Worship

“Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, nourishment of mind by His truth, purifying of imagination by His beauty, opening of the heart to His love, and submission of will to His purpose. And all this gathered up in adoration is the greatest of human expressions of which we are capable.”

William Temple
Archbishop of Canterbury (d.1944)

Worship Collage

Why We Worship

We gather at Blacknall to worship God because we believe this is what we were created for. Aware or not, at the heart of human existence is a question: Whom do you thank? A heart that is rightly ordered in its desires is a heart shaped by gratitude, and worship is gratitude’s deepest and best expression. We believe the rightful recipient of our gratitude is the God we have come to know through Jesus Christ.

Worship is central to who we are as the body of Christ in this outpost of God’s kingdom in Durham. By the Holy Spirit we are drawn into the worship of heaven itself, that ongoing offering of self-giving love that flows from the Son, Jesus Christ, to his Father. In worship we meet our Lord as he makes himself known to us by the Spirit through his word and at the table. In turn, the Spirit calls forth from us praise and prayers of repentance, thanksgiving and intercession; we are reminded of our true identity as children of God through Christ, and sent into the world with this Good News, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.

Blacknall’s membership comes from many different Christian traditions, but there are particular aspects of our service that reflect our Presbyterian identity and Reformation heritage, with its particular emphasis on the centrality of Scripture and preaching. Our recitation of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds reminds us not only of what we believe, but that we are part of a larger family of saints, a “communion” that stretches back to the earliest days of the followers of Jesus. We also have “borrowed” certain practices from other Christian traditions, such as kneeling for confession, communion by intinction and the opportunity for anyone present to voice a concern for prayer. The two Sunday morning services are identical to each other; we prefer not to divide the congregation by liturgical or musical taste.

What follows is a brief overview of the elements of our worship. The service at Blacknall roughly follows a pattern of encounter with God that is set out in Isaiah 6.1-8. Our worship service is in fact a covenant renewal ceremony – inviting us to come into the presence of God in worship and adoration, to confess our sins and be healed, to hear his word to us, and to be sent forth to engage the world around us as witnesses to him.

Jump to:
Songs of Gathering and Praise
Prayers of Confession
Affirmation of Faith
Children and Worship
Cross, Pulpit, Table and Font
Responding to the Word
To the Glory of God and the Transformation of the Church

Songs of Gathering and Praise

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory…at the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:3-4)

Our service opens with songs of gathering, calling us from our busy and distracted lives and ushering us into an awareness of the presence of God. Often the music follows a certain trajectory, from songs in which we invite one another to worship, to songs about God, to songs that address God directly. In these songs of gathering we come to realize that we are not entreating God to come to us, but are entering into worship that is ongoing – in the heavenly realms, throughout the whole earth, and through the church in all generations.

Often in the middle of the songs of worship, there will be an invocation, inviting God to make his presence known to us by the Holy Spirit, asking the Lord to meet each person according to his or her needs that morning.
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Prayers of Confession

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined. For I am a man of unclean lips and I have lived among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said See, this has touched your lips [a metaphor indicating forgiveness and cleansing from sin]; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:5-7)

Even as Isaiah came into the presence of God, he realized that he was unworthy to be there. As we become aware of God’s presence, like Isaiah we kneel to acknowledge our sinfulness and turn from it; we are agreeing with God, amidst the people of God, that we are in need of grace and forgiveness. How grateful we are that Jesus Christ is our great high priest, that he knows our weaknesses, our failures, and our needs, and has come to intercede for us before we were even aware of our desperate condition!

After confession we exchange a sign of peace with one another, recognizing that Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension make possible, indeed demand, that we be reconciled to one another. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). Extending the peace of Christ to those near us in worship embodies in our life together the grace that is at the heart of our identity as a community of Christ.
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Affirmation of Faith

Each week we recite either the Nicene or the Apostles Creed. Both creeds are widely accepted by Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians as faithful statements of the key elements of our faith; as such they stand as symbols of our unity with the larger body of Christ, through time and around the world, and serve as declarations of what we believe.
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Children and Worship

Blacknall is blessed with lots of children! The ministry to children at Blacknall is oriented toward helping them grow into mature worshippers and followers of Christ. At this point in the worship service on Sunday mornings, children through second grade are invited to come forward to have a few moments of interaction with one of the worship leaders, to receive a blessing, and then to go to one of two worship opportunities that are age appropriate. (We strive to provide excellent nursery care for your little ones. If, however, you would like to keep your infant with you and still be in proximity to the sanctuary, there is a quiet space with comfortable chairs available in the rear right corner.)
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Cross, Pulpit, Table and Font

When you enter the sanctuary at Blacknall, you are likely to notice first the simple wooden cross at the center of the front wall. What was originally an instrument of Roman torture has become the symbol of the risen Christ, Lord of all. Everything that takes place in this space occurs under the cross, a tacit recognition of the Lordship of Christ and our life together in and through him.

Directly in front of the cross is the pulpit and, just below it, the communion table. This central placement of pulpit and table is not accidental.

Scripture is uniquely authoritative for our lives; it bears witness to Jesus Christ, the Living Word. The central location of the pulpit intentionally acknowledges the importance of the exposition and application of the Scripture as the centerpiece of Christian worship; rightly understanding and living the Scriptures is essential to ordering our lives faithfully before God.

Directly below the pulpit is the communion table, and to the left of the pulpit is the baptismal font. Both the font, the place of baptism, and the table, the place of communion, are the special meeting place of the community with God in what are called sacraments. Our Reformed tradition insists that Christ is truly present at the font and the table by the Holy Spirit. In these two sacraments we are particularly graced by God. Baptism marks us with water, claiming us for Jesus Christ and symbolizing our dying to self and rising to new life in Christ. In the Lord’s Supper (or Communion or the Eucharist) we recognize that Christ has died, risen, and will come again. At the table as we receive bread and wine, symbolic of Christ’s body and blood, we remember with gratitude his atoning death on the cross for us, receive humbly his sustaining care for us in the present, and anticipate his coming again in glory. Regardless of your particular tradition, all who have made profession of faith in Jesus Christ are welcome to participate.
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Responding to the Word

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

In response to the great gift we have received in Jesus Christ we offer ourselves – our lives, our gifts, and a portion of our material goods, all in recognition that everything we have and are belong to him. In this part of our worship service, we are called to look beyond ourselves, praying for one another, and the needs and issues beyond our doors. We are then sent forth as his emissaries, proclaiming Christ in our words and actions.

The worship service closes with a benediction, which literally means “to speak a good word”. This word spoken by one of the pastors to us as God’s covenant people is both an assurance that the Lord is with us as we depart and a commissioning as we bear witness to the world of the power, presence and invitation of Jesus Christ.

Our worship then concludes with a sung response, followed by the opportunity for prayer by Blacknall elders and other members of our prayer team.
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To the Glory of God and the Transformation of the Church

As Archbishop Temple implies in definition (at the beginning of this piece), the worship of the people of God is something much more profound than most of us imagine. Our own culture encourages us to evaluate our commitments by how they make us feel. Surely the worship of the Triune God would challenge this shallow estimation! To enter into the presence of the living God is to be changed. Worship is the venue in which such an encounter leads to the transformation of the worshipper and the glorification of God. May it be so!

If you have questions about worship at Blacknall or what we believe, we’d love to talk with you. Please ask one of the pastors or elders. We are very glad that you are with us.

To God be glory in the church!
Ephesians 3:21

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