AT HOME WORSHIP CENTER
Rev. Rita Hays
The Bible contains over 400 references to altars: holy structures erected not only to symbolize the presence of God but also designed to offer sacrifices to appease God. Noah built the first one as he emerged from the ark, landed safely on dry land, and thanked God for deliverance from the floodwaters. Abraham constructed one on the spot where he pitched his tent between Bethel and Al, and there he called upon the name of the Lord. The Temple in Jerusalem contained two altars. After the Exile, the altar was the first thing rebuilt, then the Temple itself. And today, in church sanctuaries worldwide, altars contain powerful symbols of our faith. We sense the importance of altars not only in scripture, but also in present worship settings.
Whether standing beside or bowing down to rough-hewn sacred places of the past, persons sensed that God resided with them. Present day worshipers center their eyes and thoughts on religious objects contained on modern church tables and believe that God, too, abides with them. However, might we discover God in our homes, as well, through the creation of a worship center? Dedicated to specific images that draw us closer to our Creator, our home altar provides a focal point for praise, meditation, and prayer. The items we place at our worship center draw us nearer to the Triune God and allow us to symbolize our Christian beliefs in unique ways.
Start by finding the ideal place in your home. A small table or even your mantle top can serve as an altar. Cover your altar area with a cloth, preferably the color of the liturgical time of the church year. Gather religious items that are meaningful. Place these on your worship center altar. Redesign your worship center according to the changing church feasts.
Consult your pastor or church leaders to provide a liturgical calendar to assist with dates for each season of the church year (or purchase the United Methodist Worship Planning Calendar at www.cokesbury.com). Following these holy cycles year after year draws attention to the life of Christ, beginning with his birth and culminating in his resurrection.
Advent: Preparing for the Birth of Christ
Gather a purple cloth. The purple used during Advent represents royalty. We await the birth of King Jesus.
Items you might gather: Four purple candles (Four Sundays of Advent) or an Advent Wreath, Bible, Cross
Christmastide: Celebrating the Birth of Christ
Gather a white cloth. The color white used during the season of Christmastide represents light and peace.
Items you might gather: Nativity scene, Bible, Cross, white candle, angel
Epiphany: The Wise Men Visit Jesus
Gather a green cloth. The color green used during Epiphany represents the growth of the gospel, as God reached out to foreigners to include them in the birth of the Christ Child.
Items you might gather: Star, Crown, Treasure Box, Wrapped Gift Box, Bible, Cross
Lent: Journeying Toward the Cross
Gather a purple cloth. The color purple used during Lent represents deep contemplation. Lent invites us to think seriously about our faith and practice Christian disciplines that draw us closer to Christ.
Items you might gather: Cross, Bible, Crown of Thorns, Nail
Eastertide: Rejoicing in the Resurrection
Gather a white cloth. The color white used during Eastertide represents joy and brightness.
Items you might gather: Lily, Bible, Cross, Flowers
Pentecost: The Coming of the Holy Spirit
Gather a red cloth. You might also add cloths of yellow and orange. These colors used during Pentecost represent the flames of fire described in the Book of Acts that rested on the believers gathered in The Upper Room. Pentecost also celebrates the birth of the Church.
Items you might gather: Church, Birthday candles, red, yellow, and orange streamers, Cross, Bible
Ordinary Time: God Comes to Us in all Seasons of Life
Gather a green cloth. The green cloth during Ordinary Time represents the growth of the kingdom of God.
Items you might gather: Clock, Hour Glass, Timer, Watch, Bible, Cross
No need to spend money. The cloth you use to cover your worship center might originate from clothing, scarfs, tablecloths, or fabric pieces already on hand. The objects placed on your worship center altar best derive from things readily available in your home. If you do not possess suggested materials, an alternative source would be to print out pictures via the Internet, frame them, and display on easels.
Be creative! Select components for your worship center that hold significant meaning and are tools for guidance toward spiritual growth.
Use your worship center as a quiet place to reflect and focus on spiritual matters. Place yourself there for your daily devotional reading, scripture readings, and prayer time. Go there in times of celebration. Abide there in periods of anxiety. Let the visual images serve as a reminder of your Christian faith. Allow the seasons of the church year to intersect with daily path of discipleship. And sense God at work on your behalf, drawing you into fellowship and showering you with the gift of salvation and grace. A worship center connects you with all faithful pilgrims of the past who erected altars for the purpose of honoring and pleasing God.
For more ideas, purchase Altars for Everyone atwww.cokesbury.com.
Rita Hays is a retired ordained deacon in the Tennessee Conference. She serves as Associate Pastor at Greenbrier United Methodist Church in Greenbrier, Tennessee. She has authored several books and written curriculum resources for Upper Room and United Methodist Publishing.