Open Table Worship uses inclusive language and imagery for intimate worship settings at which everyone is welcome and valued
Theme: Welcoming the New Year
A complete worship service weaving together scripture, drama, reflection & conversation
Compiled & written by Ana Gobledale for Open Table
This service is designed for a congregation gathered around tables. It can easily be adapted for a more traditional setting.
Each section of the service is available as a separate print out.
The Leader’s Sheet includes the entire service, with all of the leader’s words written out. It is ready to print and use.
Handout worship guide
A ready-to-print handout worship guide (service sheet) has been created for your use. You may adapt them to reflect your preferences.
Materials and planning
- On each table: items to welcome in the New Year –(Scotland & Wales) coins; (England) salt, coal, and bread, traditionally believed to bring good luck, and also ensure abundance of food (bread), wealth (salt), and warmth (coal) in the coming year; noisemakers, party hats, etc.
- Copies of the two readings, or a Bible marked at each reading, enough for 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. A congregation might consider sharing traditional New Year food in a communal meal, more like an Agape meal, perhaps with champagne and other local New Year specialties.
As people gather, invite them to investigate the items in the centre of their table:
- salt, coal, bread & coins
Questions for discussion:
Have these questions printed out on each table:
- What do you enjoy the most about New Year’s celebrations?
- What New Year’s traditions did you grow up with?
- What New Year’s traditions will you practice this year?
- 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.
Ritual of gathering:
All: We are here. We are who we are.
Directions to each person:
Introduce yourself using only your first name, then saying either ‘I am here in this New Year.’ or ‘I am who I am in this New Year,’ or both.
Alternatively: Introduce yourself using your first name. Then say,
‘I am here in this New Year.’
Directions to the group:
Then everyone responds together with the affirmation,
‘You are who you are, created by God.’
Singing our Faith
Sing a familiar song/hymn relevant for ending one year and moving into the next.
- One more step along the world I go, Sydney Carter
- These are great new words to old tunes. Try them out:
- Call to Discipleship, George Stuart
Click here for words on Worship Words.
The Journey of Life, George Stuart
Click here for words on Worship Words.
Exploring our Faith
Ask people to read aloud one or two of the suggested poems or prayers. These will provide the basis for conversation.
Prayer for the New Year
by Revd Sandy Messick, Seattle USA
God of all times and seasons,
On this threshold of a new year, we turn and return again to you.
The year spreads before us with possibilities and challenges,
joys and concerns.
There is beauty all around: in the smiles of children,
in the love offered between friends, in the beauty of the earth.
But there are also challenges already surfacing.
In the closing days of last year, we have seen the images
of war torn countries,
terrorist attacks, hunger, poverty and despair.
Your heart grieves when your children anywhere are hurting.
Our hearts grieve too.
Then again, we know that even in the midst of winter
there is hope for spring,
and even in the midst of grief there are signs of hope:
children embraced, lives touched by grace,
heroes who surface in times of trial.
In the midst of the good and the bad,
hear our prayer for this New Year.
May you help us to love a bit more deeply,
See the beauty around us more clearly,
Listen more earnestly,
Speak more honestly.
May we be troubled by injustice and be moved to act.
May we be led by compassion and be moved to serve.
May we walk softly upon this earth
and be gentle towards your creation.
May we be a courageous and bold witness for you.
May we be a living example of your gracious love,
not only in word but in deed.
And may we daily give thanks for the others in our lives
and in the world that do the same and more,
every day, in innumerable ways.
For the promise in this New Year, we give you thanks.
Help us to live it wisely and well.
Prayer for the New Year,
by Revd Thandiwe Dale-Ferguson, USA
Quietly the New Year slips in.
Are we now more fearful, the radio asks?
Are we now more aware of the suffering, the violence,
the inequality, the injustice in our world?
In this New Year,
We seek you
As we have always sought you.
We need you
As we have always needed you.
We hunger for your presence, your peace, your justice and your love.
Open our hearts afresh and anew.
Open our minds that we may know you.
Open our hands that we may care for you.
Open our ears and eyes that we may hear and see you
In our neighbour, in the foreigner, in the refugee,
Even in our enemy,
And, perhaps especially, in ourselves.
That we may know in the deepest part of ourselves
That you call us
And that we are capable
Of seeing and naming, doing and being
Your love, your peace, your hope and your justice
In this your world.
Posted on Worship Words at: https://worshipwords.co.uk/new-year/
These conversation-starters arise from the suggested prayers.
Inform everyone there will be no report-back or plenary sharing session.
Questions and responses might be shared in pairs or threes.
Consider these questions:
- What are the ‘possibilities and challenges, joys and concerns’ you see spread before you/us in the year ahead?
- How does your heart ‘grieve’?
- Are you feeling more fearful? Careful? Tired? Why?
- How do you relate to the idea of ‘hungering for God’?
Ask someone to read the passage from a Bible on the table, or from their own Bible or from a printout. (See printout for complete text.)
‘For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant…’
Consider these questions:
- Likening the New Year to a new season in our lives, how might you grow and mature in this new season?
- What is ‘the time’ that lays before us/you in the New Year? Complete this sentence: 2018/9 is a time to…
- What is one thing in yourself that you would like to work on improving/changing in the year ahead?
- What one thing will you do in the year ahead to make the world a better place?
- What one thing will you do this week to improve your relationship with God?
Light for the journey
- Reading of Scripture Revelation 21
Before reading: May these words from the Book of Revelations inspire us as we prepare ourselves to be made new in this New Year. Filled with expectation and promise, we lift our hopes and challenges to God.
- After the reading:
- I invite you to light a candle, symbolically bringing your hope, challenges and commitments for the year ahead into the ‘light of God.’
