The Upstairs Gathering rebooted this past week. Until Advent it will be in a season of experimenting with a more liturgical flavour. In the past few years there has been quite a bit of community jam for exploring the gifts of the contemplative life – good things have been happening. The Men’s retreat and the Schools of Spiritual Direction are prime examples of people connecting with God in deeper and more intentional ways. This focus for the Upstairs Gathering is another way we can continue to explore this as a community. While liturgy and contemplation are not the same, they can mutually reinforce each other. What we pray, the words we sing, the importance we place on certain elements of our gatherings – these all form us
whether we realize it or not.
In this experiment, we want to intentionally and carefully infuse our gathering with elements that are rooted in scripture, part of the historical understanding of what it means to follow Jesus, and central to Christian worship. It’s not that downstairs is devoid of any of these elements – it’s not! We just want to use the Upstairs Gathering as a venue to intentionally explore these things with a little more attention to detail than we may be used to. For example, each week we will have a specific prayer to lead us through a process of affirming what we believe and a specific prayer of confession in order to ready ourselves to receive communion. This central act of Christian worship has a sacramental power that is very rich if given time and space to do what it should in us. Ultimately, we want to place ourselves in the best possible position to both worship God and be formed, transformed and renewed by him.
The prayers that are used upstairs have been compiled from a wide variety of sources (scripture, Book of Common Prayer, early Christian creeds, ancient prayers, etc). and have been modified to suit modern sensibilities… in other words, they’ve been “Vineyardized”. We will tweak them as we go along. There will still be a condensed sermon on the same topic as the Downstairs Gathering, and we’ll always make room for discussion, interaction and group dialogue. Also, there is always coffee served right after the kid’s are released!
In the end, we’re one church with two gatherings. Feel free to try it out – and then let us know what you think. Bear in mind we don’t really want to know whether you like it or not – as if church were some kind of product to be consumed. Rather, let us know if it helps you to encounter Jesus – enhances your worship – opens up space for God to do something in you. In the end it’s all about worshiping God regardless of form and irrespective of our preferences!