Sign & Spirit: For the Parish

by Eddie Green
The church is bustling as people arrive, older folks and families. The servers are gathering at the back, the worship group is already in the sanctuary - adults and teens and children. Notices of upcoming church events roll on a number of screens - placed around the church to respond to liturgical movement. 

I use the term Sign & Spirit to refer to an emerging missional movement that draws from sacramental and charismatic roots. I have had some questions about what this might mean.
The Vicar introduces the service with information on the screens - welcome slips for new folks, giving, prayer & oil ministry available during communion. The Alpha course is plugged. A prayer and then a hymn - 'Gather Us In' which reflects what the family of God are here for today. The words are clearly visible on the main screen.
Sign & Spirit is a neat term after all, speaking of a richness of action and experience in the Christian life. Sign & Spirit could on one hand refer to the charismatic, on the other to the sacramental.

It refers of course to both.
The children help light the candles on the nave Altar - that is those who are not servers or singers! There is no Sunday school, rather activities take place to help the children engage with worship. After the Gospel is read from the centre of the church the sermon involves pictures and involvement for all ages. The Bible is opened. Questions are asked. Questions are Answered. The Good News is shared.
Sign & Spirit reflects the coming together, the meeting point of (at least) three different streams:
  • The Charismatic (Anglo) Catholic with its history and experience. 
  • The Sacramental Evangelical with its missional confidence. 
  • Sacramental Alternative Worship with its creative boldness.
The prayers are led by the children, with short videos on the screen and candles lit for each intercession. For peace. For hope. For the sick. For the dead. The Peace follows with great warmth and much movement.
Sign & Spirit embraces creative forms of worship, unencumbered by expectations of genre. Incense, video, procession, music, stations, actions. Diverse not ashamed.
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus! is sung. Incense is used as the gifts are brought to the table. The Eucharistic prayer today is A2 with a preface that reflects the theme of the service. Women and Men, Priest, Deacon and Server (one of the youth group) stand at the Altar together as the great sanctus bell is rung by the children and the body and blood is lifted for all.
Sign & Spirit has a focus on parish renewal, although it is not limited to the parish. Within this the sacraments are seen as the living heart of church life.
As the people come for communion, adults and children, some make their way to the back for prayer and anointing. Responding to God in different ways, but all come to receive with hands open. How Deep the Father's Love for Us is sung - some hands are raised higher.
Sign & Spirit expects God to meet with people, in the congregation, in the community, on the streets, through prayer, gift, worship and sacrament. Sign & Spirit encourages people to pray for and share with one another.
At the notices a member of the congregation shares a story of how God has met with them. The Vicar describes it as gently prophetic. Notices are given about the community choir, the action groups open to all church members - Mission, Worship, Pastoral, and opportunities to serve church and community.
Sign & Spirit expects God to work charismatically through his people, implicitly as well as explicitly. For some the language of renewal is easy. For others it is harder, but all are valued and listened to.
After the blessing the children distribute flags and get ready to join the procession. Christ be Our Light is sung as we go out in the world to share the Gospel. The people turn to the back for the dismissal.
Sign & Spirit expects that the church will grow when we seek God and reach out to others. It cannot exist only to change the interior of church buildings. It must seek to transform a nation.