Friday, January 28, 2011

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Scripture

The following is from the seventeenth installment of my bulletin insert series at Centenary United Methodist Church:

Scripture - God’s Word usually refers to one of three meanings: 1.) God’s Word written (Scripture), 2.) God’s Word preached (the sermon), and 3.) God’s living Word (Jesus Christ). The reading and preaching of the Word are means by which the living Word (Christ) speaks to us. Thus, in the Wesleyan tradition, we are not simply concerned that God’s Spirit inspired those who first wrote the books of the Bible. Rather, we believe that the same Holy Spirit who inspired those biblical writers desires to inspire the Scriptures a fresh and a new to our hearts and lives, today. Thus, we are called to “sit on the edge of our seats,” listening for God to speak.

Traditionally, at the conclusion of each of the readings, the liturgist will say, “The Word of the Lord,” and the people will enthusiastically respond, “Thanks be to God!” At the conclusion of the Gospel reading, we hear, “The Gospel of the Lord,” and the response is given, “Praise to You, Lord Christ.” (At the announcement of the Gospel, some may make the sign of the cross on their forehead, lips, and heart signifying, “Lord, may your words be in my thoughts, in my mouth, and in my heart.”)

In worship we have three primary Scripture readings: one from the Old Testament, one from a New Testament Epistle (or the Book of Acts), and one from one of the Gospels.

As Jesus indicated to the disciples on the Emmaus Road, all of Scripture points to Him. So, the Old Testament lesson points ahead to Jesus. The Epistle points back to Jesus, and in the Gospel we see and hear Jesus. That leads us to the reason we stand for the Gospel reading. Since the early days of the Church, Christians have stood for the Gospel reading to show that here we hear the words of Jesus, directly.


Information gathered from the following resources:

Hickman, Hoyt L. United Methodist Worship. Abingdom P. 1991.

Sly, Randy (Former Archbishop in the Charismatic Episcopal Church). An Invitation to Living Liturgy. Cathedral Church of the King. Overland Park, KS. 1996

Webber, Robert E.Worship Old & New: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Introduction (Revised Edition). Zondervan P. 1994.

Dr. Lester Ruth: Good Bye, Asbury. Hello, Duke.

I just learned (yesterday) that the Rev'd. Dr. Lester Ruth, who has served as the Lily May Jarvis Professor of Christian Worship at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky since 2000, will be leaving Asbury in order to teach at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina.
Asbury is losing a great asset, and Duke is gaining a great asset!

To give you a little info on Dr. Ruth, the following is listed on the Asbury faculty page:


•History of Christian Worship (particularly Early Methodism)
•Creativity with the Sacraments
•Contemporary Worship

He received a B.B.A. from Stephen F. Austin State University, 1981; a M.Div. from Asbury Seminary, 1985; a Th.M. from Candler School of Theology, Emory University, 1988; and a M.A (1994) and a Ph.D. (1996) from the University of Notre Dame.  (Where he studied under James White!)

Prior to teaching at Asbury Seminary, Dr. Ruth was assistant professor of Liturgical Studies at Yale University Divinity School and Institute of Sacred Music. He has been an adjunct at Tyndale Theological Seminary (Toronto), Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (Chicago) and the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies (Jacksonville, Fla.). He is a member of the North American Academy of Liturgy.

Dr. Ruth is a member of the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He was ordained as a deacon in 1984 and as an elder in 1987. He has served three appointments.

His book, A Little Heaven Below: Worship at Early Methodist Quarterly Meetings (Nashville: Kingswood Books, 2000) was awarded the Jesse Lee Prize by the United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History. He has also received three teaching awards at Asbury Seminary , two for use of media and one for extended learning. He was on the advisory board for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship liturgical renewal grants program from 1999 to 2004. He was also a John Wesley Fellow, funded by A Foundation for Theological Education during graduate school.

Dr. Ruth is currently editing a multi-volume set of worship case studies from church history as well as continuing research into the theology of contemporary worship music. Dr. Ruth and his wife, Carmen have two daughters

Now, what the faculty page does not say, but the part that is most significant for me, is that Lester was my Faculty Mentor while I pursued my doctoral work at Asbury, and he was absolutely fantastic! 

