At Peace Hill, we believe that the worship service should:
Acknowledge the continuity of God’s people through time. Our worship is sometimes known as “blended”—we make use of ancient chants, hymns from the last millennium of the church’s life, contemporary music, and even some 1970s holdovers. We believe that each era of the church reflects a different facet of our experience with God’s leading and presence.
This is why you will also see us making use of liturgy, particularly during the celebration of Communion. Using the same words that centuries of believers have spoken and sung reminds us that God’s work stretches through all of human history, that the church of Christ is far larger than today’s believers, and that God’s truth has not changed.
Engage the whole person: body, mind, spirit. This is why we have readings that require intellectual assent, hymns that lay out theological propositions and also choruses that simply repeat meaningful phrases again and again. We make use of visual beauty and symbols (banners, stained glass, flowers, candles) as a way of bringing the physical senses into the experience of worship. And we encourage worshippers to stand, sit, kneel, clap, and raise their hands. (The last two still need some work at Peace Hill.)
Form a coherent whole with the sermon. The worship service at Peace Hill comes after the sermon and is preceded by a time of meditation. During this time of meditation, worshippers are asked to prepare themselves for a worship service which reflects on the truths preached on the sermon and which also has a coherent shape: a beginning, middle, and conclusion.
Incorporate the sacraments of the church. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper at least once a month. During the celebration, the preaching of the Word is present, but takes a slightly lesser role so that the Table can “assume center stage.” We also ask the congregation to eat and drink substantially, not just symbolically, so that the representation of Christ’s body and blood is a real and vibrant reality. We serve the Supper in two ways: at a kneeling rail for quiet introspection, and at small tables where people encourage each other, pray for each other, and reflect together on how God is calling them to put their faith into action.
Funerals and baptisms—all times when we are drawn into the presence and love of God—are also celebrated, and mourned, as part of our worship services—not as “extra” services disconnected from the life of the church. We also invite our members to plan weddings as part of the worship (although we understand that many will choose to hold their ceremonies at another time).
Encourage both active participation, and receptive listening. Members sing, read out loud and responsively, share during the time of edification, and (ideally) clap. They also sit and listen (to readings, to special music). We steer away from “performance” at Peace Hill, but also acknowledge that there is a place for solos and presentations which allow the congregation to rest and thoughtfully receive.
We also have a “Time of Edification” on most Sundays. This is an opportunity for the members of Peace Hill to “encourage and build each other up,” as the New Testament commands. We encourage you to use this time to share prayer requests and struggles, answers to prayer and victories. But don’t feel that a polished presentation is necessary. We also ask you to read a Scripture that is meaningful (commentary is optional; Scripture can speak for itself); share the words of a hymn or song, read a poem that has conveyed God’s truth to you, or share a quote from a book that has changed your thinking.
Be an expression of the local church to itself. The members of the congregation are welcome to take part in the worship team; our only request is that you arrive early on Sundays to rehearse. We have no auditions and no required level of musical accomplishment; we are happy for you to join and learn along with us. (Although you may not immediately get a microphone.)
Be for the whole family. Babies and toddlers are welcome. We do ask that you be sensitive to your fellow worshippers; if a sad baby or a happy toddler is making constant noise, it may be difficult for those nearby to meditate and receive, and you may want to consider going out into the fellowship area to comfort or entertain your little one. But squeaks, squeals, and exclamations are part of family life; don’t be embarrassed by them.
We do have a nursery available, should you (as a parent) wish for a respite, but you may also choose to keep your babies with you. And we have a Toddler Dancing Pen so that your creepers and new walkers can enjoy the music without diving head-first into the fire place—ask any member of the congregation where it is stored.