8th assembly/50th anniversary

Worship at the Eighth Assembly
Reflections from the Worship Committee

To be part of the Worship Committee for a WCC Assembly is a great privilege. This committee, because of its size and diversity, has created in its own life a rich and gracious experience of being the churches at worship. We pray that from that experience and the gifts which we have brought together, the true worship life of the Assembly will emerge.

Always before us was the theme of the Assembly "Turn to God, Rejoice in Hope" and the fact that we were celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the World Council of Churches, its Jubilee. As we turned to God daily in our work, we knew a call to be honest before God as we confessed that we are not yet gathered around one Eucharistic table. That is reflected in the way we will celebrate the Eucharist at this Assembly. It is part of our accountability as we enter our Jubilee.

We prepared this worship with a grave sense of the state of the world. To be in Africa placed us in a microcosm of the injustices, grieving and also hopefulness of our day. We were aware that in this half century, although there has been perhaps unparalleled change, the changes have not necessarily brought us closer to the reign of God. While the cross of Jesus Christ is raised up among the peoples in a victory of love and risen life, the task of bringing that into being for the oikeumene is still before us.

Nevertheless, we found ourselves rejoicing at the distance we have travelled since the worship life of the first Assembly in 1949 in Amsterdam. We looked at our own diversity and knew that no Assembly worship service will ever again be formed without the inclusion of many languages, songs and prayers from all over the world. It will always now receive the leadership of old, young, men and women, differently-abled, many races, nationalities and use the symbols and styles of both old and new churches. Thanks be to God!

We wish the whole Assembly could enter our experience of recognising in each other the signs of the truth and the Spirit as we grappled with our differences and found ways of moving through to the worship services which we now offer to the Assembly. Of course none of us finds her or his tradition fully represented in these services. That is the truth of the costly journey we enter when we prepare worship across so many diversities of denomination, culture, race and Christian journeys and move in faith towards the unity of the church in obedience to Jesus Christ.

The worship we have prepared for the Assembly is ours no longer but now belongs to all who will take what we have done and use it to worship in Spirit and in truth. We believe that, in the preparation, each of has us learned a new respect and openness of heart and soul as we turned to God in faith together and waited for the gifts of grace to be given. So it will be for the Assembly itself and for those in the churches around the world who join us.

We would also want to acknowledge the contribution of the WCC staff to our efforts. Many staff have generously served us and have given of their own special wisdom gained from their work and from their relationships with member churches. They have ensured that this work goes forward and that as many offering as possible are gathered together for the forming of these worship services.

To everything that we bring to the Assembly as the Worship Committee, and as participants in the Assembly, will be added the gifts of the people of Africa, gifts which we believe will go beyond anything we could have imagined. This Worship Committee prays that what was begun in humble faithfulness by us, will be taken into the hands of God and lifted into worship which will ring around the world as a song of our rejoicing in hope.

Dorothy McRae-McMahon
Assembly Worship Committee

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