Worship and Music
Someone once said “Anything can happen at a Bathurst service.”
While this is certainly true, there is also something familiar to be found for regular worshipers and visitors on a Sunday morning.
Bathurst worship services are often clustered in themes, like “Many Gardens – One World” (Autumn 2003) or “Dreams in the Night – Stories for the Journey--a look at the vision stories from the Hebrew scriptures. (Lent 2003), “SpiritWorks” (Autumn 2004), and “That We May Know Each Other: Muslim – United Church Dialogue” (Winter 2005).
Each theme is examined in a series of services on specific topics. The Autumn 2004 series, “SpiritWorks” explored the presence and relationship of creative Spirit in some of our members’ workplaces, school-days, and creative writing.
Special Events and Topics
Often, compelling topics arise which lead Bathurst to respond with a special service or to do something out of the ordinary. Since 2002 we have attended a screening at Planet In Focus: the Toronto International Environmental Film and Video Festival. The festival takes place on the first Sunday of October. We have also taken part in a multi-faith celebration organized as part of Planet in Focus.
Other services that called our attention to special themes or events have included “Braiding Remembrance and Hope: A Service to Commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women,” (December 2002), the Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence (February 2002) and the United Church of Canada HIV/AIDS campaign, Beads of Hope (January 2002).
We also celebrate traditional events like Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter in our own way, and non-traditional festivals like Black History Month in February, and Summer Solstice and Pride Sunday in June.
Bathurst is committed to a multi-faith sensitivity. We seek to be attentive to the important religious festivals our neighbours in Toronto’s pluralistic mosaic celebrate. For example, we would try to pray for members of the Jewish community during Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. Our prayers embody the principles established by the United Church of Canada on relations with Jews and Judaism in “Bearing Faithful Witness" and for our Muslim neighbors during Ramadan. Likewise, as part of our commitment to Right Relation with Peoples of the First Nations, we try to draw on traditional Aboriginal teachings in a sensitive way.
The seasonal worship themes are based on suggestions from the congregation or are prompted by issues in church and society. The themes are chosen by our Worship Committee.
Individual services are planned and led by a worship team and team leader. Since our minister is half-time, there are many opportunities for lay members to preach, plan and lead services. .
Services will likely include singing – old favourites and contempary songs from global and feminist collections - scripture, prayer, silence, tactile activities and body movement. We are committed to using inclusive language that is non-sexist and non-militarist in our hymns and texts.
Every Generation is Included
Bathurst is committed to an inclusive presence of young and old and the differently-abled in all of our services. We don’t have a Sunday School, but chose to encourage children and youth to be present throughout the service. A round table, a focal point for our services, always has inviting crafts that the young – or young at heart – can work on during the service. Children and youth often share in a ministry of leadership by preaching the sermon, offering prayers and assisting with Holy Communion. We believe that by having the children present in the service they are able to offer the whole congregation the ministry of their presence, and unique contributions based on their age and abilities. At the same time the spiritual formation of children occurs in an ongoing way by "osmosis" and through inter-generational activities during the "Table Talk."
Child-care volunteers are available on a weekly rotation to support parents with infants and young children, but taking restless children out if necessary to play in the gym or do a craft in the office, although most of the time the children are happy staying at the table.
Communion and Special Liturgies
Bathurst usually celebrates Holy Communion on the first Sunday of the month. We use a communion liturgy developed by members on the congregation.
Baptism (Christening) is celebrated at Bathurst; for infants and for youth or adults, after suitable preparation. A blessing or welcome rite for an infant can also be planned.
Bathurst also marks the passing of it members with suitable memorial or funeral services in consultation with the family and friends of those who have died.
Bathurst’s ministers are available for weddings.
During July and August, Bathurst does not have Sunday services, but usually meets in members’ homes for midweek potluck suppers and discussions on a variety of topics.
Many of the songs we sing during worship services at Bathurst emerge out of our congregational life together.
Holy Spirit, Fill Me is based on a round that a visitor taught us many years ago at one of our weekend retreats.
Our minister at the time, Frances Combs, loved the melody but not the original words. So, Frances wrote her own words and called her version "Holy Spirit, Fill Me". At the time, Cheryl Curtis was on a student placement with us from the Centre for Christian Studies. Cheryl suggested that we use Frances' song as a call to prayer.
Come,Shekenah,Come is another round that was composed by a Bathurst member. Shirley Endicott Small wrote the words and lyrics for this three-part canon in the early nineteen nineties.
Come, Shekenah, Come,
The music at our services is often drawn from various cultures. We love to sing African songs, such as Thuma Mina and Siyahamba. Sometimes we include music rom other faith traditions.
Folks at Bathurst prefer inclusive, non-militaristic, non-hierarchical lyrics. Worshippers have been known to change the words to hymns on the spot! Still, we do try not to destroy beautiful poetry in the name of political correctness.
Overall, our music is an eclectic mix of traditional hymns and contemporary music from diverse sources. We use the new United Church hymnbook, Voices United. But we also sing hymns from other hymnals. As well, we use selections from what we call our "Bathurst Songbook"--songs people have learned at conferences and other places.
"Small, but Mighty"
That's how Bev Lewis describes the Bathurst choir. Bev is our Music Director. She's been leading the choir and playing piano at our services for many years.
At one time, Bathurst United had a mighty and large choir. From the 1940s to the 60s, the choir stalls of our old church building would be filled to overflowing. The congregation held frequent concerts and other events mainly so that people could hear the choir.
Even though the choir is now much smaller, the dedicated singers still perform challenging, four-part compositions. As well, the choir organizes our Christmas Carol Service.
Just in time for the 2010 Christmas Concert, Bathurst acquired a new piano. The previous piano, which was passed on to us in 2004, was beginning to need significant repair, and the assessment was that it made more sense to replace it. Bev says the new Boston Studio piano is very solid, and should provide wonderful music for many years to come.
The choir rehearses from one until two o'clock Sunday afternoons, in the chapel after our refreshment and discussion time. There is no audition. If you're interested in singing with us, contact Bev Lewis at 416-921-4967