Epiphany: Liquid Worship
Traditional worship is linear - it starts at the beginning and follows a structured service through to the end. Liquid Worship is different; instead of being linear, there are stations or zones set up around the church for people to visit. The congregation can choose how they spend their time - for example they can spend all their time at one or two stations or visit all of the stations in any order they please. The stations may include reflecting on readings, listening to music, taking part in actions, or art or craft activities. Liquid Worship can work well with different age groups with material provided at many different levels.
This was our church's second attempt at Liquid Worship (for our first see Palm Sunday). We wanted to emphasise the story so that the congregation were clear about how the various stations fitted in.
We began by singing "We three kings..." while the children dressed as star, magi and pages processed up the aisle during the appropriate verses. This was followed by a short drama based on of the wise men at Herod's palace (with an adult playing the part of Herod.)
The children then went together to the Christmas King station where they made headbands while the adults had a very short talk on Epiphany. Everyone was then free to visit the stations.
We ended the service with a short Bible reading and then the wise men processed up the aisle again to kneel at the manger while the congregation sang "See him lying in a bed of straw".
We had seven stations based on traditional elements of worship: confession, statement of belief, prayer, word (including Bible readings) and reflection. At each station there was a selection of readings and pictures, and reflective activities to participate in.
We took a different approach to this station as we wanted somewhere for people to go if they weren't used to Liquid Worship. One of the leaders read a selection of poems and readings and we interspersed this with music.
Close by we had a variety of nativity sets and the models of Bethlehem and Jerusalem (from Young Children and Worship).
"O come let us adore him." We placed the crib, complete with doll, in front of the altar.
To one side (well away from the straw!) we had a sand tray for people to place a lighted candle. For safety reasons this station was manned.
We focussed on the burdens we carry on our journey - our sins or worries. The congregation were invited to use stones to represent their burdens. They used a small piece of cloth to make them into a bundle and left them at the foot of the cross.
We asked people to reflect on the journey of the Magi in comparison to their own journey.
"When did they come closest to God?" "What were the difficulties they encountered on their journey?"
Close by we had a sand tray with baskets of camels and wooden people for the children to enact the journey.
We also had paper and felts for people to draw a map of their own journey.
"What can I give him?" We asked people to focus on their own gifts and how they use them for God. On display were the gifts of the wise men - gold, frankincense and myrrh.
People were given a box and encouraged to put a little of each in it to take away with them as a symbol of the gifts they brought to the manger. (We used gold plated washers from the hardware shop.)
Statement of belief: The Christmas King
We took the children to this station first, while the adults had a short talk.
We talked briefly about kingship and the ways in which we would describe the kingship of Jesus.
The children were given a chance to make headbands using Christian symbols and pictures of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, and the words they had chosen themselves to describe Jesus as king.
We covered the pulpit with a black sheet. The congregation were asked to write their prayers on yellow stars which were then pinned onto the sheet.
How well did it work?
The procession of the kings up the aisle worked well and the drama made a clear start to the service. I felt starting the children off at one station, before the adults joined them, helped them to settle down and get involved. As they finished making their headbands at different times they were less inclined to rush around the stations at the start. The listening station worked well and certainly helped some of the people who were unused to Liquid Worship.
What would we have changed?
We still did not have much to involve any teenagers; as it turned out only one came along and he had been asked to man the station with the gold, frankincense and myrrh and to take photos. If we had had the resources we might have considered including a powerpoint presentation.