Create Pathways of Peace in the World
A Congregational Blessing Resource
Congregations are parables of God’s presence in the world
and express God’s love and care for all humankind. Congregations are called
to a ministry of forgiveness and to be a positive sign in the midst of the
world. . . The transformation of our congregations will be experienced as
they become places of beauty and simplicity, openness and acceptance,
justice and peace. They will be become an oasis of joy and springs of
spiritual refreshment in the midst of the uncertainties and confusions of
life. —Everett Graffeo
This resource for evangelists and pastoral teams is a way to
enrich the congregational blessing experience for the church.
The role of evangelists has continued to expand, reflecting a
growing understanding of the calling. We face an ever-present challenge to
deepen our own understanding of the nature of blessings. Requests are growing
for all of our blessing ministries, including the congregational blessing,
requiring that we bring the best of our individual and collective experiences
A congregational blessing that follows good planning and
intensive personal and congregational preparation will be a rich experience.
Opportunity remains, however, to increase the depth of that experience and find
meaningful ways to make it more relevant and useful. As with all ministries of
blessing, we recognize our firm reliance and dependence on the Holy Spirit.
This resource manual follows the premise that we will continue
to learn from one another. It is a deliberate attempt to begin collecting,
evaluating, and discerning the patterns and principles underlying earlier
congregational-blessing experiences. Admittedly, it is incomplete and will be
understood best as an evolving resource. The manual offers general outlines for
organization, guidance, areas of focus, samples of ideas and resources, and
important in-sights. It also provides underlying principles gathered from many
who have traveled this road.
Besides this resource, we invite you to use a list of materials
www.CofChrist.org/evangelist. We hope this list will be a body of samples,
illustrations, and insights arising from experiences with congregational
blessings throughout the church. [See
We invite you to send us the best of your resources and
reflections for, during, and following the congregational-blessing experience.
We will learn from one another, and by doing so, the church will continue to be
blessed. Send resources to
presidingevangelist@CofChrist.org or to Presiding Evangelist, 1001 W.
Walnut, Independence, MO 64050, USA.
Thank you for the devotion, commitment, and loving ministry you
provide to Community of Christ. We deeply appreciate all you do and are eager to
learn from and share the best of what you provide in this distinctive blessing.
The congregation is a faith-based community whose foundation is
its relationship with Jesus Christ. Within this community are people with varied
and often seemingly incompatible backgrounds. But in Christ we join in being
Congregations are called to be transforming communities by
taking the “good news” of Jesus’ love to our world and community. The calling of
God’s people is to leave their comfort zones to travel new and unknown paths of
service and mission.
As a people, we have something wonderful and unique to share
with the world. The Spirit of God calls each congregation to be a community of
God’s people and to show Christ’s presence in all our communities. The
congregational blessing can help people focus their hearts and energy on
community to bring the redemptive love of Jesus Christ to all.
What Is a Congregational Blessing?
The congregational blessing is an experience that joins the
evangelist, congregation, and God to bring God’s inspired counsel to the
congregation. The blessing is a time of remembrance that draws together the
followers of Christ to celebrate and learn from the past as they embrace the
present and face the future.
The congregation joins in an experience that includes not only
the day of the blessing, but the preparation during the weeks and months before
and follow-up ministry after the formal prayer or prayers. This blessing
experience calls us to live and behave imaginatively and spiritually with new
vision. It inspires us to create with God a community focused on the divine
will. It compels and empowers the congregation to promote communities of joy,
hope, love, and peace in the wider world.
The blessing experience becomes one means of fulfilling our
fundamental calling to take the redemptive message of Christ’s love to our
world. The blessing is not just for the local congregation, but for the larger
community and the world that God loves.
As the congregation is blessed, the believers become more and
more a blessing to one another, as well as to families, friends, and neighbors.
How do we know that a congregation needs a blessing and that
this is the right time? Many requests will come from the pastor, who spends much
time in prayer and concern. Often, the Holy Spirit will initiate the request.
Local evangelists many times also feel the congregation’s need and the movement
of the Spirit, which calls for a blessing.
Evangelists will want to learn the needs, hopes, and
expectations that underlie the request. Knowing the congregational participation
(a significant majority, or just a few) also is critical.