It is a long story, but when I arrived at Asbury, I was planning to study in the area of Leadership.  That was not what I wanted to do, but it seemed to be the thing to do.  You see, I wanted to study Worship/Liturgy, and I wanted to study at Asbury.  However, the "Preaching and Worship" concentration presented in the catalog appeared to really be preaching and, oh yeah . . . maybe a class on preaching in the context of worship.  -  That was not what I wanted.

However, during my first week there, I over heard a fellow D.Min. student talking about forging a concentration in Worship!  I went to Dr. Ruth and talked with him, and that is exactly what we did!  I transfered one class in from Northern Baptist on Sacraments and Sacred Actions (It was a part of Robert Webber's D. Min. program, there.  -  I won't, at this time, go into why I chose not to go there.) and did an independent study on Wesleyan Worship, and we made it happen.  (Additionally, with Dr. Michael Pasquarello's excellent Trinitarian Preaching class and his "tag-team" teaching with Lester, it was like having a major in Worship and a minor in Preaching.)

Lester was invaluable in my independent study and my dissertation work.  I learned so much from him.

Additionally, Lester served as the faculty advisor for the Asbury chapter of The Order of Saint Luke and has been a good friend to the Order.

I am sad to hear that he is leaving Asbury, because I know he brought a needed understanding of liturgy/worship to a seminary that stands in a conservatively Methodist and Holiness tradition.  That is to say, he helped to bring the Wesleyan balance to the school in a time when it is so hard to find a full, balanced Wesleyanism out there.  (Most often those who are conservative toward Wesley in terms of evangelical faith and holiness are miles away from him in terms of liturgy/worship and sacraments.  On the other hand, those who share Wesley's liturgical/sacramental convictions often want nothing to do with his evangelical and holiness emphasis.)

Asbury's loss is Duke's gain.  Congratulations to Lester and to Duke!

May God's richest blessings be upon Dr. Ruth, Asbury and Duke.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Check Out the New Facebook Icon

Thanks to my friend, Brannon Hancock, over at Sanctifying Worship, you can now find a new Facebook icon on my sidebar.  This icon will make it easier for anyone reading this blog to connect with the Wesleyan/Anglican Facebook page!

I have to confess, I'm not all that tech. savvy.  I'm just thankful I know some people who are.

Thanks Brannon!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Wesleyan/Anglican on Facebook

Just a note to let you know: there have been some good conversations, lately, on the Wesleyan/Anglican Facebook page, here

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: The Baptismal Font

The following is from the sixteenth installment of my bulletin insert series at Centenary United Methodist Church.  It is for The Baptism of the Lord Sunday:

The Baptismal Font - In the rites of Baptism we declare, “Through the Sacrament of Baptism we are initiated into Christ’s holy Church. We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit.” Baptism is, first, God’s sign of our forgiveness, cleansing and adoption by grace. It is, secondly, our word of faith and commitment to God.

As we, in faith, come to the waters of Baptism, God is there and then at work, pouring out grace to us and marking us with the sign of the Covenant as God’s own children by grace.

As those within the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition, though we only have a Baptismal Font, we do accept as valid all three modes used by Christians in baptism. Candidates or their parents may choose sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.

By placing the Font near the entrance to the place of worship, or, in our case (having two entrances), at the back of the center aisle, we symbolize that it is through the waters of baptism that we enter into the Church and become members of the Body of Christ. As we gather to worship, the Font is a witness of God’s grace poured out to us. As we depart to serve, the Font calls us to live out our baptismal faith in the world, to allow the grace of our baptism to “work its way out” in us and to shape us. In both instances, we are reminded that we are not our own. We belong to God.

Having a movable Font, also, allows us to accommodate the worshipping congregation when celebrating baptisms by moving the Font to the front of our worship space making the sacrament more fully visible for all.


Information gathered from the following resources:

The United Methodist Book of Worship

White, James F. and Susan J.  Church Architecture: Building and Renovating for Christian Worshp.  OSL Publication. Akron, Ohio. 1998.