- If you would like to share a hope, commitment, challenge, or prayer concern, feel free to share with the group, or you may light a candle in silence.
- Participants may choose to light a candle or not.
Prayer: after everyone who would like to has lit a candle:
God, as we step into this new year, we look to you for guidance, comfort and strength. Amen.
Use a familiar version (which many people will know from memory) or introduce an alternative version.
Click here for several alternative versions to consider or try one of the following.
By Revd Stephen Best, UK
Great Love; the root and sap of our evolving fullness,
Nudge us forward in our creative potential
So we may flourish for the common good.
In each mindful moment, help us recognise that
We free ourselves from the ghosts of our past
In the release we grant those who have harmed us.
Keep us focused on what is right
Make us thirsty for what is just.
For it is love, that knows the way,
Shows the way, becomes the way,
To the fulfilment of our eternal call. Amen
By Revd 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.
You know the joys and sorrows of our hearts,
Our efforts for change and our resistance to it.
We seek a time when Your ways become our ways,
A time when our hopes for reconciliation,
Peace and justice become reality.
Spirit of Life, today we ask for enough:
That the food we have may be enough,
That the money and possessions we have may be enough,
That our achievements and successes may be enough.
That we may be enough.
Lead us from the temptations of wanting more
To the contentment of having and being enough.
Even as you sow the seeds of discontent
That move us to change systems
That give some too much and others too little.
Help us to forgive others and ourselves
When we disappoint, neglect, or harm.
For your grace is enough for all of us.
By your creativity, the universe was born,
And in your love, we are sustained. Amen.
The table is set for our special meal.
The bread, the juice, prepared and presented.
Ready to be served and shared.
Through this meal God is making all things new.
When Jesus shares the meal with his friends, it is a defining moment, for he includes everyone, those he can trust and those he cannot trust. He declares no one unworthy.
Today we, his modern disciples and friends, are welcome, no matter how worthy or unworthy we feel. For Jesus makes everything new, holds no prejudice, condemns no one, includes each of us 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.
Prayer of confession (optional)
As we approach this meal of celebration and new beginnings, we confess our sin, in the hope and promise of reconciliation.
Pray with me.
God of new beginnings, you spread the year before us with possibilities and challenges.
Some of us come to this meal feeling overwhelmed, stunted, blocked. Yet we want to trust your promise of a new beginning, today.
Some of us approach this table feeling unworthy, flawed, broken. Yet we want to trust the assurance of your unwavering love and acceptance.
Forgive our fear and doubt.
Fill our minds and hearts with an unwavering trust in your promises and possibilities. Amen.
Words of Assurance (optional)
Be assured that God welcomes us into this New Year with full forgiveness, full acceptance and love beyond measure.
—from Mark 14: 22-25
Jesus shared a special meal with his friends, and they long remembered his words at the table. And so we retell the story as recorded in Mark’s Gospel.
On the night before he died, Jesus shared a meal with twelve of his disciples in an upstairs room in Jerusalem. The Gospel writer, Mark, tells us what happened that night.
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’
Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I tell you, I will never again drink the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’
Following Jesus’ example, we take simple bread and juice, these ordinary things of life which Jesus will make special. And as he said a prayer of thanksgiving before sharing, let us do so too.
Additional words that may prove helpful if more explanation is desired:
Before us today are ordinary bread and juice.
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.’ which means our eyes and ears see and hear what Jesus would see in our world, our arms and hands do Jesus’s work to help others.
May this shared meal of new beginnings manifest for us the very essence of the risen Christ in our midst.
God of new beginnings, for this time together, on the cusp of a new year, we give you thanks.
As we celebrate around the table, we give thanks for the power of this meal, this simple bread and juice, to strengthen us for the days ahead as the Body of Christ.
Break bread as words are spoken:
Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Like bread, Jesus nourishes and strengthens us so that we can know right and wrong and not be confused.
When we eat the bread together at this communion meal, we are strengthened as a community to remember Jesus and to follow him, to live as he would live.
Pour our juice as words are spoken:
The blood-red fruit of the vine reminds us that we are all part of a special agreement with God, a covenant sealed through the gift Jesus gave of his life.
Through the sharing of the cup, we renew God’s covenant of love with God and with one another.
Pray with me.
God of renewal and rebirth, renew us, through this meal.
Through your Holy Spirit, empower us to be your faithful people each day this year.
Strengthen us and show us how us the way to walk with Jesus on the path of truth, justice and peace.
Ministering to you in Christ’s name, 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:
God is making all things new. Eat of the Bread of Life.
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:
God’s covenant renewed. Drink of the Cup of Love.
Pray with me.
God of this new day and this new year, thank you for your presence in our lives, today and each day.
Thank you for renewing us through this meal, and strengthening us each step we take into this new year.
Going into the world– stepping into the New Year
New Year blessing, by Cara Heafey, UK
Let us look for Christ wherever we go
Let us never stop seeking
Believing that there is a light that shines in the darkness
Which the darkness shall not overcome
And may the love of the Creator
The joy of the Spirit
And the peace of the Christ-child
Be with you this New Year, and evermore
Let the people say…Amen!
Posted on Worship Words at https://worshipwords.co.uk/new-year-blessing-cara-heafey-uk/
Choose a familiar uplifting song/hymn.
The congregation might like to choose a favourite.
It might focus on the theme or be a beloved song of joy and gratitude.
Consider Auld lang syne (Scottish), to bid farewell to the old year and usher in the new.
Have another cuppa?
Slip away quietly?
Light sparklers (or set off small fireworks) — Be safe!
Whatever is comfortable for the group and for the individuals.
Stepping into the New Year!