Worship in a Tote

September 12th, 2012

On Easter Sunday 2008 a group of one hundred forty-four people huddled in a park pavilion for the first worship service of a new church that was yet to be named, led by Pastor Jacob Armstrong.

To the people who worshiped that day, it was a sanctuary without walls. To the launch team it was our first attempt at worship in a very non-traditional space, a reality that would continue for the next four years and counting. (Read Transporting Worship by Pastor Jacob for more about this modern-day tabernacle experience).

After Easter we began monthly worship services that moved from venue to venue; one month a living room, a movie theatre, an elementary school, a hotel meeting room, and now a middle school.

As we planned and gathered our supplies, an important question that had to be answered was “What is essential for worship?”

Think about that for a moment. In your setting, what is essential for worship? For each pastor, worship leader, and worshiper, that answer may be different.

For the Providence community, we determined from the very beginning that communion would be part of our worship each Sunday. It actually began when we first started meeting as a launch team. For me, communion bound me to other believers working to build a new faith community.

What became necessary for us at the beginning was a plate and cup for the bread and juice (in seminary the words were paten and chalice). A nearby sister church, Mary Chaffin United Methodist Church, was closing and they gave us our first communion table. To this day this table, which has been refinished, holds a special place in my heart. I purchased a couple of candles and two offering baskets at a craft/hobby store. These items became the essentials for worship.

Now that we owned items for worship it became necessary to purchase a plastic tote for storage during the week in my garage. Once the church owned a trailer, the worship tote migrated from my garage to the trailer to be stored during the week.

After six months, we found a temporary home in an elementary school. We still had to set up and take down everything, we're actually still doing this today but there we had some storage. Storage space allowed us to accumulate some additional candles, more fabric, more worship essentials that quickly accumulated.

A member of our congregation who is a woodworker made our Advent wreath and two prayer kneelers. He also refinished our communion table which needed some slight repair after being packed and unpacked off the trailer each week. Since moving to a new site, a middle school now, a member has been creating embroidered cloths and some original art work.

Some easy decisions were to use oil candles that don’t melt in a temperature sensitive trailer. But I did learn the hard way that in a rare Nashville freeze, oil candles become the consistency of a gas-station slushie! We chose pewter for our patens, chalices, and a cross. Brass was going to be expensive and would not take the wear and tear of moving each week. We’ve kept our choice of woven offering baskets. And we’ve purchased a new feeding trough for immersion baptisms, as well as a pewter bowl and pitcher.

If you came to visit you’d see we’ve spent money on our sound system, speakers, projection screens, and lavalier microphones; a worship band in a gym creates the need for the right equipment.

For eight years I served a large and traditional church. Being part of the Providence launch team, I learned I have preferences in worship but I've learned what items are essential for worship.

In your setting, what are your worship essentials? Would your pastor, worship team and the worshipers say the same things?

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