The Place of Congregational Worship in the Uniting Church in Australia
The Church is to be viewed, not simply or principally as a human organisation, but as a Body, the Body of Christ, the extension of his presence, personality and mission into the present-day life of the world. It consists of persons who have recognised their own need of his liberation from guilt and his enabling of a whole new lifestyle. Each such person becomes part of his Body, on the one hand drawing on his life, on the other expressing his will in mission within the world. Within the Body each individual is a participant, variously gifted in a way that draws from and contributes to the life and mission of the Body.
The life of the Body centres on God himself – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So – worship is our central activity. But what is meant by “worship”?
The main words for “worship” in the Old and New Testaments alike express on the one hand SERVICE (literally the labour of slaves or hired servants). On the other hand, to offer this worship to God is to PROSTRATE ONESELF – to acknowledge God’s infinite superiority in majesty, power, wisdom, holiness and love, and to offer one’s life to him for his will.
The English word “worship” comes from WORTH-SHIP – recognition of God’s worth or worthiness. This “worship” is the individual’s constant attitude to and relationship with God. But it it is not just individual, for each person is part of the Body. So this attitude and relationship needs also to find expression in congregational worship.
Congregational worship, then, is an act of the whole Body of God’s people in a particular place, in which, by singing, prayers, the reading of Scripture and its declaration in word and action, they respond to his presence, liberating help and commanding word for their lives individually and their life as a Body. It is also an act by which people identify with one another as a Body in mutual care and encouragement.