A complete worship service weaving together scripture, drama, reflection, conversation and communion
Compiled & written by Ana Gobledale for Open Table (with a grant from the United Reformed Church in Great Britain)
This service is designed for a congregation gathered around tables. It can easily be adapted for a more traditional setting.
The Leader’s Sheet includes the entire service, with all of the leader’s words written out. It is ready to print and use.
A handout (service sheet) is available ready-to-print:
The primary account of the first Christian Pentecost appears in the Acts of the apostles, chapter 2, verses 1-21.
Pentecost is a Greek word which means FIFTY or FIFTIETH. We can recognize “Penta” which means “five,” in other words: pentagram, pentagon, pentateuch.
Pentecost is the Greek name of a Feast Day, for the people of ancient Israel, celebrating the day when Moses brought the tablets, the law, down from Mount Sinai. They set the festival at 7 weeks, or 50 days, after Passover. The Hebrew name of the feast, Shavuot, means 7 weeks, and the Greek, Pentecost, means “Fiftieth or fiftieth day.”
Our Christian Day of Pentecost, first took place on the Jewish Pentecost feast day. So we have kept the Greek name in use at the time.
- Items in centre of each table: ‘flames’, perhaps paper cut-outs in reds, oranges and yellow, about 6 inches (12 cms) long; word ‘spirit’ in large print on strips of paper.
- Place a copy of a reading, or a Bible marked at the reading, or printed handouts, in the centre of each table.
- Bible translations: Suggested are The Inclusive Bible: the first Egalitarian Translation 2007 by Priests for Equality; New Revised Standard Version; or The Message. Ideally, have all three available. NRSV provides the scholarly translation and TM provides an interpretation in modern vernacular. The Inclusive Bible provides a ready-to-read inclusive language translation.
- Candles to light (one lit candle to use for lighting others)
- Communion elements: juice – or grapes – and bread to be shared (gluten free and non-alcoholic, so no one is excluded). These might be set out before the service on each table, or set aside to be brought forward later in the service.
Each item listed below is also included, with the link, at the point of the service at which it is used. They are included here for your convenience.
Choose one Pentecost prayer or reflection:
Choose one version of the Lord’s Prayer:
Have a look at the (paper) flames on your table. Hold one, if you’d like to.
Questions for discussion around the tables:
- When you hear the word ‘spirit’ what comes to mind?
- What does ‘spirit’ mean to you?
Purpose: to establish as a group; to each fully arrive, moving from the outside world to being fully present here; to get to know names; to affirm one another as God’s creation.
All: We are here. We are who we are.
Introduce yourself using only your first name, then saying either ‘I am here.’ or ‘I am who I am,’ or both.
Alternatively: Introduce yourself using your first name. Then say,
‘I am here.’ Then everyone responds with the affirmation, ‘You are who you are, created in the image of God.’
Whoever we are and wherever we are on life’s journey, we are welcome here. I invite you to turn to those near you, greeting one another saying, ‘Peace’ or ‘Shalom’ or ‘Salaam,’ whichever you are comfortable with.
Sing a familiar song/hymn related to Pentecost and the Spirit. Here are some possibilities:
- All over the world, the spirit is moving
Consider adding verses referring to your specific situation:
e.g. All over Britain, the spirit is moving… (your country)
or All over St John’s… (your church)
or All over Warrington . . . (your town, city or community)
- Colours of day dawn into the mind
- For I’m building a people of power
- God’s spirit is deep in my heart
- Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me
- There’s a spirit in the air
- This is the day that the Lord has made,
- When the Spirit of the Lord is within my heart
Acts 2:1-21 – the story of Pentecost
PDF Acts 2, 1-21 DRAMA Pentecost (print and fold into a booklet format)
WORD Acts 2, 1-21 DRAMA Pentecost (print and fold into a booklet format)
For a group willing to act out the Pentecost story, this drama involves 5 readers.