The call to blessing may come when a congregation is in need or
in transition. Members may need to experience the Divine’s embrace to remember
their worth and become whole. Or they may be in transition and need the Holy
Spirit to help navigate changes they experience or anticipate. Examples of
critical opportunities for a congregational blessing include:
The congregation experiences several losses through death,
conflict, or moves and is discouraged.
A new mission effort brings the fruit of many new families,
and the congregation’s makeup changes radically.
New opportunities present themselves, and the congregation
wants to discern which avenue to follow.
The congregation recognizes that it has been greatly blessed
and wishes to join in common mission.
All of these and more can prompt suggestions for the sacrament,
with anticipation that the blessing might help strengthen the congregation,
discover and release talents, heal wounds, reaffirm worth, and identify mission.
The pastor and evangelist(s) jointly identify a leadership team
that will enable every person to have the opportunity—individually, in family,
and in congregation—to come closer to God as their excitement builds for the
blessing. The team needs to be representative of the congregation and should
include people from various ages, priesthood offices, and leadership roles. For
example, a team might include the pastor, the lead evangelist, members from each
priesthood office, a worship leader, and a youth representative. Participation
in a retreat shortly after formation may help the group bond as each person
commits to this uplifting ministry.
Set the Date:
Among the team’s first tasks is to set a date for the sacrament.
Be sure to look at events already scheduled, including holidays and
mission-center activities. Ideally, all within the congregation, as well as key
mission center leadership, will be free to share in the event. Preparation
typically runs three to twelve months, but remember that your congregation might
not be typical. Please use this only as a guideline. It is important to leave
enough time for effective preparation without leaving so much time that the
process bogs down in the middle, losing focus and excitement.
Assess the Congregation:
Once the date is set, the group can look at the congregation’s
specific needs and how it best can prepare. As stated earlier, each congregation
is unique. Therefore, examining its strengths and challenges will be important
early in the process. This will help determine areas of focus for the blessing
itself. It might be wise to remember that the church is called to be the body of
Christ on earth today. Questions to ask in assessing the congregation include:
How is this body functioning?
How is this body gifted as a whole?
What is the self-worth of the congregation?
What parts of the body may be overdeveloped, and what parts
may be underutilized, creating imbalance and stress?
Are all members serving in their areas of giftedness to
maintain maximum effectiveness?
Do wounds need healing?
Is the body fulfilling its calling, or is it merely
maintaining its health?
The answers may help to focus the blessing.
Statement of Purpose:
The team might want to lead an exercise to develop a statement
of purpose for the blessing. Development of this statement should arise from
prayerful consideration of the question, “How do we want God to bless the people
in this congregation?” This is not intended to limit God; rather, it requires us
to prayerfully discern the greatest needs and gifts we see in our people and to
present them to God for a blessing.
This thoughtful examination should involve all priesthood and
other congregation leaders. The list of needs and gifts should identify the
four- to six-highest priorities. This will address distinctive needs and
opportunities, helping ensure that the blessing is tailored to the
Providing adequate time for this process will be a blessing in
itself and create the important understanding that we partner with God in this
distinctive experience. This can be a powerful means to help the body see itself
as one, unifying people.
No “correct” way exists to structure the blessing. Many
congregations find it helpful to have two to four prayers—each focusing on a
different need. If the prayers are done separately (instead of one prayer that
includes all concerns), remember that the final document should include each as
part of the overall blessing.
Related to this decision, as well as the timeline, is the
question of whether the congregation wants the blessing done in one service, or
spread over several services, each focusing on a different area. There may be
reason to have a blessing apart from the traditional worship service. Do not
limit yourself to the idea that it needs to be in the sanctuary; purposefully
decide what setting will best support this sacrament.
It cannot be stressed enough that preparation is part of the
blessing. Don’t rush in anticipation of the blessing. Whenever we take time to
be in the Divine Presence—through prayer, scripture study, conversation
anticipating a sacrament, or just “wasting time with our Creator”—we become more
aware of God’s generous grace, and we are blessed. We will be more open to
receiving and under-standing the blessing as God intends.
Please remember that no two congregations are alike. The
preparation most effective for any given congregation will be unique.
