Ideas for Celebrating Special Occasions

Here are ideas your congregations can use to celebrate milestones in your history.


  • Dreaming session
  • Small groups
  • Ask "How would you enjoy celebrating our anniversary?"
  • Ask "What can we do to improve community/world?"
  • Ask "What can we improve at our own church?"
  • Begin a prayer vigil
  • Write or update the church's history
  • Create an outdoor sign announcing of your anniversary
  • Create an Anniversary Plate
  • Compile and distribute a list of charter members
  • Commission a paten/chalice for communion table; also copies to be available for each family
  • Create auto decals
  • Compile an anniversary cookbook
  • Create a booklet of historic moments
  • Dedication of church buildings/annexes
  • Contributions of this church to larger church (mission projects, etc)
  • Calling of ministers
  • Celebration of ordinations
  • Greetings from former staff
  • Compile a list of ministers and Timothies
  • Distribute copies of your building's original deed
  • Page for autographs
  • Letters from former members
  • Growing pains
  • Plan a capital campaign: include local needs and the work of the larger church


  • Celebration of members for over half a century
  • Hymn commissioned
  • Design banners which reflect a theme committee has chosen
  • Open cornerstone
  • Series of profiles (three minutes on Sunday) once a month for a year
  • Organ recital, music/choir program of early American music and/or hymn sing
  • Oldest member recognition
  • Plant a commitment tree-each person writes a commitment on Celebration Sunday with cards planted under tree to be nourishment to new tree
  • Bring back oldest minister to do children's sermon
  • Do a play, drama
  • Write your own - you can contact DCHS for examples
  • Baby dedication--pointing to the future of the church--oldest minister, elder to do this
  • History dedication
  • Ecumenical service

Special Sundays

  • Service honoring all Timothies
  • Former member and staff Sunday
  • Service honoring all baptized at this church
  • Service honoring all in Christian ministry
  • Service honoring all past board chairs
  • Service honoring all married here
  • Service honoring charter members, or naming them in prayer


  • Homecoming Day
  • Family Tree Scrapbook
  • Each family makes a page (actual tree with branches) of church members from this family
  • Remember When Night--story-telling, reminiscences
  • Start a time capsule
  • Heritage trip to Bethany, Cane Ridge, Nashville
  • Anniversary membership directory
  • Birthday Party
  • Scrapbook
  • Start a heritage room--collect archives--old photos, old communion ware, furniture
  • Home movie night
  • Dress as 100-150 years ago
  • Take picture of congregation for time capsule

Relating to the Larger Church

  • Write persons from larger church who are significant to your church--college professors, denominational leaders, etc.
  • Volunteer in Mission trip - contact Homeland Ministries
  • Contact DCHS for certificate if you are celebrating 50, 75, 1 or 125 or 150 years
  • Send news of your major celebration to your regional newsletter

Send us your ideas and we'll add them to the list for others to use.

After your celebration send us your program, bulletins, newspaper clippings, etc. for your Congregational File.

Resource for Planning an Anniversary Celebration

Backgrounds for Congregational Portraits: Ideas and Resources for Local Church Historians in the Stone-Campbell Tradition
by Anthony L. Dunnavant.
Available in our online store


The center of the life of Christians in the legacy of Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell is the gathering at the Lord’s Table. It's a table of memory. Christ is present as we worship by his instruction to remember him, and break bread with prayer. Your celebration of your congregation’s anniversary is to be a time of joyful, animating memory in which God’s spirit enlivens the present and empowers the future.

We receive the joyful reports of many anniversary celebrations and are pleased to pass along many of these ideas as a way to “prime the pump” as you create your own great gathering of the saints, past and present, at the table of the Lord.

First Steps

Get together a few key leaders such as your church historian, the pastor, two or three older well-admired “saints” of the congregation. Prayerfully engage in conversation about possibilities and hopes of a celebration. Do some sacred remembering around the question, “When and what was happening in our congregation when the Gospel was most fully and faithfully alive?” In other words, “What are we celebrating?”

In the initial meeting you need to make a few decisions:

Do you need to write a history of the congregation or an update? Review the current history (and supplements) if you have one. This work needs significant lead-time and has budget implications.

