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2014 Global Ministries Sunday Congo Worship

At the 2013 General Synod and General Assembly, Global Ministries launched the Congo Initiative. There are a number of reasons for this specific focus.  In 2011, both the UCC Synod and DOC Assembly approved resolutions calling for reflection, education and advocacy on behalf of the Congo.  Over the past decade, approximately 6 million people have been killed in ongoing conflict and war for control of the Congo’s vast mineral resources.  In addition, we have a long history of engagement in the Congo and today, through Global Ministries, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ continue this legacy of connections and relationships.  I Corinthians 12:16 states that when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer.  With a history and engagement in the Congo since 1899, we cannot ignore our calling to walk in solidarity with sisters and brothers there.
 
One way we can participate in this initiative is through worship.  While we may speak different languages and worship in different ways, our common faith in God binds us together.  As your church plans to celebrate Global Ministries Sunday, we hope that these resources, provided by both Congolese partners as well as North Americans who have visited the Congo, will serve to enrich worship and connect us anew to sisters and brothers across the ocean. God bless the Community of Disciples of Christ in the Congo and may we give thanks for the opportunity and privilege of journeying in faith with them.
 
Call to Worship
One: God of all creation, we come to worship You.
All: Creator of every man, woman, youth, and child, we come to rejoice in you.
One: Maker of the heavens and the earth, please open us to your transforming
grace.
All: God of liberation and life, may our acts of worship be a witness of your peace.
As we lift our voices in praise, may our hearts and our hands be united in partnership
with You and with our brothers and sisters in Congo.
 
Call to Worship
 In the midst of a world where people hunger and thirst . . .
Come worship a God who feeds the hungry.
In the midst of a world where people are abused and oppressed . . .
Come worship a God who calls for compassion and justice.
In the midst of a world filled with wars and rumor of war . . .
Come worship a God who desires nothing less than peace for the world.
In the midst of a world of spiritual emptiness . . .
Come worship a God who gives life meaning.
In the midst of a world of animosity and hate.
Come worship a God whose grace and love know no end.
(Taken from Sacraments and Seasons: Peacemaking
Through Worship From Presbyterian Peacemaking Program).
 
Litany
 
Nzambe (God), Transform our Compassion into Action
 
For the Congolese man caught up in war and mistrust and power of the elite, who feels trapped by circumstance and no easy solutions, who searches  for a way to survive and find a livelihood,
Nzambe, transform our compassion into action.
 
For the Congolese widow whose husband died in a war over rocks in the ground, who sells fish or makes soap or sews in hopes to provide enough food or shelter from the night.  Who are afraid to walk alone through the tropical fields. Who want their children to have a better life.
Nzambe, transform our compassion into action.
 
For the Congolese children who ache to learn to read or write but don’t have schools or teachers or books or money. For those without enough to eat, or wear, or safe water to drink, who gaze with frightened eyes because life is not safe or carefree or guaranteed.
Nzambe, transform our compassion into action.
 
For the Congolese doctors who agonize over the children they can’t reach or treat because the distance is too far, the medicines are not available, the needs are too great. Who watch little ones die of cholera for lack of access to what they need.
Nzambe, transform our compassion into action.
 
For the Congolese church that seeks to heal the wounds, whose spiritual wealth outweighs its material means, yet speaks hope to the suffering, provides opportunities and schools, builds wells and hospitals, that leads in ways of peace and praise, that gives heart and soul to serving the Lord.
Nzambe, transform our compassion into action.
 
Prayer: (based on John 4:7-14)
Giver of Life itself, Holy God, we come before you in grateful praise for the living water you pour out so generously upon the community of Disciples of Christ in Congo. It is evident in their praise and in their ministry, that you have placed in them the spring of water gushing up to eternal life. Lord, let that Spirit fill us too, fill our hearts with your compassion and our hands to action in your world so that while you quench our Spiritual thirst, we will be empowered to quench the reality of physical thirst. We ask your blessing on the well projects being built in Congo and praise your name for the wells already providing safe water.
 
Litany of Dedication
One: Giver of every breath, with gratitude that reaches beyond our words, we desire to offer you our best.
All: God of abundant blessings, we dedicate our lives to you. We seek to live out your purposes. We thank you for inviting us to be part of your mission in the world.
One: We thank you for designing each of your children with unique gifts, personalities, and experiences to be used for you glory.
All: We thank You for the generosity you shower upon us. We desire to offer back your blessings of time, talents, and treasures with cheerful hearts. Please make them one with the gifts of our partners that all may live together in your community of compassion, justice, peace, and love. Amen.
(By the Rev. Sarah Haas, Associate Pastor, Friedens United Church of Christ, Indianapolis, IN)
 
Suggested Scriptures
Isaiah 1:15-17
Proverbs 31:8-9
Amos 5:21-24
Matthew 12:15-21
James 2:1-19
 
Prayer
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
2 Corinthians 3-4
 
Prayer:
Nzambe (God), Heavenly Father, Great Physician, we praise you for the blessing of Bolenge Hospital and many other health centers that minister to the needs of the people in Congo. We have seen your healing hand as it manifests itself through those working long hours in difficult conditions to offer care to those who suffer. Surround the Congolese people, surround us as well, with your mercy and healing spirit as we pray for one another in all our afflictions, physical or spiritual. Amen.
 
