The Communion of Saints: Resources from the Worldwide Church
Sunday, October 2, 2005, marks the sixty-ninth year that churches around the globe are celebrating World Communion Sunday. Originating in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1936, with the hope that other denominations would join in, it took only a few years before the celebration spread far beyond its origins. On this Sunday, as we gather around the Lord’s table, we are reminded of our oneness in Christ and celebrate with our fellow believers the faith and work of the Church worldwide.
There are many ways to celebrate the unity we share in Christ. In these few pages I have tried to provide a composite order of worship with alternative songs, prayers, poems, and visual resources for each section. There is more than enough material to develop a series of worship services for the entire month of October around the theme of the global church or global worship. This could culminate in the celebration of All Saints’ Sunday in the first week of November.
Note: Suggestions for images from the website of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW) can be found at www.calvin.edu/worship; type “Global Focus” in the search box.
Saint Benedict, art by Andrea di Bartolo (1389-1428/Italian) Christies, London. © Christie’s Images/SuperStock. Used by permisssion.
•Music of other cultures: instrumental or on CD, possibly with slideshows from worship services from other countries [CICW]
- Art/artifacts/banners from other cultures
- Children’s drawings of worship in heaven with different people
- Youth wearing traditional dress of various countries
- National flags
- Colorful streamers overhead to symbolize the diversity of God’s creation
Call to Worship
- Incorporate musical instruments from other cultures—for example, drums, maracas, flutes.
- Sing songs from different cultures, possibly in other languages. Teach them aurally using a cantor or call-and-response method.
- “Uyai Mose/Come, All You People” (Zimbabwe) SNC 4
- “In Christ There Is No East or West” (tune: African American Spiritual) PsH 540, PH 440, RL 410, TWC 695
- “Oh, qué bueno es JesÃºs/Oh, How Good Is Christ the Lord” (Puerto Rico) PsH 401, SFL 177
The world belongs to God,
the earth and all its people.
How good and lovely it is
to live together in unity.
Love and justice come together,
justice and peace join hands.
If the Lord’s disciples keep silent
the very stones themselves would shout aloud that our world belongs to God
and God is building a global hope.
Open our lips, O God,
and our mouths shall proclaim your praise.
—”Litany for Our World,” Peacemaking through Worship, vol. 2, ed. Jane Parker Huber Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, www.pcusa.org/peacemaking.org, used by permission.
Scripture: Psalm 133
Songs of Praise and Adoration
- “Cantad al SeÃ±or/O Sing to the Lord” (Brazil) SNC 224, SFL 17
- “Halle, Halle, Hallelujah!” (Caribbean) SNC 44
- “He Came Down” (Cameroon) SNC 92, SFL 136
Confession and Assurance
- “Cámbiame, SeÃ±or/Change My Heart, O God” (Spanish) SNC 56
- “Good to Me” (United States) SNC 71
- Ambrose, c. 330-397 (see box, below)
- “God, Please Forgive Me”
God, forgive my incompleteness: not growing in Christ, not expanding my knowledge of the Scriptures, not developing all my talents.
God, forgive my disinterest: a lack of concern for needs around me, apathy regarding the lostness of millions, blindness to hurts I could help heal.
God, forgive my dishonesty: taking the easy way rather than the right way, speaking in one manner while living in another, silencing truth to preserve tranquility, settling for less than what is best, loving tradition more than obeying your pioneering Spirit.
God, forgive my loudness: talking when I should be listening, proclaiming when I should be studying, busying myself with new tasks when I should be finding a quiet place to rest.
God, forgive my silence: feeling love and failing to whisper it, reeling with joy and not shouting hallelujah, knowing truth and forfeiting an opportunity to share it, sensing a need to share my faith and squelching the impulse.
God, please forgive me.
—C. Welton Gaddy, from http://1stholistic.com/Spl_prayers/prayer_forgive_gaddy.htm. © 1998-2004, ICBS Inc.
•Images of a suffering world tainted by sin: abuse, war, famine, natural disasters, loneliness, disease, greed, fear, corruption, anger, drugs, divorce, racism
Assurance of Pardon
Song: “In the Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful” (Taizé) SNC 220
Prayer: Ephraim of Syria, c. 306-373 (see box below)
Scripture: Psalm 103
Prayer for Illumination
Song: “Wa Wa Wa Emimimo/Come, O Holy Spirit, Come” (Nigeria) (Many and Great, Iona Community/Wild Goose Publications, 1990; dist. in North America by GIA Publications, Inc.)
