We’re so glad you stopped by this page. Here are some answers to questions you may have about attending church.
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The Uniting Church believes that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection gives us hope for a reconciled world. The Uniting Church’s beliefs are drawn from the Bible and from the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. The Church’s foundational document, the Basis of Union, brings together aspects of these writings and traditions and sets out the church’s way of living and being.
Everyone of all backgrounds and cultures are welcome at the Uniting Church. If you feel unwelcome, or witness unwelcoming behaviour towards someone else, please chat with a congregation leader about your concerns.
A worship service is the name given to a gathering of the church community where we give special attention to recognising and affirming the presence of God. Most congregations worship in a church building, but at times we can worship anywhere; in a café, at the beach or in someone’s home.
Worship can take on many forms, but will usually involve music, Bible readings, a message on understanding those readings, Holy Communion, and a financial offering to the church (tithe).
You are welcome to dress formally or casually to a Uniting Church service. Each Uniting Church will have their own culture and style, but will not judge you on what you wear. Some churches are communities of faith from a specific cultural background and may wear traditional clothing from their culture.
People express themselves in many ways, including with body language. In worship, people might bow their heads in prayer, close their eyes, dance, clap their hands or wave flags. Sometimes people kneel in order to convey humility, or raise their hands to signal honour and praise to God.
Hymns are Christian songs which provide an opportunity for members to participate in communal singing. This helps build belonging and an attitude of praise to God. Not all music in church are hymns though, and not all hymns are old and traditional. Many congregations use modern contemporary songs which have developed in recent years. Most Uniting Churches use a variety of music and songs during worship. While some congregations will use books for the words, many now use projected images on a screen.
Some Uniting Church leaders choose to wear a white robe (called an alb) and a sash (or stole). The alb represents anonymity on behalf of the wearer, and is white in order to represent baptism in Christ: purity and grace.
Anyone who leads a service of worship in the Uniting Church is welcome to wear an alb, but it is entirely up to the individual whether they choose to do so. There are three special sashes that can also be worn by those leading worship. There is a blue scarf for people who are pastors or leaders who are not ordained. Ordained Ministers of the Word wear a Stole around their neck and ordained Deacons wear a Sash across their body. These too are optional and are representative of the role that the leader plays in the life of the faith community.
A sermon is delivered during worship and is usually a talk which relates to the Scripture reading for that day. It helps members of the congregation to understand the reading and relate it to a current context, and to their own way of lives or situations.
Holy Communion is a special ritual or sacrament which holds great significance for Christians. A meal of bread and wine or juice is shared to remind them of the last supper that Jesus shared with his disciples before he died. It also reminds Christians that Jesus is always with us. The ritual is known by a number of different names: Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist (meaning thanksgiving). All persons, including children are welcome to share in communion.
Every worship service has a liturgy, which is simply the form according to which the service is conducted. It can involve people reciting words in a call and response. This reminds us that we are part of a community, and that we share our beliefs together. Churches will however order their service in in different ways; some are quite formal and traditional, using a responsive liturgy, while others may be more contemporary. The person leading the service will usually give you cues on what to say. Sometimes you will receive a handout or book with the words and other times the words will appear on an overhead screen.
Sometimes the congregation will stand during a worship service. Often, the worship leader will invite members to stand, but not always. There is no right or wrong way to participate in worship, but if you are feeling unsure about when to stand, take your lead from others in the church and follow what they are doing. You are welcome to sit throughout a service.
In the Old Testament of the Bible it was encouraged to give 10% of your income to the temple as a means of providing resources for its upkeep, as well as its mission to the poor. This is known as a ‘tithe’. These days, people still use this as a helpful guide to giving and a lot of good work is done in the community as a result of this. Many churches will have programs for the local community operating out of their building; others might support other mission projects. Giving to the church is purely voluntary.
The Uniting Church believes that God created us to be in community and to love each other. For this reason, worship is very important because it creates, builds and reminds us of that community. For Christians, belonging to a worshipping community connects us with the mission of God in the world.
We’ve put together a list of jargon (glossary) that may assist.