Who among you will prepare and present a proposal to the Board? Arrange to have your group give feedback on the first draft of the proposal.

Who are the persons you want the Board to consider for your celebration committee? Remember to have persons representing all ages. Choir representative is also important.

When will the primary celebration occur? It is often the Sunday closest to a founding meeting of the chartering of the congregation.

What is your budget? A more detailed budget will need to be presented later, after the congregation has been engaged in brainstorming ideas for the celebration. Plan to work with the Board’s authorized stewardship leaders as you plan both the income and expense sides of your budget.

Assemble your committee

  • Enjoy a time of remembering the saints of the congregation
  • Review your written history
  • Will you write a new history or update?
  • If “yes,” who will do the research and writing?
  • What is the time line?
  • What is the budget?
  • Have you written a description of the assignment for the writer?
  • Discuss ways of engaging the congregation.
    • Home gatherings for discussion and reports to your committee on questions:
      • What would I like our church to pass on to our future?
      • What more I would like to learn of our church’s story?
      • My ideas for our “party” celebrating our history.
      • What are the possibilities from this celebration to improve our church, our community, our world?
    • Have a contest to create a celebration slogan and logo.

In your next meetings go through the ideas in this paper and the ideas generated by your congregation. Narrow down the ideas and adopt the ones you want to use. (Remember, it is better to do a few things joyfully and well than to wear everyone out trying to implement every idea that has merit.) Create a calendar of celebration. Draw up a proposed budget to be presented to the Board.

Ideas From Other Congregations


  • Contact former ministers, staff persons and lay leaders inviting them to your big celebration day (weekend) and inviting them to write a piece for a journal of memories.
  • “Remember when...”
  • Have a homecoming day with picnic on the grounds.
  • Birthday party for ChristBirthday party for Christ’
  • “Decades night.” Each decade of your history is celebrated. The presenter wears clothes in fashion in that decade.
  • Dinner using favorite old recipes from members of our congregation. (This can also be published as a popular Dinner using favorite old recipes from members of our congregation. (This can also be published as a popular “keepsake.”


  • Write a history or history update.
  • Collect and publish lists of important information:
    • Charter members
    • Ministers
    • Timothies/Priscillas.
    • Prepare important documents for Disciples of Christ Historical Society.
  • Publish a booklet of important memories.
  • Create a heritage center to display artifacts.
  • Put up a time line of your congregation’s history which includes items of community and national history.
  • Create biographical sketches of past saints to be published in your newsletter or presented in worship.
  • Videotape interviews with long-time members of the congregation.
  • Offer elective courses on Stone-Campbell history.
  • Write and perform a pageant of your history.
  • Have a group work together to create an anniversary quilt. Individual squares can be framed for display in homes.
  • Plan a heritage tour to Bethany (WV), Cane Ridge (KY), and the Historical Society (Nashville).

Worship - Common

  • Commission the anniversary committee a year ahead of your main celebration date.
  • Commission an anniversary hymn.
  • Commission a chalice and bread plate (see Worship: personal).
  • Design banners which reflect the anniversary theme.
  • Open cornerstone.
  • Series of profiles (three minutes on Sunday) once a month for a year.
  • Organ recital, music/choir program of early American music and/or hymn sing.
  • Oldest member recognition.
  • Plant a commitment tree—each person writes a commitment on Celebration Sunday with cards planted under the tree to be nourishment to new tree.
  • Bring back oldest minister to do children’s sermon.
  • Do a play, drama. Write your own—you can contact the Historical Society for examples.
  • Baby dedication—pointing to the future of the church—oldest minister, elder to do this.
  • History dedication.
  • Special Sundays:
  • Service honoring all Timothies/Priscillas
  • Former members and staff Sunday
    • Service honoring all baptized at this church—renewal of faith vows
    • Service honoring all in Christian ministry
    • Service honoring all past Board chairs
    • Service honoring all married here – renewal marriage vows
    • Service honoring charter members or naming them in prayer.
    • Service using the Order of Service commended by Alexander Campbell.
  • Have an a cappella service using hymns your congregation knows which were in our founders’ hymnals.
  • Use Chalice Hymnal Disciples Index in selecting hymns and worship resources throughout the year.