Readers/actors: Storyteller, Peter, Disciple 1, Jew 1, Jew 2
Readers need not memorise; merely distribute the script for reading.
Note: If you are including the interview of Andrew and Peter, you might simply read the Acts story at this point, rather than dramatise it. The interview will provide ample drama to bring the Pentecost event alive.
What about inviting Andrew (Andreas) and Peter (Petros) to visit your congregation and be interviewed? Here is a complete script for an interview in which the disciples, Peter, Andrew and Thaddeus relate their experiences of Pentecost, the church’s birthday.
Consider using one of these prayers. Choose one that speaks to you. Ask someone to read it, prayerfully.
- Pentecost Prayer, by David Alan, Australia
Click here to read this prayer posted on Worship Words.
- Pentecost, by Steve Garnaas-Holmes, USA
Click here to read this prayer posted on Worship Words.
Or read this Pentecost poem/reflection:
Click here to read this poem/reflection posted on Worship Words.
And they all understood
No missed messages
No mixed messages
Confusion moves to clarity
Discord moves to harmony
Cacophony moves to melody
Agitation transformed by peace
Individualism transformed by community
Nationalism transformed by neighbour-sighting
Flags waving to declare identity move to tabletops
holding a common cup
Strangers move into relationship
And they all understand
(You may want to choose only one or two questions to help people have adequate time and not feel rushed.)
- To what in the Pentecost story can you relate? To what in the story do you find it difficult to relate?
- When have you witnessed or experienced fresh understanding in a situation, seemingly arising from the Spirit?
- When have you experienced the presence of the Spirit?
- How might you open yourself to be more receptive to the Spirit?
Romans 8:26 NRSV
‘Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.’
optional, if time allows
Consider these questions about the Spirit:
- When you pray, how might you open yourself more to the help of the Spirit?
- When are your ‘weak’ spots? How might the Spirit help you?
Considering the joys and concerns in our lives and in our world, we turn to God in prayer, trusting that the Spirit will intercede for us ‘with sighs too deep for words.’ It is written in the letter to the Romans: ‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.’ (Romans 8:26)
We light candles to symbolically illuminate our concerns and our joys with the light of God, to magnify our joy and diminish our worries. If you would like to share for whom or what you are lighting the candle, feel free to say the name aloud, or you may light a candle in silence.
After everyone has had the opportunity to light a candle, close the time of sharing with a prayer.
If you are comfortable start the song, start singing and others will join in:
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me…
Pray with me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us. Thank you for filling us with your spirit. Thank you for molding us in your example. Thank you for using us to spread your light throughout our families, our work places, our sports clubs [add other common groups to which people belong] and our world. Amen.
Choose a song to lead into communion, ideally a familiar reflective song/hymn on the theme of communion.
You might try new words to familiar tunes:
- Invitation to the sacrament, by George Stuart, Australia
Ready-to-print: Hymn – Invitation to the Sacrament
Tune: St Peter
- We are welcome, by George Stuart, Australia
Ready-to-print: Hymn – We are welcome
Tune: Lauda Anima – Praise my Soul
as desired by the gathered congregation. Some groups appreciate times of silence; others are uncomfortable with too much silence. If you are not sure, ask those gathered.
Join me in the Lord’s Prayer (using an alternative version written by ____________).
Use a familiar version (which many people will know from memory) or introduce an alternative version.
Alternative versions can be found below and on Worship Words .
- A version of the Lord’s Prayer by Stephen Best, UK
Great Love; the root and sap of our evolving fullness…
- The Lord’s Prayer — interpreted by Sam Alexander, UK
Those things that are good and right and true:
I acknowledge them with honour and love…
- Disciples Prayer by Thandiwe Dale-Ferguson, USA
Holy One whose name we honour and praise,
When we laugh, you laugh with us.
When we weep, your tears wash over the earth…
…By your creativity, the universe was born,
And in your love, we are sustained. Amen.