- Origen, c.185-254 (see box)
- Benedict, c. 480-547 (see box)
Proclaiming the Word
- Stand up. Most Christians around the world stand up out of reverence for the reading of the living Word.
- Read Scripture aloud in different languages. Members who are studying other languages as well as members for whom your worship language is not native could be asked to read. Provide translations on a screen or in a handout.
- “Open Our Eyes, Lord” (United States) SNC 80, TWC 536
- “Santo, Santo, Santo/Holy, Holy, Holy” (Argentina; also includes translations in Dutch, French, and Korean) SNC 19
Song of Response
- “Shout to the North and the South” (United Kingdom), by Martin Smith (© 1995 Curious? Music, admin. in U.S. and Canada by Birdwing Music; available in I Could Sing of Your Love Forever: 25 Modern Worship Songs for a New Generation [Milwaukee: Hal Leonard])
- “Here I Am, Lord” (United States) SNC 268
Prayers of the People
•Prayers spoken in different languages with translations provided on the screen or in a handout.
- “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” (United States) PsH 625, TWC 629
- “Kum Ba Yah” SFL 53
R1: For exploiter and exploited,
for persecutor and persecuted,
for criminal and victim,
All: God of perfect love, we pray.
R2: As we pray, remove the fear
that makes us strident and vengeful
and take away the wooliness of thought
that makes us sentimental,
All: God of perfect love, we pray.
R3: Give us clear eyes to see the world as it is
and ourselves and all people as we are;
but give us hope to go on believing
in what you intend us all to be.
All: God of perfect love, we pray.
R1: We pray for children growing up
with no sense of beauty,
no feeling for what is good or bad,
no knowledge of you and your love in Christ.
All: God of perfect love, we pray.
R2: We pray for men and women who have lost faith
and given up hope;
for governments who crush people’s spirits
and for governments slow to act
in the cause of justice, freedom, and development.
All: God of perfect love, we pray.
R3: We pray for the whole church and the world,
giving thanks for your goodness,
for our love made known in Christ,
for your truth confirmed in his death and resurrection
for your promises to us and to all people,
keeping hope alive.
All: Let us go back to our work and into our relationships
stimulated by hope,
strengthened by faith,
directed by love,
to play our part in the salvation of all people,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
—”Litany for the World We Live In,” Algoa Regional Council (Eastern Cape, South Africa)
of the United Congregational Church in Cry Justice, John de Gruchy (Orbis Books, 1986).
• Prayers from around the world. Choose from the prayer calendar (see p. 36).
Profession of Faith
1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 27, read responsively
Ephesians 2:19-22; 4:4-6, read responsively
What do you believe about the unity of the church of Christ?
We believe and confess one single catholic or universal church—a holy congregation and gathering of true Christian believers, awaiting their entire salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by his blood, and sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
What do you believe about the existence of the church of Christ?
This church has existed from the beginning of the world and will last until the end, as appears from the fact that Christ is eternal King who cannot be without subjects. And this holy church is preserved by God against the rage of the whole world, even though for a time it may appear very small—as though it were snuffed out.
What do you believe about the magnitude of the church of Christ?
This holy church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or certain persons. But it is spread and dispersed throughout the entire world, though still joined and united in heart and will, in one and the same Spirit, by the power of faith.
—Based on Belgic Confession article 27
Saint Augustine, art by Vincenzo Foppa (ca. 1427-ca.1515/Italian) Tempera on Wood. Pinacoteca Civica Castello Sforzesco, Milan. © SuperStock. Used by permisssion.
Song: “Jesus Loves the Little Children/Jesus Died for all the Children” (United States) by C. Herbert Woolston and George F. Root (sung by children’s choir)
• Project images of the worldwide church, accompanied by music of other cultures played live or on CD [CICW]
Procession to the offering basket
The Lord’s Supper
We gather today from the busyness of life to receive strength.
We come as a people of God to excel in your work through breaking the bread and drinking the cup.
We are a global church with a global task to bring love and joy.
Through this sacrament, we receive power to be faithful in love to serve the people of the world.
—Litany for World Communion (The United Methodist Church,
Dr. Berty Hakeem, First Church, Dixon, IL, © 2003).
- “Let Us Break Bread Together” (African-American Spiritual) PsH 304, PH 513, RL 545, TWC 776
- “This Is the Feast of Victory” (United States) SNC 262
Around the Table
- Bread is central to many diets around the world. Serve breads from various cultures: pita bread, tortillas, Italian bread, and so on. You may also want to ask members of your congregation to bake bread from their own cultural heritages to share at communion: fry bread, brown bread, roti, and raisin bread.
