Out of the Box Worship


Appropriate for up to 20 people. Everyone comes into the space, and there is a box waiting with instructions for taking worship "out of the box"

Theme or Background

A boom box, readings, altar materials, etc. are contained in a box in the middle of the room. Time for planning and rehearsal: Probably a couple of hours to work up sharing about worship for the 2 people talking in the middle of the service. A few hours to print cards, buy and put the props in the box, and find readings.

Materials Involved

Altar, box that will fit all materials, matches, tea-light candles for everyone, chairs, boom box, music for spiral dancing, chalice, bell or chimes.


The following were put on cards (one set of instructions per person), and an order of service was passed out also to help people navigate where we were in the service. What follows is what was on the cards:
Open only at the risk of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. Inside the basket, you will find an order of service, and, since this is a participatory worship service, envelopes with instructions. Distribute all of the envelopes (#1-16) and the order of service to participants. It is okay for one participant to have more than one envelope, but try to involve as many people as possible. Please take a few minutes for worshipers to review their individual cards, and the order of service before opening the box. When everyone is ready, take worship out of the box.

Creating the Space

Worshiper 1: Invite other participants to help you to create a circle of chairs to accommodate everyone. While you do this, the altar will be created.
Please help dismantle the altar during the closing part of the worship service too.

Worshiper 2: Put a candle under each chair. Invite other participants to help you if you would like. While you do this, the chairs will be put in a circle, and the altar created.
Please blow out candles during the closing part of the worship service too.
Worshiper 3: Create an altar using the cloth, chalice, basket, etc. Invite other participants to help you if you would like. While you do this, the chairs will be put in a circle.
Please help dismantle and repack the altar and worship supplies during the closing part of the worship service too.

Coming Together

Worshiper 4: After the altar has been created, and the chairs are in a circle with candles underneath each chair, your job is to focus attention back on the circle. Do this by rubbing your hands together, and get everyone else to do so without making any sound with your voice.

Worshiper 5:
When people are all expectantly rubbing their hands together, stand and read the following quote from Angeles Arrien, "Show up, choose to be present. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning. Tell the truth, without judgment or blame. Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome."
Invite people to sit down in the circle
Worshiper 6: When Worshiper #5 has finished reading and everyone is seated, light the chalice and read the following quote:

"Human beings have a desire to worship because it scratches what itches in the human condition. Real worship helps address, soothe, instruct, and inspire us; to enable us to celebrate life more joyfully, bear tragedy more easily, and transform the everyday into the extraordinary."

Follow directions on the next card.

Light your candle from the chalice and then go to your seat, and light the candle of the person next to you. Invite everyone to light their candles from each other. When all candles are lit, ask worshipers to bring them to the center together and place them on the floor around the altar.

Worshiper 7: When all candles are around the altar, invite people to sit in their chairs, and read "The Ponds," by Mary Oliver.
Two people here should provide a focus for talking about what worship is for them (they are Worshippers 8 and 9)

Sharing the Silence

Worshiper 10 After Worshippers 8 & 9 finish and there is a time of silence, ring the bell. Read:

"We invite your to share several minutes of silent reflection."

After two minutes, ring the bell again, and ask people to become aware of the room and the other worshipers at their own pace.
Sharing Ourselves

Worshiper 12. When the silent reflection finishes and everyone is focused on the group again, issue the following invitation:

"We invite you to form groups of 3-4 and to explore the following topics together:

What experiences have you had when the ordinary became extraordinary?
What is worship for you: have you always thought so?
What usually creates meaning in your life?
What has scratched an itch so far in the service for you?"

(Distribute a card with these questions to each group.)

Moving As One

Worshiper 13: Ring bell after 15 minutes in the small groups or when energy for discussion seems to be fading. When people seem to be paying attention, press the button on the tape deck and start a circle dance within one of the small groups. Do this by moving rhythmically in a circle in a way that feels comfortable and fun to you. After about a minute, open your circle into a line and move among the other groups, encouraging them to join into one long line and a spiral dance. Lead people around Robinson Hall in a way that worshipers get to look at everyone's face in the room several times. After several minutes, the music will fade out; end in a circle.

Offerings to the Circle

Worshiper 14. After the spiral dance and people are back in a circle, read the following:

"Please bring your chairs into the circle and be seated. We will pass an offering basket around the circle. When it comes to you, if you feel like it share what is moving through you: what is on your mind right now, in your heart, anything, including silence."

Take basket from altar and begin the offering. After the basket has been passed around the entire circle, take the basket and place it back on the altar.


Worshiper 16. After the singing of "Spirit of Life," invite the worshipers to stand and hold hands while worshipers 1,2, and 3 extinguish the altar candles and put the altar supplies back in the box. When the altar is dismantled, and all candles are extinguished, and all the worshipers have come back in the group, say "Blessed Be." After a few moments, pause and ask the participants to help you put away the chairs.