Worship - Personal

  • Begin the year with a prayer vigil- using your heritage room or display area as the setting.
  • Publish a booklet of prayers written by members which pray for our future. Remember to include the prayers of children and youth.
  • Have a potter design a chalice for your communion table. Orders for smaller versions of the chalice can be sold as worship centers for family tables.


Anniversaries are great opportunities to use the momentum of your celebration to envision God’s call to your congregation’s future.

  • Launch a capital campaign
    • What does your building need?
    • A portion of your campaign to ministries beyond your congregation, such as the Historical Society (past); Overseas Ministries (present); new congregations, seminaries (future).
  • Do a mission trip. (Disciples contact your regional office or Homeland Ministries 1-888-DHM-2631)

Sharing With Others

  • Erect an outdoor sign or banner celebrating your anniversary.
  • Have available bumper stickers of your anniversary for your members.
  • Invite city officials.
  • Expand the circle of fellowship by news releases to your local paper and your regional church newsletter.
  • Invite greetings from leaders of the larger church who are significant to your congregation, i.e. professors, regional and general church ministers, etc.
  • Invite personal greetings from the mayor, governor, etc.

Keepsakes – Keeping alive the memory of this special time

  • Cookbook
  • Framed quilt patch
  • Family chalice
  • Anniversary plate
  • New history book/video
  • Photo album of celebration events
  • Create a time capsule

The table of the Lord is wide and welcoming with our Savior as host. You are arranging for a great gathering before Christ at his table. Included are young and older and even those cherished saints who died in Christ. Included is the past, the present, the future. We bring our minds to the celebration through education about our church’s vision and its story. We bring our love and commitment to each other as we both offer and receive hospitality in fellowship events. We bring our hearts to our great worship. Empowered by this high moment of living history we boldly more forward as a people dedicated to work towards Christ’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.


Congregational Anniversary Worship Resources

A Sampler

“Generating” Scripture texts

Worship preparation begins with prayerful Bible study.

The Scripture readings listed below can be used to generate themes. Having those texts and themes in mind will contribute to music selection, sermon preparation and the crafting of the prayers for your celebration.

First Testament

Exodus 3:1-7, 13-17
Deut. 32:7, 10-14
Is. 44:21-28
Jer. 6:16-17


16:5-11; 77:11-20; 105; 136:1-9; 145:1-7


I Cor. 11:23-26
Eph. 1:l-14; 2:19-22
Col. 1:1-8
Hebrews 11:1-4, 8, 11, 32-34; 12:1-2
II Peter 3:1-18


Luke 22:14-20
John 6:30-40


Order of Worship

The regular service order may be used or the order described and commended by A. Campbell. (attached)



Two resources are attached:

An index of materials in Disciples Chalice Hymnal composed and/or written by persons of the Stone-Campbell heritage.
A small collection of hymn texts that were in our early hymnals and are still sung today
The following hymns may also be appropriate for your celebration. Questions to ask as you select hymns:

Do the hymn texts express the beliefs of the congregation?

Do the words fit the theme of the day?

How does this hymn fit into the overall pattern of the service? (have you thought about the theological as well as the emotional “flow” of the service?)

What “action” does the hymn help the congregation perform at this point in the service: confession, thanksgiving, praise, etc.?

Is the emotional tone of the tune suited to the feeling of the specific part of the service where you place it: joyful, pensive, longing, seeking, expectant waiting, compassionate, awe-filled, etc. etc.