- Use grapes to serve to young children during communion as a symbol of their inclusion of the body of Christ, yet distinct from the sign of the drinking of the wine.
- Recite the communion texts (“Take and eat, this is my body broken for you”; “Take and drink, this is my blood, shed for you”) in languages represented in your congregation.
- Look at The Worhsip Sourcebook, section 8 (Lord’s Supper) for more ideas.
- Mount art on walls or project images of art depicting the Lord’s Supper through the eyes of other cultures and times.
- Project images of other Christian congregations in your neighborhood or around the world gathering around the Lord’s table.
Send out into the world with joyful songs from other cultures; possibly in a processional.
- “The Church’s One Foundation” PsH 502, PH 442, RL 394, TH 347, TWC 689
- “Oh, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” PsH 501, PH 466, RL 363, SFL 19, TH 164, TWC 130
- “Thuma mina/Send Me, Lord” (South Africa) SNC 280
• Augustine, c. 354-430 (see box, below)
Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-6
• Project images of the worldwide church [CICW]
Subscribers to RW may use this art for bulletin covers. Use art as shown below for first Sunday of series. If your bulletin cover is 5.5" x 8.5", art is 125% for placement as shown below:
Art by Placid Stuckenschneider, from More Clip Art For the Liturgical Year (© 1990, by The Order of St. Benedict, Inc.,
The Liturgical Press, 1-800-858-5450, www.litpress.org). Used by permisssion.
You’ll find downloadable artwork on our website, www.reformedworship.org.
Bishop of Milan
who is all merciful:
Take away my sins from me,
and enkindle within me the fire
of your Holy Spirit.
Take away this heart of stone from me,
and give me a heart of flesh and blood,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart which may delight in you,
love you and please you,
for Christ’s sake. Amen.
Ephraim of Syria
Poet, Hymn Writer, Preacher, Theologian
Leader: I give you glory, O Christ, because you, the only begotten, the Lord of all things, who alone are without sin, gave yourself to die for me, a sinner unworthy of such a blessing: you died the death of the cross to free my sinful soul from the bonds of sin.
All: What shall I give you, Lord, in return for all this kindness?
Women: Glory to you for your love. Glory to you for your mercy.
Men: Glory to you for your patience. Glory to you for forgiving us all our sins.
All: Glory to you for coming to save our souls.
Women: Glory to you for your incarnation in the virgin’s womb. Glory to you for your bonds.
Men: Glory to you for receiving the cut of the lash. Glory to you for accepting mockery.
All: Glory to you for your crucifixion. Glory to you for your burial. Glory to you for your resurrection.
Leader: Glory to you that you preached to men and women. Glory to you in whom they believed.
Women: Glory to you that you taken up into heaven.
Men: Glory to you that you sit in great glory at the Father’s right hand.
All: Glory to you whose will it is that the sinner should be saved through your great mercy and compassion. Glory to you!
Theologian, Exegete, Teacher
Lord God, let us keep your Scriptures in mind and meditate on them day and night, persevering in prayer, always on watch. We beg you, Lord, to give us real knowledge of what we read and to show us not only how to understand it but how to put it into practice and to obtain spiritual grace enlightened by the law of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord, whose power and glory will endure throughout all ages. Amen.
Founder of the Benedictine Order, Father of Western Christian Monasticism
O gracious and holy Father,
give us wisdom to perceive you,
intelligence to understand you,
patience to wait for you,
eyes to see you,
a heart to meditate on you,
and a life to proclaim you,
through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- David Barrett, George Kurian, and Todd Johnson. World Christian Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). 2 vols.
- John Bell, ed. Many and Great: Songs of the World Church, vol. 1 (Chicago: GIA, Inc., North American ed., 1990). Iona Community.
- _____. Sent by the Lord: Songs of the World Church, vol. 2 (Chicago: GIA, Inc., North American ed., 1992). Iona Community.
- C. Michael Hawn, compiler and author. Halle, Halle: We Sing the World Round (Garland, Tex.: Choristers Guild, 1999). Thirty-six songs in student’s edition with separate teacher’s edition that is a 90-page companion to the collection and CD.
- Jill Johnstone. You Can Change the World. Children’s version of Operation World (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992).
- Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk. Operation World: When We Pray God Works (Waynesboro, Ga.: WEC International, Paternoster Publishing, 2001). www.gmi.org/ow.
