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Thursday, May 18, 2006

What are Joys and Concerns?

I apologize for another post out of our normal round, but I need your input, friends:

Many of you write about a "Joys and Concerns" time in your worship services. My tradition does not have this, and I need to know what you mean by is it people get up from the congregation with prayer requests and thanksgivings, or is there another mechanism?

I'll 'splain why I need to know, later. Thanks for any thoughts you can leave in the comments! And would you be willing to include the denomination you refer to? (I won't quote anyone by name!)

many thanks.....mary beth


  1. I'm Presbyterain (USA). Before we say the prayers of the people, I ask the congregation to share their Joys and Concerns. Usually there is a healthy mix of reasons to celebrate and reasons to be praying for somoene's health, emotional state or welfare. I have found that this is an integral part of the service forthis group and a large part of thier identity. We need to know that we can share our prayer requests with each other and we need to know that our community hears us. Then we put the requests in the bulletin for the next week. When I do the prayers of the people, I try to mention each request by name, but also talk about those prayers that were not spoken, as not everyone wants to announce in public. Hope this helps!

  2. We sometimes have a spot during the service where people can come up to the front and share concerns/ joys, it is announced beforehand and one of us checks out with folk what they are going to say during a hymn just before the sharing time, that way anything wildly inappropriate can be filtered out. As to where in the service, it is usually towards the beginning, before the sermon and the intercessions but following confession... hope this helps

  3. Presbyterian churches do this in lots of different ways. In my church celebrations and concerns are part of the worship service but are handled differently in the contemporary and the traditional service. In both services, this is done before the formal call to worship.

    At the contemporary service a lay leader notes the prayer concerns that are on the worship screen and then invites the congregation to add other concerns or celebrations. At the traditional service, the worship assistant (either lay or minister) also notes the prayer concerns on the worship screen but instead of asking the congregation to "call out" any additions, highlights anything added this week along with any celebrations that the church staff and deacons know about.

    Hope this helps.

  4. In my church's more contemporary service, we have started asking for concerns/ thanksgivings to be "called out" after our minister begins a prayer. (I'm guessing this would be called a bidding prayer?) He begins to speak and orients us toward God. Then he allows some silence, then says, "Hear now the words of your people...."
    Things DO get called out, even in our rather conservative, quiet congregation :), and after each thing mentioned, we've started saying in unison, "hear our prayer."

  5. I've done this two ways.

    The first, in a regular congregation, "Glad News, Sad News" was shared while the congregation gathered outside the sanctuary before worship. The news was said, then the response from those gathered, "Lord, hear our prayer." We also honored birthdays and anniversaries before this worship (with the congregation's own birthday song).

    The second was in my campus ministry, where "Prayers and Praises" were shared at in the context of official meetings. We keep a prayer book (much like the one at RLP's), but we also write the individual prayers down on slips of paper so that people can take prayers/praises home and continue to pray for someone individually.

  6. In most UU churches this is a fairly significant part of the liturgy. In my former church, it happened about midway through the service... after the meditation but before the sermon.

    It can be a wonderful part of church life, a chance for the congregation to get to know one another more intimately... get to know about the general life and well being of the church. But the negative side is that it can become a public spotlight for people to use for their own, personal political rants. In addition, we found that the same people would get up and light a candle week after week. I spoke with a friend who is still at the church and she said the service is now getting longer and longer because people are talking too much.

    How it worked: The minister would invite people to come up to the front of the church where we had a big punch bowl filled with sand with a bunch of candles stuck into it. Our main candle was in the middle. One by one, people would come forward and light a small candle off the main one. Then they would go to the microphone and speak their joy or concern to the congregation. People would politely wait til they were done before coming up to share their own joy or concern. In any given week, somewhere between 5 and 10 people would share.

    We don't do this in the Episcopal church I attend now, and frankly I am kind of glad. I like the liturgy to be focused on God.


  7. We don't do this formally in my current congregation (MCC), although people can put prayer requests in the offering plate. I usually then include those (in a general way) the next week. If there are major items (hospitalizations or a death in the family, for example), I will include those specifically ("We pray your healing and comfort for John as he recovers from heart surgery" for example). Otherwise it's more general (rather than, "Encourage John as he seeks work" it would be "Encourage all who seek meaningful work").

    In a previous congregation (UMC), it was right after the sermon, before the pastoral prayer. It was something I inherited, and I wasn't there long enough to take it out. I really would have liked to have it differently. I would ask for joys and concerns, make notes and then include them in the pastoral prayer. The problem was that it could just go on and on, people asking prayers for their co-wrker's third cousin who had a broken leg and so on. In would have preferred to do some pre-screening, and gather up the requests not closely related to the life of the congregation in one clause.

    At the same time, I know it was important to the congregation--they heard that so and so was back from the hospital, or such and such wasn't in church because she still didn't feel well, and so on. It tightened their connection to each other.

    So you could say I had mixed feelings!

    Hope all that helps!

  8. UMC

    we don't do it locally though we do have testimonies which are AGREEED joys that are shared in a way

    but in the smaller UMCs here it's usually for the leader of the meeting to ask for prayer requests. I've noticed that usually about 1/3 are thanks for something (joys)

    I'm not a GREAT fan to be honest. They can become gossipy. Some ppl can hog it. It does take time and works best in small /tiny congregations. And can move focus from God into naval gazing because some are not good at giving a concise summary of the thing they are thankful for or the need.

    hope it helps

  9. IN our Baptist church we have a time in the middle of the service, usually before the offering, for people to share what is going on in their lives.

    "Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is at this time in our worship together that you are invited to share your joys and concerns. What has God placed on your heart today?"

    People share...and they edit themselves pretty well. Seldom does someone monopolize this time.

    Then the minister or worship leader invites everyone to pray together. It is usually impossible to lift up every concern in a congregation of 150 people, but the general ideas are lifted up. Then we close with the Our Father. There's a little music and then the offering thing happens.

    Sometimes when the sermon goes long or if it is a Communion Sunday, we might do something more like a BCP evensong litany. "For our ... We say together: Christ have mercy." That is a time saving method that people like. It mixes things up a little and allows for contemplation and prayer.

    Well, that was perhaps more information than you wanted.

  10. Oh, you guys! This is fantastic, just what I was hoping for.

    I'm doing a presentation at Daughters of the King tonight (last minute, right!?) on the "Testimony" chapter of _Practicing our Faith_, and the meditation piece I am going to use is called "Beyond Joys and Concerns." I realized that I've heard lots of you refer to J&C time, and I wanted to get a context for that to share with the group.

    I'll write it up tomorrow (assuming all goes well!) :)

    thanks again you all

  11. At our church, before the service starts, as the pastor is greeting the congregation, he'll ask something along the lines of, "What do we need to know about our life together?", at which point people will share good news, bad news, events going on in the church and community, etc. Our Prayers of the Church, after the sermon and Creed, are very general -- "for the whole world, the whole Church on earth and for all people according to their needs" -- but then at the end we give people an opportunity to pray for personal concerns, aloud or silently as they are so moved.

  12. We have this too. Ours is a small congregation (60?)and I think it works better in this setting. The liturgist comes into the pews and asks if anyone has joys or concerns to share. There are usually a few. Then she goes up to the lectern and does the "Prayers for the People" and tries to add in the joys and concerns in a general way.


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