A Model Order of Service
Commended by Alexander Campbell

“…the nighest approach to the model which we have in our eye of good order and Christian decency.
The community gathers in a familiar and very cordial manner.
The community is called to the praise of Christ.
A psalm is sung.
A Gospel lesson is read by a member.
A moment of silence.
A member gives a comparatively short pastoral prayer.
A lesson from an Epistle is ready by the one presiding. (1)
A Communion hymn is sung.
The president conducts the Lord’s Supper.
He recalls the meaning of this meal.
He takes a loaf and briefly gives thanks to God.
The loaf is broken and passed with each waiting on the other.
The takes the cup and briefly thanks God for it.
He passes the cup to one nearby, with members passing it on till all are served.
The congregation rises to sing a hymn.
A member is called upon to kneel in a prayer of supplication for the poor, afflicted, and destitute; and for the conversion of the world.
The fellowship or contribution is attended to. (2)
Members respond to the president’s invitation to share in mutual edification through their reading various scriptural passages from either the Old or New Testament.
Several spiritual songs are sung, selected by members of the congregation.
The president closes the meeting by giving an apostolic benediction.
““Every part of worship…is like so many candlesticks…designed to enlighten and convert the world.
Alexander Campbell, Christian Systems, pp. 290-292

Basics of Disciples Worship

When we worship, we focus our attention on God, not ourselves. God is the object.
God initiates worship God initiates worship
Worship is active rather than passive. We act in our song and prayer to glorify God. We are not observers who like anthropologists or art critics primarily observe whether or not we “liked” the sermon or music.
Worship is grace-filled.
God gives us the gift of God’s presence in the word and in the meal. When we receive that gift and respond with our thanksgiving – our lives are blessed – but more, they are transformed – we are “recreated” in the image of God. We are imprinted with God’s character of love, like a seal leaves its print in hot wax. We love again like the God who calls us to worship.
Our worship merges ardor and order.
Worship is not idiosyncratic; it is linked to life in the world as we, reimprinted with God’s image, return to the world to love it and serve it.
Our worship is the grace-filled coming together of ardor and order in a call-response transaction between God and the believing community.


The President says: Brethren, (Brothers and Sisters) being assembled in the name and by the authority of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, (on this day of resurrection), let us unite in celebrating his praise, Let us raise our voices in song together.”

#2 Christ the Lord is ris’n today! Alleluia!

The President says (after a pause): “Brother/Sister __________, will you lead us in prayer in the name of this congregation? __________ will then stand where he is in the congregation and lead in prayer; his prayer will be simple to follow. When he concludes the prayer the whole congregation, brothers and sisters, will say aloud: ‘Amen.’)

Then the President will read from the Epistle: Romans 8: 30-31.

Address to the citizens of the kingdom (use A. Campbell on communion as personal and social or R. Richardson communion meditation.)

Communion hymn: Barton Stone’s #1 Behold the Love (tune: When I survey the wondrous cross)

The President will say: “Our Lord had a table for his friends, and he invited his disciples to sup with him. In memory of his death this monumental table was instituted, and as the Lord ever lives in heaven, so he lives in the hearts of his people. As the first disciples, taught by the Apostles in person, came together into one place to eat the Lord’s supper (and as they selected the first day of the week in honor of his resurrection) for this purpose; so we, having the same Lord, the same faith, the same hope with them, have vowed to do as they did. We owe as much to the Lord as they; and ought to love, honor and obey him as much as they.”

Then the President will take the loaf from the table, and give thanks for it. He will then raise it in his hand and openly break it in two, and hand the loaf, on a tray to the first disciple in the front row. The loaf will then pass around the congregation, until all partake of it; the last person receiving it to bring it back to the table. This partaking by all will be prayerful, familiar, solemn.

Then the President will take the cup (first pouring the wine from the tankard into the cups (two) and offer thanks for it, and after sipping will pass it to the first disciple in the front row. The cup will then pass around the congregation, each disciple passing it to his neighbor, until all are served.

Then the congregation (or quartet) will sing joyfully: Jesus shall reign #5

Then the President will say: “Brother/sister __________, will you offer prayer, remembering the poor and those who are ignorant of the way of life before the Lord?”

(Brother/sister __________, who will be seated at the end of a row, will kneel in the aisle and will pray for all the sons and daughters of affliction, the poor and the destitute, and for the conversion of the world.

After this prayer the President will take an offering place, and say to the people:

“Let us prove the sincerity of our faith by giving cheerfully and liberally into the treasury of the Lord, as He himself has prospered us.” Then the President will pass the offering plate to the first disciple in the front row and it will pass around the congregation, until the last person brings it to the front again.