- Maren C. Tirabassi and Kathy Wonson Eddy. Gifts of Many Cultures: Worship Resources for the Global Community (Cleveland: United Church Press, 1995).
- The Worship Sourcebook (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Faith Alive Christian Resources, Baker Books, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, 2004). Sections S and T.
- For images and sound recordings of global worship, and an extensive list of global
worship resources, visit the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship website: www.calvin.edu/
worship; type “Global Focus” in the search box.
Bishop of Hippo, Christian Philosopher, Writer
O you, from whom to turn is to fall,
to whom to be turned is to rise,
and in whom to stand is to abide forever,
grant us in all our duties your help,
in all our perplexities your guidance,
in all our dangers your protection,
and in all our sorrows your peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
A Calendar of Prayers for the World
- These prayers are meant to supplement your ongoing prayers for countries like Darfur, Iraq, those affected by the tsunami in southeast Asia, and places where Christians are persecuted. Continue praying for these places, but add prayer for some of the countries that may be less often in your prayers.
- The fourteen days ends with a prayer for your own country in recognition of our own needs and reliance on God.
- As you use the following prayers with children and youth at church or at home, point out the geography of each country before you begin to pray.
Day 1: Japan
Here in Japan, O Lord, where your people so often feel like a lonely and tired Elijah facing hordes of hardened Baal worshipers, pour out your Spirit of encouragement that we may testify with boldness and grace to you, the only true God, in whom alone is light and life.
Day 2: Costa Rica
We praise you, Lord, for the new missionaries you are calling and sending forth from Costa Rica and other Latin countries to serve in your work worldwide, especially to people in Islamic countries who have yet to hear the good news.
Day 3: New Zealand
Dear Lord Jesus, please help Christians of all races in New Zealand to love and care for each other and to serve you together. Send us teachers who love children, so that they can hold Christian camps, clubs, and activities to help them follow you.
Day 4: Mali
We from Mali pray for food. After two years of drought, the price of grain is very high and the new harvest isn’t ripe yet. People are hungry.
Day 5: Guam
Lord, please give peace on the ocean when our boats are going to the other islands, especially the islands beyond the horizon. May the motors not break down on the open ocean, leaving the boatload of people to drift. Please, Lord, protect us all from the frequent typhoons and other storms that hit us in the western Pacific.
Day 6: Niger
Lord, we pray that our government will experience the peace and stability that we need to build this country. We also pray that the church in Niger may learn to play more of a leadership role in the face of growing Muslim fundamentalism, and for Christian leaders to rise up and serve in the government of Niger.
Day 7: The Netherlands
Jesus, have mercy on us. Save our youth. Lord, send your Spirit to revive and restore our nation spiritually, and raise a new generation of leaders with spiritual passion for God’s glory and kingdom expansion.
Day 8: Mexico
We thank you, Lord, for blessing us with all that we need. Forgive us for wanting more than we need. As our brothers and sisters are going through trials and hardships, we ask you, Lord, to use this testing to bring them to faith in Jesus.
Day 9: Rwanda
We pray for a vibrant church filled with the Spirit and seeking God’s presence, so that it may be a source of unity and reconciliation, not division, for the people of Rwanda. We pray that God will use the church to lead this nation away from ethnic conflict and poverty and to heal the scars of genocide.
Day 10: Saudi Arabia
Lord, we pray for the preservation and multiplication of believers, and the legalization of Christianity for Saudis. We pray that Saudi believers may be able to meet together in safety and have access to God’s Word.
Day 11: Romania
Holy God, raise up a government in our country that will rule wisely and fairly and give Christians freedom to worship and to tell others about you. Provide Bibles and Christian books to teach Christians more about their faith and to bring more Romanians to believe in you.
Day 12: China
Lord, we pray against moral decline and the social impact of our attempt to slow China’s population growth with the One Child Policy. We pray for family stability and health. We pray also for the government to implement wise policies that will stabilize the population. Lord, have mercy.
Day 13: Iran
Lord, we pray that you change the realities that Christians in Iran face everyday: from rampant discrimination in jobs to housing and education. We pray for true religious freedom in Iran.
Day 14: Your Own Country
Lord, we ask for your Holy Spirit to transform the hearts and lives of individuals. By your grace, help Christians in this country to bring about your good, holistic, and lasting changes in families, the government, and our social institutions.
—These prayers were expressed by natives of these countries or excerpted from Operation World (see sidebar p. 34).