Prayer of Confession
Merciful and Mighty God, we thank you for allowing us to come before with honesty and humility. Please forgive us when our actions lead to the oppression of others. Please forgive us when we ignore the pains and the joys of our neighbors near and far. When we feel like we can make no difference in the face of injustice and suffering, please redeem us and set us free with the good news that You are a God through whom all things are possible. When despair threatens to overwhelm, please fill us with your Spirit of hope and lead us forth with your saving love which knows no bounds. Amen.
 
Confession
Merciful and forgiving God,
We have reclined comfortable with our laptops in hand, cell phones on waist and DVDs playing endlessly. We have silently ignored the suffering of your people, especially those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We have neglected the estimated 1.3 million displaced Congolese, 1.1 million living with HIV/AIDS and we have dismissed the nearly six million deaths that are a result of war over natural resources as unfortunate tragedies. We have exploited our sisters and brothers, robbing them of their dignity, minerals and goods. We have denied their humanity.... their spark of divinity. Forgive us, O God. Forgive us for being detached, dispirited and indifferent. Grant us the courage to speak up, naming injustices one by one and the determination to right wrongs in the Congo and around the world. This is our prayer, in Jesus’ name. AMEN
 
Confessional Litany
Reader 1: “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not take notice?” “Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.” (Isaiah 58:3, NRSV)
 
Reader 2: Lord, we are experts in serving our own interests. We know how to make sure we do all right. We have helped set up and keep going a whole world trading system to serve us. No wonder our worship rings hollow in your ears.
 
Silence
 
Reader 1:Lord, we’re sorry for all our selfishness and greed. Give us the will to change ourselves. And help us to start changing the world.
 
All: Lord of all the world, listen to our prayer this day.
 
Reader 1: “Is this not the fast that I choose? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house?” (Isaiah 58:6-7, NRSV)
 
Reader 2: Lord, too many of your people are hungry and homeless. Too many live in dire poverty. Too many die before they should. And in the rich countries of the world, we have done too little to change this. In fact, our governments have been leaders in forcing poor countries into free trade, making things worse rather than better.
 
Silence
 
Reader 2: Lord, make our campaigning more effective. Challenge the hearts of those in positions of power. Change the policies that keep people poor. And give food to the hungry and hope to the despairing.
 
All: Lord of all the world, listen to our prayer this day.
 
Reader 1: “If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom shall be like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10 NRSV)
 
Reader 2: : Lord, this year you have given us an opportunity and a challenge. This year could be the beginning of the end of injustice and exploitation. Yet there is so much to do to make it happen.
 
Silence
 
Reader 1: Lord, we want to make injustice and unfair policies history. Give us the courage to speak to our friends and neighbors. Give us the resolve to advocate on behalf of the Democratic Republic of Congo and suffering people everywhere. And take our efforts and multiply them into change.
 
All: Lord of all the world, listen to our prayer this day
(Adapted from Christian Aid by Sojourners, www.christianaid.co.uk)
 
Assurance of Pardon
God is faithful, slow to anger and quick to forgive. God hears our confessions, forgives our sins,
and gives us a new beginning. May we live in the assurance that we are God’s forgiven people
and empowered to break our deafening silence, speaking justice and defending those who are
helpless and have no hope. Hear the Good News: you are forgiven, in Jesus’ name.
Thanks be to God!
 
Benediction
(English translation) (Lingala translation)
God bless Africa. Nzambe Pambola Congo
Guard her children. Batela bana na ye,
Guide her rulers, Lakisa bakonzi na ye nzela,
And give her peace for Jesus Christ’s sake Pesa ye kimya, na kombo ya Yez u Kristu.
-Written by Trevor Huddleston in An African Prayer Book Image and Doubleday, New York, NY (1995)
Edited by Desmond Tutu
Lingala adaptation by Kambale Musavuli
 
May the Spirit make us wise, guide us, renew us and strengthen us
So that we will be
Strong in faith,
Discerning in proclamation,
Courageous in witness,
Persistent in good deeds. AMEN
-Adapted from the Church of the Province of the West Indies
An African Prayer Book Image and Doubleday, New York, NY (1995)
Edited by Desmond Tutu
 
Hymn Suggestions
 
Opening Hymn:

  • “Restless Weaver”
    Can be found in Chalice Hymnal, Chalice Press, St. Louis, MO
  • “The Voice of God Is Calling”
    Can be found in Chalice Hymnal, Chalice Press, St. Louis, MO

 
Hymn of the Day:

  • “If I Can Help Somebody”
    Can be found at www.lyricsmania.com
  • “When Will People Cease Their Fighting”
    Can be found in Chalice Hymnal, Chalice Press, St. Louis, MO
  • "I Need You to Survive” by Kirk Franklin
    Can be found at www.lyricskeeper.com
  • “There Is a Balm in Gilead”
    Can be found in The New Century Hymnal, The Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, OH

