Gathering—Call to worship, choral call/call with music. Marks the intentional gathering of religious community for the purpose of common worship.
Opening—Opening words, lighting the flame in the chalice, covenant, hymn. This indicates the opening of the sacred time we have chosen to spend with one another. The music and words heard, sung, and spoken here, the flowers and vestments, the flame of our heritage, the silences—all are lifted up and vested with special meaning. If we touch each other in greeting, it is sacramental touch. If we look upon each other in acknowledgment, it is sacramental seeing. If we partake of food, the elements are more than they would ordinarily be because we have declared ourselves to be a community and we intend to be changed by these things of which we partake.
Acknowledging—Family focus (story or special attention paid to children), welcome and announcements, joys and sorrows, greeting each other. By this we open to putting ourselves in the stream of our history; and we acknowledge that we are part of the present company, its values and aspirations; its children are our children, its elders are our elders. We also address the bounty shared here and into the larger community, its needs and concerns touching us and requiring our response.
Giving—Offertory. By this we participate in the life of the religious community—by the gifts of our physical substance and by our willing presence.
Centering—Prayer or meditation, silence for reflection. This invites us to center down, to be aware of what may arise from within us or enter our awareness from outside us. There might also be a responding song such as "Spirit of Life."
Receiving—Readings, sermon, dance, poetry, visual art. This inspires, informs, deepens, declares the possibilities, encourages, comforts, disturbs. This part may include congregational sharing. Never a "talk back," in the sense of argumentation or disputation for which there are more appropriate forums outside of worship.
Acknowledging—Song, responsive reading. This is the congregational response to the end of the service. We who have gathered are about to disperse. It is good to be together. Let us rejoice in each good thing and in what we have done here.
Closing—Benediction. This marks the end of the sacred time and is an invitation to take what has been shared, strengthened, quickened in this time and place and community out into the rest of life.
Dispersing/Postlude—Re-entering the world refreshed, enlivened, touched, changed, challenged, exalted. Doing this to music adds the dimension of moving into the ordinary to the rhythms of the sacred.