The Sunshine Cathedral’s Worship Service Explained
Our service is based on the format of the liturgy used by the 4th century bishop Hippolytus. The opening processional, the weekly Eucharist, the Gospel processional, occasional classical music, and the liturgical vestments are to make people from “High Church” traditions comfortable. The praise choruses, pop music, and Broadway showtunes are to make youth, spiritual but not religious, and those drawn to contemporary worship styles comfortable. The altar call to prayer and Gospel style closing hymn are to make people from evangelical traditions comfortable. We offer something for everyone as a sign of welcome and inclusion and at the same time we create something that is unique and authentic for our diverse community. We do all this while being true to our progressive values and commitment to inclusive language.
The Service of the Word:
Welcome & Announcements – We inform the congregation of upcoming events and we welcome first time guests.
Opening affirmation – This is actually the Sunshine Cathedral mission and we affirm it together each week: Here at the Sunshine Cathedral we are seekers and students of truth, empowered by spirit, sharing the Light with the world!
Congregational Introit – A musical call to worship followed by the responsive scriptural affirmation: This is the day our God has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118.24).
Processional Hymn – the congregation sings together (usually a hymn in a grand, somber, “high” style).
Invocation – We acknowledge the divine Presence within and among us.
The First Reading(s) – We hear a lesson or two focusing on the theme of the day. Readings might be from the bible, from extra-canonical literature (ancient Christian texts that didn’t make it into our bible), from the texts of other world traditions, or from contemporary sources.
The Gradual – A chorus preparing our hearts to hear the Gospel message.
The Gospel – a reading, usually from one of the four canonical gospels. We symbolically take the “Word” to the people, along with the Christ Candle and the Humanity Candle, demonstrating that the Light of Christ is within and among us all and that Light becomes more obvious to us as we hear stories about and teachings attributed to Jesus.
Response – We sing a response to the Gospel message that has just been proclaimed.
The Anthem – the Choir or other ministers of music lift our spirits with song.
The Homily – one of our pastors reflects on one or more of the spiritual points from the readings.
The Healing Prayers – in response to hearing Good News, the congregation is invited to come forward as they wish to participate in shared, healing prayer. By coming forward, we signify that we are reading to experience blessings. By standing at the altar with others, we are offering support to our friends who are seeking healing, and we are receiving their support at well. Lay ministers anoint each person who comes forward as a reminder that God is with us in our time of need. One of our pastors then prays for us, and we conclude by affirming our Good together.
The Sign of Peace – we lovingly wish one another peace and joy.
The Service of Holy Communion:
Tithes & Offerings – We bless our offerings and then share gladly in support of the church that brings us together, affirms our sacred value, and equips us to be a blessing to the world. We then sing a doxology and a pastor affirms God’s blessings for the gifts and for the givers.
Sursum Corda – We are encouraged to lift up our hearts!
Sanctus – a chorus of praise. It might be in English, Spanish, or Latin, with a contemporary or classic feel…it changes throughout the year.
Intercessions – a deacon or lay minister prays for our parish, our community, our nation and its leaders, and the whole world. The minister also prays for those who are on our prayer list and he or she prayerfully remembers those who have recently entered into eternal light. The prayers are concluded as the whole congregation sings the Prayer that Jesus taught us (aka, “The Lord’s Prayer”).
Words of Institution – The pastors, with lay leaders, stand at the altar and sing the story of the Communion Feast, giving thanks for what it symbolizes. The congregation sings responses so that every person is a con-celebrant of the Communion Feast. An open invitation is offered reminding everyone that no one is excluded from the Table of Unconditional Love.
Closing Communion Prayer – After the congregation has been served the Communion elements (unleavened bread and non-alcoholic wine), then one of our pastors says another prayer.
Final Word – the Homilist summarizes the theme of the day by sharing a brief quote.
Benediction – Together we say an affirmative prayer of protection and then one of our pastors offers a final blessing.
Recessional Hymn – We conclude our worship by singing together (usually a tune from the “Gospel” tradition).
Sharing the Light – the homilist then declares, “Our worship has ended; let our service begin!” We respond with “Thanks be to God” and then we go out to be the love of God in action in our world.
Since 1981, the official policy of Metropolitan Community Churches has been to use inclusive language in its liturgies and sermons, and we at the Sunshine Cathedral are intentional about supporting this policy.