds, and bodies. Below is a sample format for a worship service that you might find at Trinitarian Congregational.
If you are new to attending church, there may be some elements of our service that are unfamiliar or confusing. You may know what a hymn is and what a sermon is, but words such as “absolution”, “Doxology”, and others can be confusing and prevent you from participating fully in the worship service. We hope this article helps to explain what we do during our worship services, and perhaps more importantly, why we do what we do. If you have further questions do not hesitate to ask any leader or minister.
The prelude allows us as worshippers to begin centering our focus on the task before us – the worship of God through song, scripture, preaching, and prayer. It allows us to sit down after a busy week and breathe. Some will take this time to pray or meditate on the hymns or scripture of the day. Others will greet people, welcoming them to worship. Whatever the action, our gathering during the prelude is a profound Trinitarian event: we gather to praise God, prompted by the Holy Spirit, through the work of Jesus Christ.
Though we are not a church that marches into worship with banners and incense (we do on certain days like palm Sunday and Easter!), a profound act of worship has already taken place. Kids, parents, and grandparents have woken up (early on a Sunday!), piled into the car and joined in the procession to the house of worship. After the worship leader welcomes the people with a brief greeting we are invited to stand and call one another to worship using language of the scriptures. Often borrowing words from the psalms, we speak to each other here as a reminder that Sunday worship is not an individual event but a corporate action.
The organ often announces the first congregational singing of the day. We stand together united in praise of God. We use hymnals here not because it is biblically mandated, but because written notation (even for a non-musician) can help facilitate participation. Visitors can follow the contour of a melody and often catch on by the final verse. Some congregants have taken hymnals home to sing hymns at home and teach them to their children. (You are more than welcome to take a hymnal home. We have extras in the church offices)
Part of worship is acknowledging the fact that we are all sinners before God. As 1 John 1:8-9 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Let us remember that the church is more akin to a hospital for sinners than a museum for saints.
Besides elevator rides how often do we hear corporate silence? For many, silence is awkward, and makes us uncomfortable. In our worship service, this is not a passive event but an intentional time to confess your sins before God; to let go of the stress of the week and spend time talking to God in your own words.
This element is known by different names in different traditions: “absolution”, “assurance of pardon”, or “assurance of faith” all imply the same profound action: God's forgiveness of our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If this is your first Sunday praying a confession of sin and receiving the assurance of pardon, and would like to speak to someone about the Christian faith, come to the front of the sanctuary and a minister or deacon would be happy to speak and pray with you.
Perhaps the sole element of our service in which Jesus explicitly teaches us how to pray, we recite together this succinct and holistic prayer. If you are unfamiliar with the words of the prayer don't be embarrassed. There are cards in the pews containing the words of the prayer. We use the traditional language of the King James Bible for this prayer not because it is better or more theologically accurate, but because it is more familiar to more people than alternative translations.
How do we respond to the grace received by God's forgiveness? We stand and sing! The worship band leads us in a song of praise to God for his mercy in response to the forgiveness received. The words and music are drawn from a variety of sources spanning the 20 centuries of Christian worship.
The word of God from the Hebrew and Greek scriptures is central to our services. A practice dating to the early church and even Jewish synagogue services, a lay leader in the church reads the selected passage for the day, (Jesus did this in Luke 4) communicating God's word and helping each worshipper to hear the scriptures read clearly. We typically read from the NIV translation, which is the translation in the pews, but will sometimes teach from NASB, ESV, or other translations when appropriate.
As a joyful response to the spoken words of God, we stand and sing the Gloria Patri (Latin for “Glory to the father…”). The early church sang this Trinitarian hymn as a Christian stamp on proto-Christian scriptures (the psalms and canticles of the old testament). Many Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians find the roots of their Trinitarian worship through a form of the Gloria Patri. The organ often leads us in singing the tune by Henry Greatorex from 1851, familiar to many in our congregation, but will occasionally hear or sing different settings of this hymn.
We invite you to greet your fellow worshippers nearby in this informal time of greeting. Some may say the traditional Christian greeting from New Testament letters, “peace be to you” (in which the typical response is “and also with you”), but others may simply say “Good Morning!”
We now turn our hearts and minds to God's word through the message of one of our preaching pastors. As we listen to the sermon for the day some choose to take notes for further reflection. Feel free to use white space in the bulletin and pencils in the pews for notes as you desire.
At the culmination of the sermon we stand together as the band leads us in a sung response to the sermon message.
We continue in worship together by offering our monetary resources. 2 Corinthians 9:17 says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” If you are visiting our church do not feel obligated to give at this point. During the collection of the offering the band may lead us in another congregational song, or another musician may add his or her own musical offering.
In response to the giving of our tithes and offerings we stand and acknowledge that it is not out of our own resources that we give, but it is “God from who all blessings flow!” The band typically leads us in singing the doxology using the words of Thomas Ken. As we stand the ushers bring the offering plates to the front of the church and the minister prays to dedicate these gifts of God for the work of His church.
We now turn our attention to prayer on behalf of the church, the community, global and local issues, as well as needs and concerns of members of our own body. If you would like your prayer request printed in the bulletin please fill out a communication card and place it in the offering plates, or call the church office any time during the week. Confidential prayer requests are also accepted.
At the culmination of our service the organ leads us in a final hymn reminding us that we are not to keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ to ourselves, but we must take these words to the world: to our friends, neighbors, and colleagues with the help of the Triune God.
A final exhortation given by the preaching minister on the charge for the week, and a visible reminder of God's presence among us as we depart. The raised hands of the minister signifies God's blessing to the church: the hands and feet of Jesus to do his work in the world.
The organ concludes our service for the day, but we know that our worship has just begun. If you desire prayer for any reason or want to talk to a minister about becoming a Christian, please use this dismissal time to come to the front of the sanctuary. From there someone will lead you into the parlor to speak or pray with you.
 “Hymn”, simply put, means “song of praise to God”, which for our purposes defines both organ and band led congregational song.