This summer, Dr. Cindi Beth Johnson, Director of The Intersection, Wilson Yates Center for Theology and the Arts, was asked to work with a group of students in the Theology and the Arts concentration to write a litany for the United Church of Christ’s National Board of Pensions. The request was to gather a group of students to study the lectionary texts and write a liturgy that would be available to all of the churches of the UCC as part of a bulletin insert during the liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas. Here is an excerpt for the first week of advent:
ADVENT I – HOPE
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Luke 21: 25-36
Lighting the First Advent Candle
One: The light is surely coming!
Many: Its rays reaching out to illuminate injustice and oppression.
One: With hope we watch for new growth to be coaxed from the earth.
Many: With anticipation we wait for the branch of mercy to shed its lifelessness and sprout new
One We open our hands to be bearers of Christ’s light in the world.
Many We open our hearts to be transformed with the promise of possibility that is to come.
One: As we light this candle, the candle of Hope, we pray that it will brighten our path, that our steps inside this church might align with our steps outside in the world.
All: We await the son of God!
(The candle of Hope is lit, and the congregation sings a hymn of your choice.)
Invitation to the Offering
Murmuring in their woodsy tongue, “Make way!
Make way!”–the beetles, ants, and even ticks
hop from their leaves to safer soil, except the brave
few, who, climbing atop dirt-mounds, strain their little necks,
to watch as swollen feet press water from the ground.
It is Mary who walks, pauses, wipes the sweat
from her forehead and calls to Joe: “I've found
a cherry tree. Gather some, would you, for us to eat.”
The man refuses to go,
but in his anger quips, “Can't your baby's father do it?!”
The tree approaches Mary, bends down, and she eats from his bough.
The insects, still spying, leap with joy, recognizing God's fruit.
Follow her footsteps! Water the earth, critters and trees!
Cherish the elements who first taught us to see!
Prayer of Dedication
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.” May we recognize the signs springing up amid the roaring confusion, and usher in a new light of generosity to those who bring light and love in service to the United Church of Christ. May our gifts shine a light upon the path of comfort, blessing, hope, and compassion to all in need. Amen.
Over a number of weeks, students Max Brumberg-Kraus, Melissa Miller and Lisa Myers met and contributed to the final process in a variety of ways. They brought artistic interpretation, poetic adaptations and scholarly understanding around liturgical experiences to create these litanies. You can find their writing between pages 5 and 11 and their bios on page 16.
Fittingly for United, this work was written by a religiously diverse group of students (UU, UMC and Jewish). We are proud and excited for their excellent work, which reinforces and reflects the innovative learning experience that is United.