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Leader Resource 3: Creating the Closing Worship
In this program, the closing worship circle offers a time for the group to come back together to enrich one another's understanding of the story and of their own life experience. This is not a show-and-tell experience, but rather a participatory, co-created worship experience. You will need to do just enough planning to provide a container for participants to share with one another and grow in spirit. You cannot script a co-created worship service, but you can guide it so that all participants feel heard and valued, and all hear and value the voices and experiences of others, regardless of age or life stage. With practice, you and the participants will become adept at co-creating worship to end each workshop.
Here are suggested elements for the closing worship for Workshop 5, Sarah, Hagar, and Abraham. Add, subtract, and adapt to fit your situation:
There is a love holding me.
There is a love holding you.
There is a love holding all.
I rest in this love. — Rebecca Parker
Use chalice lighting words familiar to your congregation or use Reading 453 from Singing the Living Tradition.
Retelling the story
Invite participants to tell the story from the beginning, with each person who wishes adding a sentence. Stop at the point where Hagar is sent into the desert for the first time.
It Happened in the Desert
Invite those who have created the desert model (Activity 7) to tell the story from that point, explaining their model as they share. Place the model on or near the worship table.
Telling Ishmael's Story
If you had a group using Alternate Activity 1, A Skin of Water, invite them to share their thoughts on Ishmael's experiences and explain how to find water in the desert. Invite them to show their "skins" of water and place them near or on the worship table.
Responses to God's Actions
Invite members of the Responses to God's Actions group (Activity 7) to share their creations and explain what Hagar, Sarah, and Abraham might have each wanted to say to God. Place the creations on the worship table or tape them to the edge of the table.
What does this story tell us about ourselves?
Invite the discussion group to share some of their comments and insights.
Begin a meditation or prayer as you normally would in your congregation. Then say, "This story is several different stories, because each person in it had a different experience." Invite participants to remember times when they have had a different "story" about something than other people, perhaps thinking that something was unfair or not right even when others did not agree. Say "We remember how we felt when ..." Invite participants to promise that they will try their hardest to remember that sometimes other people may have different experiences than we do. End your meditation or prayer by saying, "Help us to/may we remember to listen to other people's stories and to honor other people's experiences. We can practice listening to other people's stories with our family, friends, and this congregation. God/Spirit of Life/Spirit of Justice and Love will be with us when we do that." End the meditation or prayer as you normally would in your congregation.
Choose some music about multiple stories. Sing Hymn 346, "Come, Sing a Song with Me," Hymn 159, "This is My Song," Hymn 131, "Love Will Guide Us," Hymn 381, "From all that Dwell Below the Skies," or another familiar hymn or song about welcoming many perspectives and stories.
Use words familiar to your congregation.