In last spring’s issue, I wrote about the season of Ordinary Time, which falls between Pentecost and Advent. Sometimes referred to as Kingdomtide, this season in the liturgical calendar often concentrates on growth: growth of God’s kingdom, the church, and the spirit of the individual. A perfect pairing with the season of growth in the natural world!
Celebrate the theme of growth with a variety of special emphasis Sundays. When I think of blossoming and growing, these possibilities “spring” to mind:
Celebrate children with their own special Sunday. Let them process in to an anthem like “As a Little Child” or “Let the Children Come.” You might even have each child bring an adult with them for a multigenerational moment. Include scriptures such as Isaiah 11:6 (“a little child shall lead them”), Matthew 18:1-4 (“except you become as a little child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven”), Matthew 19:14 (“Let the children come to me for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”). Give them an active role during worship: singing, reading scripture or announcements, taking the offering, coming forward for a special children’s sermon, etc. You might have infant dedication or children’s baptism as a part of this Sunday (imagine a children’s choir singing “As a Little Child” or “Jesus Loves Me” during the baptism of other children).
I once attended a children’s Sunday service that ended with the release of balloons in the courtyard of the church. Each balloon contained a message written to the community and included the name and address of the church. The theme of the service was celebration and play, two very important lessons children can teach the rest of us. The centerpiece was the poem “Balloons Belong in Church” written by the Presbyterian poet Ann Weems.
Promotion Sunday often coincides with the start of the new school year. Deuteronomy 11:18-19 is just one of the many scripture texts that works here. Celebrate the special role of Sunday School teachers on this day with a litany of dedication read by teachers, with a section for the church to dedicate itself in supporting them. This Sunday could also be a time for children to dedicate themselves to the new public school year and their studies.
Celebrate the Animal World
I once attended a Saturday morning “blessing of the animals,” which took place on the church grounds. So many different kinds of pets and domesticated animals (all leashed or caged) were represented; it felt a bit like Noah’s ark. Animals have a special place in creation, and we are charged with being responsible stewards and caretakers. This doesn’t have to be a “blessing” in the traditional sense of a priest using holy water. It could take the form of a written blessing, with the pastor reading God’s charge to us in the book of Genesis and the people responding with their commitment to be responsible caretakers.
Celebrate Our Work
Take time to celebrate both the vocations/livelihoods of your congregation as well as their work roles within the church. Ask them to come “dressed for work” one Sunday, in whatever uniform they might wear or carrying some item used in their work. Don’t forget to include students! The hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be” could serve as a sung dedication, or you could write a special litany. A powerpoint presentation of church members at their jobs, outside as well as within the church, would be a nice visual component.
Celebrate the Arts
This could be a week-long or month-long celebration of the arts, launched with a sermon on the gift of creativity that is inherent in being made in the Creator’s image (Genesis 1:27, “God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature.” –– The Message translation). Write a special litany dedicating our creative talents back to God.
Place items of art created by the congregation on display in the fellowship hall or narthex (vestibule, entry/foyer). Remember to include as many forms as possible: visual art (painting, photography, sculpture, calligraphy, drawings, mosaics, stained glass, needlework, ceramics, floral arrangements) as well as literary works (poetry, essays). Special offerings of performance art (music, drama, dance) could be incorporated into Sunday worship or given their own separate time on a Sunday afternoon.
Celebrate the Family
This could be a celebration of the family unit or the church family. Look for special music/hymns and scripture related to the family as well as a litany of dedication to be read by individual members of families (parents, children, extended family, and those outside the family who act in a supporting role).
Celebrate the Church Building and Grounds
Have a special day for clean-up and care of the church and its grounds.
Clean out and restock supply or donations closets, library shelves, the church kitchen; clean educational and fellowship space; weed flowerbeds or plant a new tree. Follow with dinner on the ground.
As you can see, the season is blooming with ideas! Create some ideas of your own and make them annual events.