Then the President will say: “Let us share together passages from God’s Word which have been in our thought this past week.” (Then spontaneously, the people one by one, as many as desire, will quote or read passages of Scripture.)

After this, spiritual songs will arise from the congregation.

Then someone will say: “It is time for us to adjourn,” and the President will conclude the meeting with Apostolic benediction, (all standing).

“Now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship and communion of the Holy Spirit abide among us forevermore.”


Then the people will informally move out of the church, into the world

A Selected Heritage Hymns Index

Remembering the Past

All My Hope on God is Founded #88
An Upper Room #428
Come Ye People Rise and Sing #215
Faith of our Fathers #635
For All the Saints #637
Give Thanks for Life #649
Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken #709
Go Down, Moses #663
God of Our Life #713
God of the Sparrow #70
Great Is Thy Faithfulness #86
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah #622
How Long, O God, How Long #642
I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry #75
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise #66
In Remembrance of Me #403
Lift Every Voice and Sing #631
Now Thank We All Our God #715
O God Our Help in Ages Past #67
Of the FatherOf the Father’
Some There Are Who By Their Living #648
The God of Abraham Praise #24
When You Do This, Remember Me #400


Celebrating the Present

A Mighty Fortress is Our God #65
Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation #275
Dear Lord, and Father of Mankind #594
Faith of Our Fathers #635
For Each Day of Life We Thank You #605
God of Grace and God of Glory #464
God of our Life #713
How Majestic is Thy Name #63
I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord #87
In Remembrance of Me #403
Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee #102
Let All Things Now Living #717
Rejoice in GodRejoice in God’
That Cause Can Never Be Lost or Stayed #604
The Church of Christ in Every Age #475
The ChurchThe Church’
The God of Abraham Praise #24


Believing in the Future

According to Thy Gracious Word #402
God of Our Life #713
God of the Ages, Whose Almighty Hand #725
Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah #622
In the Bulb There is a Flower #638
Jesus, Remember Me #569
Lead on King Eternal #632-633
O God, Our Help in Ages Past #67
Rock of Ages #214
The God of Abraham Praise #24
The Voice of God is Calling #666


We Would Be Building

Chalice Worship
by Colbert S. Cartwright and O.I. Cricket Harrison
Chalice Press, St. Louis, Missouri

Heritage Sunday
Heritage Sunday is a local observance to celebrate a congregation’s connection with its past.

God, whom we gather to worship,
is aware of the gifts of sacrifice and love
that went into the building of this place of worship;
recalls the hosts of person
who have ushered worshipers to their places,
who have sung the gospel and lifted prayers in harmony,
who have served as prophets in the pulpit,
who have presided over baptisms, and
who have served the sacred meal.
The Lord affirms that other persons have labored,
and that we have entered into their labors.

Come, let us worship God, and to God let us pray.
Lord God, we thank you for our heritage of faith:
For the vision of apostles and evangelists who brought it to us,
Gracious Lord,
We give you thanks and praise.

For the courage of martyrs and teachers who secured it for us,
Gracious Lord,
We give you thanks and praise.

For the devotion of preachers and pastors who proclaimed it to us,
Gracious Lord,
We give you thanks and praise.

For the freedom to speak of it in the world about us,
A and to share it with our neighbors,
Gracious Lord,
We give you thanks and praise.

Lord God, we thank you for our heritage of faith:
Give us the will and the strength to pass it on to others
for the glory of your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We pray to you, our good and gracious God,
as a people who cherish the memories that are ours,
and who claim a common history as a sacred gift.
We ask you to renew your grace in us,
that we might recognize your presence in our midstand hear the call of the gospel
in the human needs that surround us.
Through the power of your compelling Spirit
may we grow in courage,
that our actions might reflect the love we profess.
We ask this in the name of your child, Jesus. Amen.


Living God, we give you thanks
for our fathers and mothers in the faith;
those who have revealed to us your grace in Christ
through their lives, preaching and in hymns.
Strengthen the fellowship of the church,
and our sense of belonging to a worldwide family.


