And Your Daughters: Transforming Worship

Ruth Haley Barton recently included the following remarks about transforming worship in a larger piece she wrote about life together….

“Transforming worship is highly participatory. We embrace a liturgical style that is not focused on the up-front presence and performance of a few, but rather gives everyone a chance to read and respond to Scriptures, pray and be formed by the prayers of the church, listen to God in the silent spaces, and join their voices with others in songs that are simple and yet substantive.  The term “liturgy” literally means “the work of the people” and we experience transforming worship to be “work” that satisfies and delights us.

Transforming worship is highly experiential, designed to lead folks into encounters with God that produce some sort of inner shift or change as they respond to that Presence. These experiences will correspond to whatever time of day it is (morning, mid-day, evening, night) along with the themes of the retreat we are in the midst of. Our services are characterized by simplicity and always include times for silence created specifically so God can speak to us personally; in the silent spaces we can say what we need to say to God and listen for his response.

Transforming worship engages the whole person, so we incorporate icons, Christian ritual and symbol, art and beauty as a way of bringing all aspects of ourselves into relationship with God and opening us to life-transforming encounters with God. At the same time, we are careful to avoid being emotionally manipulative or melodramatic. Although such worship is quieter than some styles of worship and even wordless at times, it is nonetheless very real. It creates space for encounters with God that are life-changing.

It goes without saying (and yet it needs to be said) that, for us, transforming worship is Christ-centered.  Our commitment to fixed-hour prayer and worship is one of the most specific and intentional ways we gather around the presence of Christ for the purpose of being transformed in Christ’s presence.  In every service there are multiple ways we offer ourselves to God “as a living sacrifice” in very in concrete ways—a significant aspect of our spiritual worship day in and day out (Romans 12:1).”

(If you do not do so already, I hope you will follow Ruth Haley Barton’s ministry @

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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