Practicing the Disciplines:
This is a wonderful opportunity for the congregation to
work on spiritual disciplines that will help it hear and understand God as it
draws ever closer to divinity. Self-examination can begin by answering two
questions: “What am I currently not doing that would open me up more to God’s
grace in my life and the life of my congregation?” “What am I doing that, if
stopped, would open me more to this same grace?” Teaching and practicing the
spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation, fasting, and scripture study can
help the congregation become ready to more fully receive and understand God’s
blessing. The Temple School course, Spiritual Disciplines (TE230) can be used for this
Leadership Team Activities:
The leadership team will guide the congregation through
preparation for the blessing. It is important that team members purposefully
focus on the meaning of the sacrament and together create suggestions for
preparation. Going on retreat for this purpose may be extremely beneficial.
Writing statements of purpose and commitment can be a powerful means of focusing
Be sure to give the congregation activities that focus on the
upcoming blessing. This can be done in many ways, including classes, service
projects, community breakfasts, and mid-week meetings. The entire congregation
might want to visit a place it considers sacred to more intentionally get in
touch with the Divine. Those who are able might consider a trip to our temples
in Independence, Missouri, or Kirtland, Ohio. Help the congregation see each
activity through the lens of the upcoming blessing.
[Appendix 4.A–B offers suggestions to
For various reasons—differences with doctrine, church or
congregational leadership, or personal issues—some members might feel the
blessing is not in order. The congregation’s priesthood, as well as the
evangelists, should offer an opportunity to express reservations or outright
negativity. In some cases the person might be in need of ministry and healing.
Over time, if a few members remain adamantly opposed while most embrace the
blessing, leaders should move forward with preparations. It is important to
remember that the blessing will not end with the last “Amen.” The blessing will
offer the congregation a chance to grow afterward, as well. That means leaders
should persist in seeking paths of reconciliation and Christ’s peace within the
Roles of the Evangelists
If available, two to four evangelists would be ideal for the
blessing’s planning and participation stages. A lead evangelist, chosen by the
evangelists or the pastor, might be identified to coordinate with the leadership
team and give detailed guidance to the evangelists. They should meet regularly
to pray for each other and the congregation as they prepare for the blessing.
Participation in all congregational activities, such as teaching classes,
sharing in Sunday and midweek services, visiting in homes, and alerting members
and friends to the possibility of additional ministries of blessing will bring
the evangelists closer to the people. It might be helpful for the evangelists to
write a heartfelt blessing as they approach the day of blessing. Whether blended
into the public prayer of blessing or not, writing and sharing prayers among the
evangelists will enrich the sacramental experience.
Roles of Priesthood
Besides the leadership team, the priesthood as a whole plays a
vital role in preparing for the blessing. Members partner with the leadership
team in praying for the congregation. They share witness of being called and of
personal blessings. They provide home visits and work within their unique
callings as situations arise during the preparation. In many ways they provide
the foundation for the work ahead. [See
sample “Priesthood and Leadership Covenant” in
Having all priesthood members write a prayer for the
congregation is a way to use each one’s unique insights and giftedness. The
prayers then can be shared with the leadership team and evangelists to help the
overall preparation. Another suggestion is to have priesthood members sign a
covenant, committing their best to the preparation. Again, a retreat for the
priesthood might be an ideal means of preparing.
The testimony of Joseph Luff, which became a beloved hymn,
serves well as a divine directive for all priesthood during this preparation: “O
my people, saith the Spirit….Love ye me and love all people—love as I have loved
you; This your calling—this my purpose—Thus be my disciples true.”
Home visiting by the priesthood, as directed by the pastor, is a
key part of the congregation’s preparation. This includes the evangelists. This
is an important time to deepen understanding of the blessing, address needs of
families and individuals through counsel and ad-ministration, and share ministry
by spending time together in the name of Christ Jesus. The priesthood may help
the members personalize their preparation during these visits. The priesthood
should be attentive to opportunities to share about family blessings and
individual or continuing life blessings that often flow from these visits. These
requests should be referred to an evangelist. As always, follow the guidelines
of confidentiality. [See Appendix 6 for
a sample visiting program.]
