Our Sunday service begins at 11am and usually lasts about one and a quarter hours.
It is a Eucharist, a service of Holy Communion. We use the Common Worship resources of the Church of England, and seek to reflect our inclusive ethos in the way in which we use them.
A Vicar’s view
We begin by acknowledging that we are Gathering together in the presence of God.
This includes expressing our awareness of the fact that we all frequently mess up in one way or another, we are all ‘sinners’. We are reminded of the forgiveness that God offers us in Jesus Christ, AND that if we can accept that ( and often in reality many of us find this very difficult,) then we will be able to pass it on to others.
The Liturgy of the Word.
We hear readings from the Bible. The children, the young people, usually do this in their own groups elsewhere in the building. We follow the pattern of readings used by many churches (the Revised Common Lectionary). On any given Sunday the readings will reflect the season of the church year (the Liturgical year). They will also relate to one another – usually to the theme of the final and most important reading, a reading from one of the four gospels.
Then in a sermon we explore what those readings mean for us today, both collectively and individually.
We hear the written word of God in order that we might meet the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, to whom the written word bears witness. However the living word of God cannot be held in letters on a page. We may encounter his living presence in church, but we are just as likely to meet him in the people we meet in our day to day lives. Taking part in worship week by week helps us to grow into people who can both recognise that presence and express it in our own lives
After we have affirmed the core beliefs of our faith together (and in reality this may mean something slightly different for each of us and that is just fine, each of us is at a different place in the life long journey of faith) we pray.
In the Intercessions we bring to God in prayer the needs of the world we live in, both near and far.
The Liturgyof the Sacrament
We start by sharing the Peace that we are given in Jesus Christ. A simple handshake, a hug, with those around us. Or, and this is what it is really about, reaching out to those we have fallen out with, or just don’t like very much ! The young people re-join the adults at this point.
Bread and wine are taken, and in a prayer of thanksgiving, the Eucharistic Prayer we pray that they be may be to us the body and blood of Christ.
We pray the Lord’s Prayer together. Then we share the bread and wine which has been consecrated.
Everyone who is a baptised Christian and who usually receives the bread and wine in their own church, of whatever denomination, is welcome to share in the Communion. By no means everyone receives Holy Communion (the bread and wine), and no one need feel embarrassed by not doing so. Those who do not take the bread and wine are offered a simple prayer for God’s blessing.
When we hold out our hands to receive the bread or take the chalice, or when we receive a prayer for God’s blessing, we do so with whatever faith we have at that time, and we do so supported by the faith of those around us. God’s response to us is not to question our faith, but to give himself to us. In this sacrament the Holy Spirit of God makes God present to us in a special way, she moves amongst a group of ordinary human beings and often she surprises us.
We say a prayer of thanks for this gift, and then we are almost ready to go. Before we do we pause to hear from the young people and to share any important news or announcements about future events.
Assured again of God’s blessing on us, who ever we are, we are encouraged to turn to face the door as we commit ourselves to go in peace, to love and serve the Lord. This may begin with a conversation over a cup of coffee and a piece of cake after the service but the real work starts when we walk out of the door.
This is what we do.
What we experience can be much more.
A Sunday morning meeting becomes Worship.
Music transforms words and can form another language. At Christ Church we do not currently have a choir or a music group, but we do have lot of people who like to sing and we use a variety of traditional hymns and contemporary songs. We also benefit from the ministry of a skilled organist and pianist.
Words, music, but silence is as important as sound.
Symbolic action helps give deeper meaning to words.
Colour reflects the changing seasons.
Incense allows all our senses to be engaged in worship.
All this invites our Participation. At Christ Church everyone is encouraged to be involved in what we do. In our services we are all invited to worship, we are all invited to celebrate. An ordained priest will ‘preside‘ (chair the meeting), and lead the Eucharistic Prayer, and speak words of absolution and blessing, and other people will lead other parts of the liturgy. However it is our shared faith expressed in worship and prayer which responds to Christ’s presence.
When we come to worship, we bring our selves, just as we are.
We open our hands, and as best we can, our very selves to God.
And God, the holy and glorious Trinity, does the rest.
How do the congregation see it?
The Christ Church congregation value the friendship and relationships they can build up with one another, and the sense of unity they feel in spite of the wide diversity.
“There is always a sense of belonging. Church members are warm hearted and kind and show LOVE to one another.” “I like the members united with one another”. “I value the friendly, nice greeting and the sense of respecting one another as a whole.” “It’s so diverse, so there is space for anyone.” ” I come to Christ Church because I feel a sense of belonging.” ” I value Christ Church because you can come just as you are. It is a clam and peaceful and you are not judged.”
Some people specifically like the fact that Christ Church works to be an Inclusive Church.
“I go to Christ Church because it is my Parish Church, but it’s really important to me that it’s an Inclusive Church” “I come to Christ Church because it is an Inclusive Church.” “It is multi-everything and all are welcomed.”
The fact that we use a clear Liturgical framework within which there is variety, and at times informality, is greatly valued.
“I like the traditional liturgy but also the relaxed, slightly random element too! “ “I like the informality that supports the liturgy. It makes it more real.” “The hymns we sing are inspiring and the programme is very comprehensive.”
The Liturgy engages those who open themselves to worship with both Word and Sacrament.
“I value the preaching and bible readings. “ “The sermons are great; a good combination; reflective but challenging too – what does it mean to live a radical Christian life?” “There is always the presence of the Holy Spirit.” “The sermons give us spiritual food for thought.” “I value most in the services God’s uncompromising Word.” “The sermon is always based on things that happen in our everyday life.” ” I like the fact that everyone is welcome to receive the communion.”
.At Christ Church we try to make it as easy as possible for people to engage in all that we do, in whatever way is right for them.
“The introduction of the congregational groups allows every member to participate more.” “I enjoy taking part i.e.in a group, discussing, and helping out after the service.” “Christ Church caters for everyone i.e. children, adults, the elderly and disabled.” Children’s Groups (one of which is known as the Sunday School) try to facilitate this for the younger congregation. “I like the Sunday School – interacting with the other children and having fun, I prefer it to staying at home.” “I like how at Sunday School we get to show what we made, and I like making things at Sunday School.” Interestingly some adults say that one of the things they most value about the Christ Church services are “the children’s groups”.
A visitors view
Read the considered opinion of a visit made in 2012 here We have moved on a little since then!