 
Prayer Hymn

  • “Lead Me, Guide Me”
    Can be found in African American Heritage Hymnal, GIA Publications, Inc., Chicago, IL
  • “For the Healing of the Nations”
    Can be found in The New Century Hymnal, The Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, OH

 
Sending Hymn

  • “Let There Be Peace On Earth”
    Can be found in the African American Heritage Hymnal, GIA Publications, Inc., Chicago, IL
  • “Go Now in Peace”
    Can be found in the Chalice Hymnal, Chalice Press, St. Louis, MO
  • “Spirit of Jesus, If I Love My Neighbor”
    Can be found in The New Century Hymnal, The Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, OH

 
Reflection from the US
(By Cheryl Sybrant, Fayetteville Christian Church, Fayetteville, AR)
It’s hard to answer the question people ask when you return. “How was the trip to Congo?” There are too many emotions and thoughts all tangled together. How do you boil an experience into the expected “sound bite” when so many words define it? Amazing, exhausting, inspiring, faith-filled, saturated with joy and praise, powerful, culturally challenging, spiritual, uplifting, scary, beautiful, humid, heart breaking, and heart mending could each illustrate their own stories.

Mostly, this trip was a lesson in perspective, a study in contrast, between the material means we often place our trust in and the spiritual wealth I witnessed in Congo. We have so much to learn.

I wish more people could witness offering time in Congo! Rather than quietly waiting for the “tray to be hurriedly passed down the pew,” old and young sing and dance forward to the front of the church. They drop what money they have into baskets for various church ministries. The experience is a testament to what stewardship should represent — joy and thanksgiving and giving back what’s already Gods.

And God knows there is need. There is a constant struggle: to stay alive, to have enough food , to have safe water, to have medical care or a school for your child. The list is overwhelming. But the more I listened and observed, the more I learned that
the people we met put their trust and faith in God, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the church provides, somehow, against all odds.

It builds schools, hospitals, medical clinics, digs wells for entire villages; provides doctors, and economic opportunity for survival. The church is not contained in a building, it embraces the entire community. And by the grace of God its servants
“lift up those who are bowed down, uphold the widow and the fatherless, keep the faith, execute justice for the oppressed, give food to the hungry.” I saw the God of Psalm 146 working in the flesh through the 10th Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo
(CDCC) and efforts of Global Ministries. Their faith and dedication provide the means to accomplish great things in the midst of suffering and struggle. At the CDCC Headquarters in Mbandaka, we met the Christian Women’s Fellowship group from 23 different districts throughout Congo. They are another testament to spiritual wealth. They came for a two - week training session to learn more about the mission and vision of the church so they could apply it back home in their districts.

They used their own money and some traveled weeks by foot and canoe just to get there. One woman walked 186 miles to attend! In a country with a reputation for being “the most dangerous place to be a woman,” what faith.

In Brazzaville, where we visited the Church of the Disciples of Christ in Congo (EDCC), we got another reminder of what it means to truly praise the Lord despite surrounding circumstances. The congregation we visited lost four members during an ammunitions depot explosion in March which took 3,200 lives, destroyed schools and the hospital and damaged buildings miles across the river into Kinshasa.

Signs are posted not to step on live hand grenades or ammunition. Tents are set up, and people live in what’s left of homes. But on a Thursday, the congregation waited hours for our arrival and a chance to worship and show hospitality. One choir traveled over 600 miles to sing. With heart and soul, they lifted up praise. A young man on guitar played “How Great Thou Art” while the minister prayed. I felt so unworthy because all I could think was, “God, things don’t look so great.” But despite the destruction around them, they spoke with incredible perspective and compassion. The minister gave each of us a small purse with a map of Africa and a selfless directive: “When you go back home don’t only be ambassadors for Brazzavile; be ambassadors for Africa, because there are places worse off than we are.” I pray God empowers us and guides us to fulfill that request.
 
Reflection from the US
(By the Rev. Eugene James, Regional Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),  Michigan Region)
A Reflection from Time with the Saints in Congo

There is a saying with which most of us are familiar: “You don’t miss your water until the well runs dry.” How about first having to find water to miss? Coming home to running water I could actually drink made vivid the point of just how blessed I am to
live in a community where it is taken for granted. During our time in Mbandaka, we visited two clean water sources developed by the church and witnessed first hand just how critical to the community they are. There was a steady stream of persons, mostly women and children, coming down the path to the water source with buckets and containers of various sizes to obtain water to carry back to their homes. They filled the containers, balanced them on their heads and made their way back up the hill and onto the road to their distant homes. I particularly remember one young mother with her three children, probably ranging in age from six to twelve years old, standing tall in her determined dignity, telling us that life for her family was hard and having the clean water source was very important to them. The image of her youngest child who turned to watch me walk up the path with a bucket of water almost as tall as she was balanced on her head is burned into my memory forever.

None of the children whined or complained about it being difficult to walk up the path or the containers of water being too heavy. They simply did what had to be done. What a profound example of shared responsibility for children in our privileged society.



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