For a Church Anniversary

Lord, thank you for this building
where we come for cleansing,
where we gather round your table,
where we sing aloud your praise,
where we proclaim all you have done for us;
Lord, we love the house where you meet us,
the place where your glory dwells:
in the assembly of your people
we stand and praise the Lord! Amen.

For a Sense of History

Give us, O Lord, a sense of history. Forgive our preoccupation with the present moment. Teach us to recognize your hand in the stories of peoples and nations. Help us to be thankful for evidence of your loving eye upon our own lives. Encourage us for the coming days in the knowledge that your touch has still its ancient power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The Book of Common Prayer
According to the use of The Episcopal Church
The Seabury Press

On the Anniversary of the Dedication of a Church

O Almighty God, to whose glory we celebrate the dedication of this house of prayer: We give thee thanks for the fellowship to those who have worshiped in this place; and we pray that all who seek thee here may find thee, and be filled with thy joy and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


A Litany of Thanksgiving for a Church

Let us thank God whom we worship here in the beauty of holiness.

Eternal God, the heaven of heavens cannot contain you, much less the walls of temples made with hands. Graciously receive our thanks for this place, and accept the work of our hands, offered to your honor and glory.

For the Church universal, of which these visible buildings are the symbol,
We thank you, Lord.

For your presence whenever two or three have gathered together in your Name,
We thank you, Lord.

For this place where we may be still and know that you are God,
We thank you, Lord

For making us your children by adoption and grace, and refreshing us day by day with the bread of life.
We thank you, Lord.

For the knowledge of your will and the grace to perform it,
We thank you, Lord.

For the fulfilling of our desires and petitions as you see best for us,
We thank you, Lord.

For the pardon of our sins, which restores us to the company of your faithful people,
We thank you, Lord.

For the blessing of our vows and the crowning of our years with your goodness,
We thank you, Lord.

For the faith of those who have gone before us and for our encouragement by their perseverance,
We thank you, Lord.

For the fellowship of all your saints,
We thank you, Lord. Amen.

After a brief silence, the leader concludes with the following Doxology:

Leader: Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty;

People: For everything in heaven and on earth is yours.

Leader: Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom;

People: And you are exalted as head over all. Amen.

Book of Common Worship
From the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky

God of all generations,
we praise you for all your servants
who, having been faithful to you on earth,
now live with you in heaven.
Keep us in fellowship with them, until we meet with all your children
in the joy of your eternal kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Eternal God,
your love is stronger than death,
and your passion more fierce than the grave.
We rejoice in the lives of those
whom you have drawn into your eternal embrace.
Keep us in joyful communion with them
until we join the saints of every people and nation,
gathered before your throne in ceaseless praise.


God of glory,
you see how all creation groans in labor
as it awaits redemption.
As we work for and await your new creation,
we trust that you will answer our prayers with grace,
and fulfill your promise
that all things work together for good
for those who love you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Eternal God,
we rejoice to know of all who, through the ages,
have placed their trust in you:
apostles, prophets, saints, and martyrs
and all the humble believers
whose names are long forgotten.Give us the assurance
that we belong to that great company
and that we too may find the peace that passes understanding;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Almighty God, we remember before you
those who have lived among us
who have directed our steps in the way,
opened our eyes to the truth, inspired our hearts by their witness,
and strengthened our wills by their devotion.
We rejoice in their lives dedicated to your service.
We honor them in their death,
and pray that we may be united with them
in the glory of Christ’s resurrection. Amen.

O God, before your face the generations rise and pass away.
You are the strength of those who labor,
the rest of the blessed dead.
We rejoice in the company of your saints.
We remember all who have lived and died in faith,
and especially those dear to us who rest in you….
Give us at length our portion with those who have trusted in you
and have striven to do your holy will.
To your name,
with the church on earth and the church in heaven,
we ascribe all honor and glory,
now and forever. Amen.

Eternal God,
we remember with thanksgiving,
those who have loved and served you in your church on earth,
who now rest from their labors
(especially those most dear to us whom we name in our hearts before you…).
Keep us in fellowship with all your saints,
and bring us at last
to the joy of your heavenly kingdom. Amen.

