Worship is an extremely important and central element in the life of Oakhurst. As part of our covenant, each member pledges to gather regularly with the church to worship God, share the good news, and continually examine its implications for one’s life.
What happens in worship?
Corporate worship, ideally, allows us to praise God and seek God’s presence as children of God. Because worship is communal gratitude and love for God, our creator, redeemer, and sustainer, it also allows us to gather with one another as sisters and brothers in Christ and celebrate our community. This means that worship is not a performance by the preacher, the choir, or the musicians. Worship leaders do not substitute for the congregation or stand between the congregation and God. All persons are participants in the worship services.
Worship is also where we gain knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual strength to carry out our discipleship in the world. To facilitate this at Oakhurst, we try to worship so as to involve the whole person – head, heart, thoughts and emotions – through sermons, music, dance, drama and other means. The goal is to provide opportunities in worship both to receive sustenance and to offer our gifts and abilities for service.
Members often participate in worship by reading scripture or offering prayers. For those who are accustomed to one person leading every Sunday, Oakhurst’s cast of thousands may seem confusing. We believe every member is a minister, and so worship is led by staff members and by lay people. We have the same idea about serving the Lord’s Supper. Both ordained clergy and laity are eligible to serve communion, because we believe that we are all called as God’s ministers.
We believe the good news of Jesus Christ is for everyone, regardless of age or ability to understand. Everyone can respond to that good news, especially children. We welcome children of all ages in our worship services. Extended Session (nursery) is always available for infants, toddlers, and 2 to 5-year-olds. However, 3 to 5-year-olds participate at the beginning of each worship service and leave for Extended Session at a time designated in the bulletin. Once a child enters the first grade, she or he is welcomed formally into worship on Christian Education Sunday.
Children in first through third grade attend worship education once a month to learn more about the practices and meaning of our worship together. Children learn to be a part of the covenant community as they participate in worship and by observing and imitating what other followers of God are doing. They can begin to see worship as a place and experience in which God may speak to them. They are a part of the Christian community and discover that they are valued by God and by God’s people at Oakhurst Baptist Church.
What about inclusive language?
For centuries people speaking the English language have assumed that words like “man” and “his” could be used to indicate women or men alike. At Oakhurst, we are seeking to be sensitive to the fact that our language helps shape the way we see the world, so we are working to make our language more available to all people regardless of gender, race, or other qualities. That is why some familiar hymn texts may be altered slightly, and why the New Revised Standard is most often used for scripture.