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Transformational Worship: First Communion


Today’s post is from Marissa Sotos, mission developer at Tree of Life in Minneapolis, MN.

I was 22 when I took communion for the first time. The church I grew up in only communed once a year, and by the time I was old enough to partake, I was also old enough to be skeptical.

Then a year after college I found myself sitting in a Lutheran church. Working in the congregation’s office had started out as just a job, but soon I got curious, and once I experienced worship, it drew me back like gravity. Intellectually I was still an atheist, but on Sunday mornings I just couldn’t help myself. There I’d be again, stumbling through the liturgy, and there God would be again at the back of my mind saying, “Just talk to me. Please.”

I didn’t though, and I also didn’t take communion. Each week the ushers would come by and each week I would shake my head. I knew communion meant eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood. That seemed like something I shouldn’t do unless I was willing to let God be a part of my life.

Over the weeks I started to change though. That God-voice in the corner of my mind wasn’t going away, and I began to look at the people taking communion with less trepidation and more longing. One day, the balance finally shifted. Instead of hunkering down when the ushers came by, I stood up and followed the congregation. The pastor recognized me, “This is the body of Christ given for you, Marissa.” I took it and ate, I drank the wine, and then as I turned to go back to my seat, I completely panicked. What had I just done? Had I eaten God? How would that change me? I rushed back to my pew, lightheaded and with my heart pounding.

The rest of the service was a blur and I left as soon as I could. Outside I tried to clear my head, but it was no use. That God-voice was there, more insistent than ever, “Just talk to me. Please.” Having just eaten Jesus’ body, I felt that I could no longer refuse. “OK God, yes, I’ll talk to you.”

I was right to wonder how communion would change me. It did, and it does. These days I approach the table with more love and less fear, but as I stretch out my hands I still wonder, “How will this change me?”

Transformational Worship: Real Silence


Today’s post is from Scott Weidler, who served for 21 years as Program Director for Worship and Music of the ELCA, and who currently lives in Toronto.


I remember when I first realized that prayer is as much about listening to God as it is speaking to God. In other words, I remember the first time I experienced real silence.

The Three Days (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Vigil of Easter) are the most important days and liturgies for any Christian, but for an over-eager graduate student in the first year of my master’s program in liturgical studies at the University of Notre Dame, I was over the top in anticipation of what all I would experience. But I never imagined what would be most transformative.

I was a part-time church musician at a wonderful, local Lutheran congregation, with its own rich traditions of worship and music, but I knew that what was going to happen in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus was like nothing I had experienced before, so I adjusted my schedule to attend all the liturgies that I could.

It was Good Friday and we had a noon service at my church. The Good Friday liturgy at Sacred Heart was at 3 p.m. – a traditional time for Roman Catholics, I learned – the hour at which Jesus died. I also learned that the basilica would be packed, and I should arrive very early. Early? On Good Friday? This Lutheran found that hard to believe, but I did dash across town and campus, arriving an hour early. Plenty of time, I assured myself. I opened the doors and I heard nothing. I was convinced I was the first person to arrive. Obviously, I had over-estimated what arriving early meant. Much to my amazement, the basilica was already packed to overflowing. People were everywhere. In the overflowing pews. Sitting on the floor in the side aisles. Perched on the steps around the tabernacle and flowing clear back into the Lady Chapel.

What struck me most was the silence. The utter and complete lack of sound. The communal breath that one could only sense. The power of prayer, even if unfamiliar to me, permeating every being in that room.

Silence. Together. As the body of Christ. It taught me something about how we gather for worship. It taught me a lot about prayer. It was truly a transformative experience that shaped me forever.



Transformational Worship: The Breath of the Spirit


Today’s post is from Gwen Arneson, Pastoral Assistant at Christ Lutheran Church in Cottonwood Minnesota.

A transformative experience in worship

Our congregation’s sanctuary is filled with connected but individual padded leather theater seats rather than wooden bench pews or other chair-type seating. For 60 years, this has facilitated a physically comfortable worship service experience, but it also results in a substantial communal “whoosh” as everyone sits down at the same moment in time. A pastor once quipped that it sounded like the Holy Spirit was blowing through the room each time the words, “Please be seated” were uttered!

We know and pray, of course, that the Holy Spirit is always blowing in our midst just as the wind blows continually across the prairie where we live. Active and persistent, the Spirit stirs us up, working in and between us, and inspiring each of us in our daily lives of faith.

Come, Holy Spirit, we pray as we inhale – inspired – and guide us.

Recently I’ve been in two worship service settings where I’ve had the privilege of sitting in the congregation rather than at my normal perch on the organ bench in the balcony. As a church musician, what a powerful internal message and blessing these opportunities were to me! It was lovely to sing shoulder to shoulder with those worshiping beside me. The most poignant moment for me that left a lasting memory in my mind and on my heart was when the congregation inhaled together to begin singing each new hymn stanza or liturgical response! As one gasping body, we breathed in the breath of the Spirit among us and filled our lungs with the energy and power to lift our voices in praise to God. We became one organism, replenished in spirit and capacity by the One who calls, gathers, enlightens and sustains us each day. It was pure joy to fervently sing the texts that followed with the renewed awareness of this deep common bond.

A simple sensory reminder of our living God at work across God’s church fills my heart with deep gratitude. Come, Holy Spirit, we pray as we inhale – inspired – and guide us as we draw in the world’s needs to serve as we are equipped, to sigh with those who sigh, and to give breath to all that brings honor and glory to God.

“Come now, and fill our spirits; pour out your gifts abundant.
O living Breath of God, Holy Spirit, breathe in us as we pray.”
(Evangelical Lutheran Worship #407)

Have a transformational worship experience to share? Email it, in around 300 words, to