It was the first Tuesday in September, the first day of school, the day to bless the children at AnchorPoint Christian School. As the opening chapel service was coming to an end, parents and grandparents, board members, teachers, and staff surrounded the children and pronounced a litany of God’s promises over them.
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Tenebrae, from the Latin word for “shadows,” has been observed in the church of Jesus Christ since the fourth century, on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. During the service, different readers will recall the events that led Jesus to the cross, and we will extinguish seven candles, one by one, dramatizing the suffering and death of Jesus. The diminishing light symbolizes the fading devotion of the disciples and the sin of the world. At the end of the service the worship center will be dark.
Prayer has been a fundamental component of the Christian life and worship since the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Believers give thanks for their daily meals, confess their sins and ask for forgiveness, intercede for their spouses and children, pray for the healing of the sick, ask God to protect missionaries, pray for the needs of the world, and request the intervention of God’s Spirit for the lost.
I have never visited your church, but I know a lot about your ministry and worship. Your congregation has a well-developed vision for ministry, and you make worship a priority. You plan your weekly services carefully and creatively. You place a priority on member participation in worship as well as in ministry, with balanced emphasis on youth and adults, men and women, singles and couples. The Word, music, prayers, and giving are well integrated in your services. Your congregation is also sensitive to visitors.
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
—James 5:13-16, NRSV
Barbara Stewart, ed. Willow Creek Community Church, 1991. 177 pages.The Handbook is available by writing Seeds, Order Processing, 67 East Algonquin Road, South Barring-ton, IL 60010; (708) 765-5000. Cost is $14.95, plus $4.00 shipping and handling; 7 percent sales tax for Illinois residents.