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Make welcoming church leaders a rich experience

By Kathy Noble

SUMMARY: In January, many congregations welcome new officers and leaders. For a rich experience for everyone, include a time of commissioning or recognition during worship.

The service can include clergy and lay staff, elected lay leadership and the entire congregation – all guided in their ministry by the Holy Spirit. January 11, Baptism of the Lord Sunday in 2009, is an excellent day to recognize leaders.

Marcia McFee, a worship consultant and co-music director of the 2008 General Conference, offers a unique service of installation and recognition. It shows "how to move from worship that is 'business as usual' to worship that makes ritual rich-ual," she says.

She recommends gathering the officers around the baptismal font or using the bowl from the font and placing it in the front of the center aisle. "Our first call to ministry is baptism, and an installation celebrates the next call, to serve the community," McFee says.

Play music as you invite the leaders forward. Her favorite song to use for this service is "Here I Am, Lord" (No. 593, United Methodist Hymnal).

Following the installation liturgy, offer a community prayer. Bring at least part of the congregation forward for the prayer to connect them with the leaders. As leaders see and feel people around them, they realize they are not alone in their ministry.

"People tend to say 'let's get through this,' and line them up in front of the altar with their backs to the congregation," McFee says. "You want to be on the same level as the congregation." This allows the congregation to affirm their leadership.

Using the baptismal font and having community prayer with laying on of hands, allows all worshipers to affirm God's covenant with each of us – and our covenant with each other to share in and support ministry. Before or after recognizing the leaders, you can invite the entire congregation to remember and reaffirm their baptismal vows.

A service for remembering our baptism is Number 111 in The Book of Worship. Number 544 is a blessing for leaders.

---The Rev. Kathy Noble, editor, Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine, Adapted from an article by Joey Butler, managing editor, in the January-February 2008 issue of Interpreter magazine.