How is a Methodist worship service
"In the beginning was the service"
Dr. Holger Eschmann is professor for practical theology at Reutlingen University
By Klaus Ulrich Ruof
The service of the United Methodist Church is given a new form. The Reutlingen theologian Holger Eschmann explains what that means.
The Central Conference of the Evangelical Methodist Church (UMC) in Germany, which is meeting in Hamburg, decided on yesterday, Friday, a new basic form of worship for the UMC. Volker Kiemle, the head of the UMC magazine editorial office, spoke to Professor Holger Eschmann, who holds the chair for practical theology at the Reutlingen Theological University.
What is a Methodist Worship Service?
Holger Eschmann: Worship is highly valued in Methodism. It is considered a means of grace, i.e. a kind of channel through which God allows his grace to flow to people. As far as the form is concerned, a Methodist worship service is characterized by the fact that it combines great breadth and diversity with a recognizable basic structure.
Why does it need a change?
The last change in the basic form of worship in the Agende, i.e. the collection of regulations for the worship celebrations of our church, took place in 1990. Much has changed since then. We have observed that the congregations are celebrating different worship services and drawing up regulations on site that suit them. We don't want to prevent this with the church service reform - creativity is good - but at the same time the recognition should become better so that one feels at home in a Methodist church service throughout Germany or worldwide.
What should be changed?
Instead of the previous sequence, which specified the sequence of songs and readings - and which only a few congregations adhere to - we now want to offer a structure of four dimensions of the worship service. In the beginning there is the gathering, the arrival before God. This is followed by listening, that is, preaching by reading the scriptures and preaching. This is followed by the community as a third dimension. It is typically Methodist that we emphasize this dimension. The community of worship arose - historically speaking - from the celebration of the Lord's Supper as the origin of Christian worship. We want to strengthen the sacrament and move the time of fellowship to this place. This also includes the intercessions, so that we strengthen the community of worship participants as a whole. The fourth dimension is then a mission and a blessing, i.e. being sent out into the world.
How are these quite open specifications supposed to be filled with content?
There are already suggestions for various divine service formats that are still to be specified. We will also collect and present successful examples. We also want to accompany congregations on the way to their form of worship.
Many congregations have a number of other construction sites than the design of church services. Why should they also concern themselves with it?
The worship service is a central place in community life. Here we want to awaken new joy in partying, provide orientation and assistance. We hope that the divine service will provide the strength for other tasks in the congregation. You could also say: In the beginning there was the service. From this the further life of the community unfolds.
Photo: Volker Kiemle, UMC public relations
The interview was conducted by Volker Kiemle. He is the head of the magazine editorial of the Evangelical Methodist Church and responsible for the publications "on the way", "podium" and "for today". Contact: Redaktion (at) emk.de.
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