Epiphany is the season of the church year when we are invited to dwell deeply in the texts that begin Jesus’ ministry. An epiphany is a revelation — a gift of insight, a “Eureka!” moment, the experience of the burning bush. Epiphany is the season when we remember the stories of God’s rude interruption into ordinary lives: Samuel, Jonah, Elijah and Elisha, the disciples … and our own.
Adding new sounds to worship is one way to re-create that experience of surprise and interruption. Here are a few ideas for ways to wake up ears during Epiphany…
* A singing bowl or a bell to begin worship. If a steeple bell has not been used in a while, Epiphany may be a time to try bringing it back — just a few pulls on the rope will do the trick of waking everyone up! Inside the worship space, a handbell, singing bowl, xylophone, or triangle could all be used to signal the beginning of worship. This is a great opportunity to invite older elementary kids to participate; coordinate with one family before each Sunday and allow plenty of time before service to experiment with sound, volume, and frequency.
* A gospel acclamation. If your congregation reads more than one Scripture lesson on Sundays, an acclamation could be added before and after the gospel. Acclamations are based on a verse or verses from the Bible (either from the day’s text, for a specific season, or consistent throughout the year). They are spoken or sung by the whole congregation.
Many hymnals have suggested acclamations for each season, and a few for Epiphany include:
- “We observed the star at its rising, and have come to worship him.”
- “The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have beheld his glory.”
- “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.”
* Gospel procession. Reading the gospel lesson from the midst of the congregation is a quite literal embodiment of “the word among us”. Whoever is reading the gospel can bring it from the altar down the main aisle into the middle of the sanctuary, and read the lesson from there. (This can be paired with a sung gospel acclamation!)
What ways does your congregation highlight the “surprise” of the season of Epiphany?