Assembly: Worshiping in unity and hope

04 Aug 2023

Embracing the "One Body, One Spirit, One Hope" Assembly theme, worship at the Assembly will invite global participants to find strength in unity and celebrate the diversity of the Lutheran Communion. Tom Witt, LWF Assembly Worship Coordinator shares insights on preparations.

Global Commemoration of the 500 years of Reformation. Photo: LWF/Johanan Celine Valeriano

Global Commemoration of the 500 years of Reformation. Photo: LWF/Johanan Celine Valeriano

Preparing a week of immersive worship experiences

(LWI) - Final preparations for the Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) Thirteenth Assembly worship are underway. The International Worship Planning Committee (IWPC) has created an immersive worship experience focused on the Assembly theme ‘One Body, One Spirit, One Hope.’ Liturgies, prayer materials and music will set the scene for participants to share in celebration, confession, lamentation and reflection as one community in Christ.

“This Assembly promises to be a transformative experience for participants from across the Lutheran communion’ says Tom Witt, Assembly Worship Coordinator. "Praying together reminds us that our differences enrich our worship experience. It is important to celebrate the unique voices that make up our global communion."

Each day will highlight a specific part of the theme. The first two days of the Assembly will concentrate on the concept of ‘one body’. The opening worship will immerse attendees in the gospel of the incarnation, reflecting on the birth of Christ in a humble manger. “The embodiment of God's love reminds us that all bodies, including creation itself, are inherently good” says Witt. “This understanding calls upon us to embrace our responsibility towards one another and recognize the divine image within each person” he says.

On 16 September worship will focus on ‘One Spirit’. The following day, participants will join local parishes in Kraków, southern Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia for Sunday worship. This experience is meant to “deepen the bond among the diverse communion of churches, reinforcing the understanding that we are one body in Christ” Witt adds.

During the final two days of the Assembly, ‘One Hope’ will take center stage. Recognizing the reality of a world divided by differences, the Assembly aims to emphasize a shared humanity that can find hope in Jesus. Regardless of nationality or background, attendees gather with the understanding that we are one family, all humanity in one boat, navigating the storms of life together. And that amidst the turmoil, Jesus offers a beacon of hope, guiding towards a new way of living and fostering unity, says Witt

Celebrating the gift of international worship

As Assembly participants arrive on 11 and 12 September, they will be invited to weave a thread of cloth into a wooden cross. This will form a centerpiece next to a large prayer map of the world that will be a visual symbol featured in the worship space during the week. “We will gather to be shaped by God’s Word in prayers and preaching, in words and songs, in art and liturgical rituals, through bread, and wine, and water” says Witt.

The music-leading team is preparing as many as 83 pieces of music drawing from each region of the LWF. Participants will be able to sing in many languages. “They might be challenged to sing something in Polish!” adds the worship coordinator. “Choirs from three local Lutheran parishes will also share their music with us as part of evening prayer services. And a combined choir from many parishes will sing at the Opening Worship on September 13th.” The IWPC hopes participants will feel welcomed by the diverse expressions of worship prepared for the Assembly. Over 40 different presiders, readers, and intercessors from around the world will help lead prayers.

Aside from the opening and closing Holy Communion services, worship during the week is structured around morning prayer and evening prayer, following a classical liturgical order that is shared ecumenically.

In addition, a daily brief mid-day prayer is in the schedule, both in village group settings and in the larger plenary. This is set just before lunch to allow participants to take a breath during the busy meeting days. In conclusion, Witt says “together, we aim to ignite a sense of unity and hope that will resonate long after the Assembly concludes."

LWF/T. Rakoto