All Saints’ Day

You have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses,
saints and martyrs, faithful people in every age,
that, strengthened by their witness,
and supported by their fellowship,
we may run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
and with them receive the unfading crown of glory.


For Founders and Previous Leaders of a Congregation

We thank you, Lord God,
for brave and believing people
who brought your message to this place.
Let us not forget them, especially ….., …….
By their energies this church was gathered,
given order, and continued.
Remembering all those Christians who have gone before us,
may we follow as they followed,
in the way, truth, and life of Jesus Christ,
the head of the church. Amen.


Thanksgiving for Heroes and Heroines of the Faith

We give thanks to you, O Lord our God,
for all your servants and witnesses of time past:
for Abraham, the father of believers,
and for Sarah, his wife,
for Moses the lawgiver, and Aaron the priest,
for Miriam and Joshua,
Deborah and Gideon,
Samuel and Hannah, his mother;
for Isaiah and all the prophets;
for Mary, the mother of our Lord;
for Peter and Paul and all the apostles; for Mary, Martha, and Mary Magdalene;
for Stephen, the first martyr,
and all the saints and martyrs
in every time and in every land.
In your mercy, give us, as you gave them,
the hope of salvation
and the promise of eternal life;
through the firstborn from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Book of Worship—United Church of Christ
Office for Church Life and Leadership

Order for Special Occasions in a Church's Life

It is important to observe special occasions in the life of a local church that mark points of passage and growth. These occasions include the anniversary of the founding of a local church, the burning of a mortgage, the dedication and consecration of buildings or newly designed space, the dedication of gifts, reunions of members and of specific groups within the local church, and times of recovenanting of the people or between pastor and people.

Each of these times can be deep and important spiritual and educational moments for the members of the local church. The uniqueness of these times and of the faith experiences out of which they grow makes it impossible for one service to cover all occasions. It is important for members of the church, particularly those people who have some direct relationship to the event that is to be celebrated, to share in the planning and leading of the service.

A Service of Word and Sacrament or a Service of the Word may provide the context within which the special celebration is held. It is suggested that the special observance follow the sermon and be associated with the prayers of the people. In the case of dedications, items related to the liturgical life of the church may be dedicated at those points in the service and at those places in the room where they will normally function. Items not related to one part of the liturgical order of service may be dedicated at the time of the prayers of the people or at the offertory.

Symbols are important means of communication which help people to relate the past to the present and to connect the item being dedicated to the life and mission of the church. Wherever possible, it is helpful to included symbols as well as words in a service such as this. Mortgages held up and symbolically burned visibly bring home the reality of the moment. Charters or other items from the past help to focus on the journey that has been made to this point of anniversary observance. When a new or renovated building is dedicated, beginning the ceremony outdoors and entering the new of renovated space is an effective and dramatic way of centering on the nature of the occasion. Use of a specific gift can enhance the service, such as dedication of a baptismal font followed by a baptism.

Music may play a role in harmonies and in words expressed in choral texts and hymns. Feelings for which words may not provide adequate expression may be celebrated through song and instrumental music. Music may provide an opportunity for moving through the church building in a festive manner. It may also be incorporated with dance or other heritage to celebrate special occasions and gifts. Music may be commissioned for the occasion.

Thanksgiving for Heroes and Heroines of the Faith

Eternal and Almighty God,
we give you thanks for all your faithful people
who have followed your will in a grand procession of praise
throughout the world and down through the centuries,
into our own time and place.
We hear their stories in the pages of scripture,
in the records of history,
in the recollections of our families
and in our own childhood memories.
As we remember these people,
inspire us by your Spirit to join their ranks
and follow our Lord through life,
to be bold as they were, and brave as well,
witnessing to your righteous truth and generous love.
Give us grace, O God,
that we will leave a legacy of faithfulness
to encourage and challenge those who follow us
along the way of discipleship;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Go in peace,
and may the God of peace
who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus,
make you complete in everything good
so that you may do God’s will,
working among us that which is pleasing in God’s sight,
through Jesus Christ,
to whom be the glory forever and ever! Amen.



This order may be incorporated into a Service of Word and Sacrament or a Service of the Word following the sermon, or its elements may be incorporated into a service at various points.

