Planning Services of Worship that Lift Up World AIDS DayBy the Rev. Emily Rose Proctor, associate pastor, Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, and co-moderator of the Presbyterian AIDS Network, a Network of the Presbyterian Health, Education & Welfare Association (PHEWA). This material comes from PAN’s World AIDS Day Packet 2011.
Worship is central to the Reformed tradition. Engage your congregation in the issues related to HIV and AIDS through the prayer of confession/assurance of pardon, the lighting of the Advent candle, the children’s moment, the sermon, a minute for mission (see the entry for December 1, World AIDS Day, in the 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study), the prayers of the people, and a work of art or a bulletin insert. Here are some descriptions and examples.
If you are exploring an area of darkness each Sunday, try creating bulletin inserts that are both educational and inspiring. For each Sunday, include in the insert some statistics and news stories that illuminate the prevalence and depth of the “darkness” you are highlighting (HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and so forth) and its relevance to your community or global mission partners. Balance the section on “Naming the Darkness…” with one entitled, “Signs of Light…,” which highlights efforts at addressing that issue and statistics that reveal some progress that is being made, again making every effort to choose statistics and stories that are particularly relevant to your congregation.
Create your own, using the most recent statistics for your own community and global mission partners. Remember, the more relevant the information is to your particular congregation and ministry context, the more meaningful it will be. The Centers for Disease Control website contains a wealth of information.
Visual Images and Banners: One very effective way to engage people in HIV/AIDS awareness is to use a visual symbol, such as the AIDS Ribbon or a panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt (www.aidsquilt.org). If you are exploring a different area of darkness each week, it can be powerful to have some kind of banner that represents that darkness and the hope, peace, joy, and love that Christ brings to it. Order HIV and AIDS pins and find other resources here.
Slide Show: If your congregation is technologically savvy, you could create a slide show that offers relevant visual images to “enflesh” what might otherwise be some pretty abstract ideas.
Bulletin Covers: Design a different bulletin cover image each week that pertains to that week’s theme, or create one design for the whole season that incorporates all four themes.
Bulletin Boards and Displays: If your congregation has a bulletin board or other display areas, change those each week to reflect the themes. Display information, books, objects or brochures that might be of interest to your congregation. Order a poster for World AIDS Day: “It’s a Matter of Faith”. Play to your congregation’s strengths and interests. If you have art students, professional artists or graphic designers, art teachers, or other people with experience relating to the topic at hand, seek them out and get their help!
An example of what one church did to incorporate Advent themes and World AIDS Day
During the 2009 season of Advent, Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church of Baltimore, Maryland, incorporated the idea of focusing on an aspect of darkness each Sunday. Each week during the silence between the prelude and the call to worship, someone marched in carrying a paper banner representing that week’s “darkness”. The banner hung vertically from a pole that was placed in a stand (you might find some other way to hang the banner that suits your congregation’s space and props).
During the congregational response to the Assurance of Pardon, the liturgist pulled from behind the banner a sign. On the sign was printed that Sunday’s theme (hope, peace, joy, love) in big bold letters. The sign was suspended by string in front of the phrases expressing the week’s “darkness.” At the end of the fourth Sunday in Advent, all four banners were hanging in the sanctuary with the corresponding signs with the themes of Advent.
If your congregation already has banners with some kind of positive graphics or images that correspond with the four themes of Advent, or if the congregation or worship leader wants to create some, the paper banners of darkness can be placed over those banners and ripped down at an appropriate point in the Christmas Eve service (such as when the Christ candle is lit or after the last reading ends). The “Hope,” “Peace,” “Joy,” and “Love” signs can then be re-attached above the underlying banner (if appropriate). This helps provide a sense of unity and a culminating experience for your congregation’s worship during Advent. This idea of having some sort of visual representation can be as elaborate or as simple as suits your congregation.
Worship resources and sermon notes for the lectionary readings for Advent 2011
At first, I thought World AIDS Day couldn’t come at a worse time—how can pastors and worship leaders be expected to talk about HIV and AIDS at a time when our heads and our worship services are typically filled with the texts and themes of Advent?
But what are the themes of advent? Waiting. Hope, Peace, Love, Joy. These are all relevant to addressing the HIV epidemic in our nation and the pandemic globally. As people of faith, we wait for the coming of God’s kingdom—for a time where there are no tears, no poverty, no HIV—but we do not wait passively. Instead we strive to live holy and godly lives and to work for justice and peace, that “thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven.” As people of faith, we live in hope in the midst of HIV. We recognize the impact that HIV can have on the peace and security of families and nations. We ask what it means to love in an HIV+ world—both in individual sexual relationships and as a community or as global neighbors. And together, we embrace the joy that comes from knowing that our God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and promises us a new heaven and a new earth, where new HIV infections will cease, and discrimination will be no more, and the number of AIDS related deaths will be zero. Oh, the joy to participate in God’s movement toward that day! Could there be a better time to talk about HIV and AIDS than Advent?
Read more of Rev. Proctor’s “Getting to Zero in Advent” in the World AIDS Day Packet 2011, produced by Presbyterian AIDS Network. Includes sample litany of thanksgiving/prayers of the people; prayers of confession; and sermon ideas using the lectionary. Pages 3-7.
Find more resources at International AIDS Ministries, including a webinar, Peacemaking offering, bulletin inserts, a worship packet, pins, and posters.
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