Within the circuit we have a range of styles of worship, from traditional to taizé, from quiet, peaceful and prayerful to making a joyful noise with lots of loud music and singing! Some of our churches have two different styles of services on a Sunday catering for different tastes, motivated by a desire for community outreach.
Fairly formal (usually!), but also peaceful and relaxing! Typically a service starts with welcome and a "call to worship" — perhaps as an opening prayer. There are hymns, scripture readings (generally from the set lectionary), prayers including the Lord's Prayer, perhaps a meditation, an offering, a children's message, the sermon, and the service concludes with prayer and a blessing.
Holy Communion may be included. All who love the Lord are invited to celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, but there is no compulsion.
Many services in the circuit — perhaps the majority — are traditional.
These come under a range of names, including Alternative Worship or Fresh Expressions. Here are some which we use within the circuit. In all cases, details of what, when and where are included in the circuit preaching plan.
The Fresh Expressions website defines a fresh expression as:
"a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.
- It will come into being through principles of listening, service, incarnational mission and making disciples;
- It will have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context."
Several of the following are examples of Fresh Expressions in the circuit.
This is a form of church for children and adults that involves creativity, celebration and hospitality. It's primarily for people who don't already belong to another form of church. It may meet at a time (and sometimes in a place) which fits the needs of those who come. Further details can be found on the Messy Church website.
Every quarter, several Messy Church sessions are held throughout the circuit, with a number of churches involved.
An Alpha course is an opportunity to explore life and the Christian faith in a friendly and informal environment. Typically each session includes a talk, discussions, and a shared meal.
Several of the circuit's churches run these courses occasionally. Details are included in the circuit preaching plan.
People sit in small groups around tables set up in a café style. This gives the opportunity to follow through the worship service, and discuss together.
The churches offering this style of worship include Windsor Methodist Church.
A Taizé worship service involves sung and chanted prayers, meditation, a period of silence, liturgical readings, and icons. There is no preaching. The style of prayer practised at Taizé has attracted many worshippers from around the globe and from many different denominations.
The churches offering this style of worship include High Street Maidenhead Methodist Church.
On the fourth Sunday of each month, Cookham Rise Methodist Church hosts "4th at Cookham". This could be any form of worship-style except traditional! The challenge is to come and find out …
Worship and prayer are vital to our life as Christians. Methodists have a tradition of lay people complementing our ministers by training and qualifying as Local Preachers — as a result of which they can take complete services, including preaching. Worship Leaders are becoming more important, and they assist the ministers and Local Preachers in the services.
As a circuit, we have a duty to care for each other, and we have a quarterly Prayer Diary, which enables our entire circuit to concentrate on remembering and praying for a particular church one week in each quarter, using prayers of thanks and requests for prayer from that particular church.
This section of the website therefore has dedicated pages
In recent years, one way is which the circuit has made its presence visible in the community is by holding an outdoor service in a different part of the circuit in each of the Summer months of June, July and August. What a range of experiences we have had:
- Shivering with blankets and thermos flasks on Eton Wick Green in June 2013 (well — what do you expect in an English Summer?!)
- Boiling hot in shirt sleeves outside St Andrew's Slough in July 2013
- Taking our teddy bears to a picnic at St Mark's Crescent in August 2014.
Often our special events are a combination of Worship and Mission. This is particularly true of events such as our 24 hours of Prayer in 2013 or our Prayer Safari in 2014, which were organised by the Circuit Mission Committee. These are described on our Mission page, and illustrated with various sets of photographs in our Photo Gallery.
The Thames Valley Circuit's theme for 2014-15 was "Travelling in Hope". As part of the project, the circuit held a special Week of Prayer in February 2015. Each day featured an event at a different church exploring prayer in different ways:
- Exploring prayer using a labyrinth
- Exploring prayer through "doing"
- Exploring prayer using symbols
- Exploring prayer through music
- Exploring prayer through Communion
- Exploring prayer using Scripture
- Exploring prayer as men
Each day the special prayers concentrated on a different Traveller in Hope — Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Elijah, Mary, Jesus and Paul. We were prompted to give praise and thanks, to repentance, to cry out for different countries, and to prayer for specific congregations in the circuit.
The circuit followed this up by continuing to explore the theme of Travelling in Hope in the four weeks leading up to Pentecost. A special document was produced, primarily for Local Preachers, providing resources for various aspects of hope:
|• Week One
||Hope in Despair
|• Week Two
||Hope in the Ordinary
||(Feeding of the Five Thousand)
|• Week Three
||Hope in Companionship
||(Ruth and Naomi)
|• Week Four
||Hope in God's Presence
||(the Great Commission)
Other events within the Circuit may include:
- Healing services
- Singing the Faith afternoons,
- Smaller Churches Away Days.
The circuit choir, Thames Valley Voices
, which includes members from many of our churches, often takes part in the circuit's special services, as well as putting on events in their own right. For example they sang at a special communion service — People of the Book and the Bread
Use the audio players below to listen to a recording of various tracks from another of their special events — Voice of Passion, performed in April 2014, looking at the Passion story up to, but not including, the Resurrection. All are taken from "Singing the Faith" (StF). (Audio recording made for non-commercial use under licence number CCL 63417.)
StF 290 - Who would ever have believed it? - John L. Bell and Graham Maule - 3:53
StF 263 - Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest! - Carl Tuttle - 1:12
StF 667 - O watcher in the wilderness - Dominic Grant - 2:58
StF 271 - Come, wounded Healer, your sufferings reveal - Martin Leckebusch - 2:15
StF 287 - When I survey the wondrous cross - Isaac Watts - 3:06
StF 655 - We cannot measure how you heal - John L. Bell and Graham Maule - 3:29
StF 662 - Have you heard God's voice; has your heart been stirred? - Jacqueline G. Jones - 3:30
Whatever your preferred style of worship, or to explore something new, if you are in the Thames Valley, why not come and see for yourself!