Liturgy simply means “the work of the people”, so in one sense ‘liturgy' it is what we do together as we gather to worship God. But in a much deeper sense, liturgy isn’t at all about what we do; its about what God does. Each Sunday, we believe that we encounter God through song, Scripture and sacrament. In other words, we gather around the Word and the Table, singing and praying as the Spirit of God meets us along the way. That’s why we draw from the rich treasury of the Church's historic worship practices while being attentive to the fresh work of the Spirit in our day. Our worship, then, at New Life Downtown is rooted in history with room for mystery.
Here’s more about each element of our services...
worship in song
Our service begins with a call to worship. The cross stands at the center of the stage, with the worship team around it, visually inviting us to come and worship the risen Christ.
Music is one of the oldest worship expressions, and perhaps the most complete in the way it engages and moves our whole being. The Bible is full of injunctions to sing, shout, dance, and play skillfully on instruments as we make music to the Lord. It also encourages us to sing a new song. Bryan Bettis and a team of worship leaders and musicians lead us in expressing our worship in song, with a thoughtful combination of beloved hymns and songs that reflect what God is doing today.
We often pray, thanking God and petitioning together for a need in our city or church, as it rises or as the Spirit leads us. Depending on the season of the Church Year, we also pray a written prayer together. These prayers are most often chosen from the Anglican prayer book, the Book of Common Prayer. We conclude the prayer time often with the Lord's Prayer.
This is a time where we give to God with glad and joyful hearts. Because the way we spend our money is often an indicator of where our loyalties lie, so giving to God is a tangible way to express our worship. Just as Jesus gave sacrificially of His life for the joy set before Him, so we believe that giving to God should always be a joyful and sacrificial part of our worship.
This is a time where we proclaim together one of the great creeds of the Church. We confess either the Apostle's Creed or the longer Nicene Creed, to join in the powerful declaration set by the church throughout history.
Before the sermon begins, there is a public reading of the Scriptures by various members of our congregation. Passages are selected from the Old Testament, New Testament, and one of the Gospels that correspond with the message and current series.
The sermon at New Life Downtown follows the same series covered at New Life North. The pastor of New Life Downtown, Glenn Packiam, serves as the lead teacher, bringing a thoughtful, Biblical and historical perspective to the subjects each week.
The response to the proclamation of the Word-- and the preaching of the Gospel-- is not to run out and apply it. Rather, it is to cry out for God's mercy and gratefully receive His grace through Christ.
We spend a few minutes in silent confession, letting ourselves become aware of the places in our lives and relationships where we have tried to live independently of God or to live for God by our own strength. We quietly confess our sin, acknowledge our need for God, pay attention to the Holy Spirit's work in us, and surrender every part of our heart to Him.
We move from personal reflection in silence, to corporate confession, praying-- or sometimes singing-- a prayer of confession together, often from the Book of Common Prayer.
After confession, our pastor announces the good news of the Gospel over us: God has forgiven us all of our sins through Jesus Christ our Lord! It is not the announcement that makes it true; it is the Gospel that does. But the power of hearing it each week frees us from the lies of guilt and shame.
People then turn to one another and pass on the peace of Christ, by affirming God's forgiveness and extending forgiveness to each other.
communion and prayer
From the earliest days of Christian worship, the Eucharist has been the central and culminating moment of the Christian gathering. It is where followers of Christ remember His death, celebrate His resurrection, and anticipate His return.
It is also a moment to "feed on Christ" -to let Him be our portion, our "more than enough"- even as we have confessed our own emptiness. We come to the Table with empty hands; Christ gives us His body and blood as our bread and cup. We use the words and shape of a historic Christian liturgy, as preserved and expressed by the Anglican communion.
At New Life Downtown, we invite families and friends to receive the communion elements from the communion tables and then return to their seats to take the elements together, re-enacting a meal. We also have a prayer team available to minister to those in need of a special grace.
We sing the Doxology a cappella, followed by a commission prayer. Here the narrative is complete: from being called to worship, hearing the Scriptures, confessing our sin, receiving God's grace in Christ through the Spirit, and being commissioned back into the world.