Hymn, Anthem, or Other Music
Reading of Scripture
A Service of Word and Sacrament or a Service of the Word may continue, or a hymn and a benediction may close the order.

This order may follow the sermon in a service of Word and Sacrament or a Service of the Word, or its elements may be incorporated into a service at various points.

Hymn, Anthem, or Other Music

A hymn or anthem may be sung, or instrumental music may be played. Many hymns are appropriate, but a special one may be written for the occasion. Dance by a small group or heritage through the building by the congregation may be included.


A leader may introduce the reason for the celebration, using words, pictures, or other symbols.

Reading of Scripture

Choose scripture stories and challenges that reflect most deeply the event the church is celebrating. Possible scripture lessons include the following:

Old Testament: I Chronicles 29:10-18; II Chronicles 6:18-31, Psalms 24, 84, 122; Isaiah 6:1-8

New Testament: Matt. 7:24-27; John 2:13-17; I Cor. 3:9-17; Eph. 2:19-22; Rev. 21:2-5

Representatives of the church who have a special relationship to the event being celebrated may read the lessons.


A litany of thanksgiving, affirmation, and hope may be written for the occasion by people in the church family. A litany of memories written by those who have been in the church the longest time or a litany of dreams and hopes written by children are two possibilities among many.

The following litany is based on a traditional one used for an anniversary or other special occasion.

Leader: For the worship of God in prayer and praise, for the preaching of the Word, for the celebration of the holy sacraments,

People: Offered by this church, we give thanks.

Leader: For the comfort of those who mourn, for the help of those who are perplexed, for the guidance of those who seek strength,

People: Offered by this church, we give thanks.

Leader: For the support and nurture of families, for the guidance of children, for the calling of youth to a life of service,

People: Offered by this church, we give thanks.

Leader: For guarding against evil, for fostering faithfulness, for promoting peace and justice in all the earth,

People: Offered by this church, we give thanks.

Leader: For the opening of minds to your truth, for the care of the needy, for the giving of hope and courage,

People: Offered by this church, we give thanks.

Leader: For the unity of all believers in Christ, for the carrying of the gospel into all the world, for the furtherance of the unity of all people,

People: Offered by this church, we give thanks.

Leader: For the consecration of life and service, in grateful remembrance of those who have gone before us, and in gratitude for our life together in this church,

ALL: We give thanks to you for this church’s past and pray for your continued blessing and guidance. Amen.


A time of celebration is a time to remember. Stories of history, heritage, planning, and effort enable people to stay in touch with the faith experience of those who have gone before them. Stories may be shared verbally and visually, using such means as drawing, slides, movies, skits, interpretive dance, mime, and other media. Full consideration needs to be given to ethnic and local customs of the church and its members as sources of material.

Anniversaries and special occasions are also times to look to the future. People may be invited to write down their hopes and plans for what they want the church to be and do in five or ten or twenty-five years. These may be shared in the service.


Prayers may be offered at specific places that focus on the theme or themes of the observance. At the anniversary of a church building, prayers of blessing and hope may be offered at each of the four corners of the building. Specific themes may be associated with the corners, as is sometimes done in African religious rituals. These themes could be: worship and celebration, learning and growth, service and action, and community and relationship. If prayers do not focus on such themes, a prayer prepared for the occasion may be used.

For a Special Occasion

Eternal God, we offer thanksgiving and praise to you on this festive day. We give you thanks for those who responded to your call to establish this church.

We acknowledge our gratitude for the continuing ministry and mission of our church through ….. years.

We thank you for all that our church has meant to its members, to those its ministry has touched.

In tender memory, we rejoice at the inspiration which has been found here, through the preaching of your word, through the singing of hymns to your praise, and through the sharing of life-sustaining sacraments.

Look upon us this day with mercy.

Bless us as we reconsecrate ourselves to you. Sanctify our lives and our work through this church.

Help us to preserve the best of our past and to be open to new vision.

May this local church long continue to be a sign of your Spirit and a witness to Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

This order may conclude with a hymn and a benediction, or a Service of Word and Sacrament or a Service of the Word may continue.

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