Worship 101

A unique characteristic of The United Church of Canada is our openness to a variety of worship styles and practices. Communities are encouraged to create worship services that address their unique needs as a faith community while honouring our rich worship tradition and history.

Although United Church worship is contextual, common worship goals often include the following:

  • connection (to each other and to something greater than ourselves),
  • ritual (repeated tasks and practices), and
  • praise (an opportunity to humble ourselves and to give thanks and ask for guidance).

How these goals are met and what resources are used depends on the community of faith. Many worshipping communities continue to use the following format:

  • Gathering and Approach (Greetings, Call to Worship, Opening Prayer, Prayer of Confession Assurance of Grace)
  • Listening and Word (Prayer of Approach, Scripture, learning moments), and
  • Responding and Sending (Preaching, Communion, Baptism, Offering).

Where you place worship elements within a liturgy will depend on your community’s traditions and understanding of that element. For instance, some communities will place the sermon in the Listening section of worship, understanding that we are listening for the word of God through the preacher. Other communities will put the sermon in the Responding section, recognizing that the sermon is the community’s way to respond to the scripture.

Common Service Elements

Call to Worship: a call to gather, addressed to the people (not God)

Opening Prayer: a prayer acknowledging with thanks that we are in God’s presence

Prayer of Approach: a prayer naming our intentions to be aware of this time set apart with God

Prayer of Invocation: a prayer calling on the Spirit to enliven and make their presence known within the worship

Prayer of Confession (Prayer for Mercy): a prayer naming the brokenness of the world that we are all a part of

Words of Assurance (Assurance of Pardon/ Assurance of Grace): a proclamation addressed to the gathered people that affirms God’s never-ending grace and love

Prayer of Illumination: a prayer to ask for assistance in receiving God’s word (often shared before the scripture reading)

Prayers of the People (Pastoral Prayers/ Prayers of Thanksgiving/ Prayers of Concern): a prayer shared by everyone gathered, offering collective adoration, thanks, and specific intercessions (requests for help)

Offertory Prayer (Prayer of Dedication): a prayer asking for God’s blessings on both the gifts and the giver

Commissioning (Sending Forth): a statement to the people gathered to go and live out the faith that was shared in worship

Benediction (Blessing): a blessing on the people gathered that acts as a reminder and affirmation of God’s abiding presence and love

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