- The Abba Prayer by Rex AE Hunt, USA
- Earth Maker, a modern version from New Zealand
- Template for talking to God in The Word on the Street, by Rob Lacey (copyright applies)
The table is set for our special meal. The bread, the juice, prepared and presented. Ready to be served and shared.
We remember Jesus sharing a meal like this with his disciples, his friends. He included and welcomed everyone, those he could trust and those he could not trust, those he felt close to in spirit and those far from his spiritual path. Today we are those disciples, those friends. Each one of us is welcome. How amazing it is to be loved and wanted even when we have not been perfect. How wonderful it is to be included as we are.
The bread is gluten free and the juice is non-alcoholic so that all may partake freely. No one is excluded from this meal.
As we approach this meal of mystery in the hope and promise of reconciliation, we prepare ourselves in prayer. Pray with me.
Spirit of Life, as gentle as a spring breeze and powerful as a winter gale, thank you for breathing life into us and claiming us as your own. Encircle us in the whirlwind of your grace whispering your call to us afresh. Drive us forward, that we might move in confidence along the path you have determined for us. May this shared meal, the feast of love for the family of God, renew us and strengthen us to live in gratitude and joy. May it be so.
When Jesus shared the bread with his friends, he explained that he is the Bread of Life. As bread nourishes and strengthens our bodies, Jesus nourishes and strengthens our spirits and minds. When we eat the bread together, we are strengthened as a community to remember Jesus and to do the things Jesus would do in our world, to work for justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.
Jesus also shared a cup of the fruit of grapes. Through this cup, we are nourished with the very spirit of life. Drinking the juice together helps us remember our responsibility to this suffering world, to be agents of healing where there is brokenness, of hope where there is despair.
God loves us so much that when we make mistakes, or when we make bad choices, God has agreed to forgive us and grants us a second chance, every time. This meal is a sign of that covenant.
This is ordinary bread and ordinary juice. But when we eat the bread together and drink the juice together, something extraordinary happens which brings us closer to Jesus and to one another. We become the ‘Body of Christ.’ Our eyes and ears are opened to see and hear what Jesus would see in our world. Our arms and hands are empowered to do Jesus’s work to help others.
May this shared meal of mystery manifest the essence of the risen Christ in our midst.
Spirit God, for this time together around this table, we give thanks. Bless this meal, this simple bread and juice, that it might renew and strengthen us, with both the power and gentleness of your spirit. Amen.
Break bread as words are spoken:
Sharing the broken bread, we are renewed and made whole.
Pour our juice as words are spoken:
Sharing the cup, we are reconciled with God and one another.
Pray with me. Eternal Spirit, thank you for breathing your spirit into us, and gathering us at this table. May the grace of this special meal make us one body, one spirit, reconciled in Christ. Amen.
Ministering to you on behalf of Jesus, our host. All things are ready.
Sharing the bread
When you take a piece of bread, please hold it until everyone has a piece. Then we will all eat together. [or: Please eat the bread as you receive it.]
When everyone has bread:
This is the Bread of Life. Eat, and receive the Spirit of Christ into the depths of your being.
Sharing the juice
When you take a cup of juice, please hold it until everyone has been served. Then we will all drink together.
When everyone has a cup:
This is the Cup of Blessing. Drink, and receive the Spirit of Christ, flowing through you as forgiveness and renewal.
Pray with me.
Spirit of power and life,
Transform us through this meal.
Empower us to serve your people and honour your creation.
Strengthen us to do your will.
May our very veins overflow with your Spirit, the Spirit of Pentecost.
Unite us as the living body and blood, we pray. Amen.
Preparing to go out into the world
Sing a familiar uplifting song/hymn, possibly one relating to Pentecost and the Spirit.
See suggestions earlier in the service.
God, your spirit,
like the wind, enables us to soar like eagles,
like fire, warms and empowers us.
Make us eager to share your power and magnificence
with all we meet. Amen.
Have another cuppa?
Slip away quietly?
Whatever is comfortable for the group and for the individuals.
Go filled with the spirit!