All sacraments are covenants with God. The congregational
blessing is no exception. We come to God anticipating a great blessing, yet we
know that ultimately we are blessed to be a blessing to others. This is the
covenant. We enter the rite recognizing that the blessing is not just words
uttered, but inspired affirmation of the counsel to be lived out beyond the
event. We expect to be transformed. We commit to being a blessing to others. One
suggestion for symbolizing that commitment is to have a ritual signing of the
blessing by all members as their way of covenanting (similar to the priesthood
signing a covenant in preparation).
The day finally arrives. The congregation comes with great
anticipation. The children are restless, but excited. The awareness is strong
that something significant is about to happen. The congregational blessing takes
place within the context of a worship service. All elements of the service are
planned carefully because we know we are offering God the best we have and are
honored to participate.
Order of Worship:
The leadership team will take the lead in planning the blessing
service. As with all orders of worship in which a sacrament is performed, the
congregational blessing should be the liturgy’s focal point, or climax. The
welcome, call to worship, invocation, scripture readings, hymns, and sermon
should thematically complement the purpose of the worship service. Each element
should move the worshiper in a meaningful way toward participation in the
blessing. Therefore, the blessing should not be given early in the service. In
opening remarks, the presider—perhaps a pastor, apostle, or evangelist—should
explain to guests and new members the nature and importance of the day’s
service. [See sample service outline in
The service needs to be practiced enough to leave no questions
about logistics, providing space for the Spirit to breathe, rather than allowing
feelings of confusion or discomfort to prevail.
A minor detail, but of extreme importance, is the need to check
and recheck the recording equipment. Backups are suggested in case one recorder
malfunctions. The congregation will need a remembrance of the blessing in
written form to keep the blessing fresh and meaningful. Ensure that the
congregational historian is involved to provide written and digital copies of
the blessing for the congregation’s archives. Also be sure that a copy of the
blessing is forwarded to the Presiding Evangelist’s Office for filing in the
Purposefully positioning the congregation and the evangelist
offering the blessing can strengthen the event’s symbolism.
Placement of hands also may be considered. For example, if your
congregation blesses the children, it might be effective to have them gather at
the front of the sanctuary as the prayer is given. The evangelists might wish to
have the children cluster around them during the prayer or to join hands with
the kids. Also, priesthood may want to join hands when receiving a blessing to
symbolize their ministerial unity. Be sure that all members of the worshiping
community are able to hear the blessing. Use handheld microphones or lapel
microphones for volume and recording purposes. Deliberate consideration of these
logistics can strengthen the blessing experience.
Prayer of Blessing
This is vital! The blessing prayer should be carefully planned
and Spirit-led. Some evangelists are comfortable offering an extemporaneous
prayer, assured by their preparation and the Spirit’s inspiration. Others
prepare outlines or written drafts and draw from these ideas while giving a
blessing. Still others prayerfully prepare a written prayer of blessing to read
to the congregation. Any of these choices is suitable. Examples:
Have one evangelist come prepared to offer the prayer of
blessing, while the other evangelists prepare by holding up that evangelist
Ask all the evangelists to prepare the prayer that is on
their heart. Sharing these thoughts with other evangelists can bring a
common assurance that God’s prayer of blessing will be evident.
Together read over each other’s prayer, highlighting the
significant message and avoiding duplication.
Edit and prepare the result for one evangelist to read,
leaving an opening for addition of spiritual insight.
Let God’s Spirit lead you in your own ideas for working
together to bring blessing to the people. (Size and circumstances may call
for other approaches. Be inspired!)
This is God’s blessing, not ours to give. Planning the content
of the prayer needs to be under the direction of the Holy Spirit. That being
said, the blessing is a result of many weeks of dialogue, home-visitation, and
priesthood and leadership meetings focused on particular congregational needs
and opportunities. The blessing will address those needs and opportunities and
be appropriate to the age group receiving it. The following represents a basic
outline for a prayer of blessing but should in no way be considered a rigid
Salutation: The salutation addresses God. It
expresses praise and thanksgiving, and it serves as an invocation. God
always is present and need not be summoned. An invocation serves to invite
the evangelist and the congregation to be fully present to God’s Spirit.
The Purpose: The blessing’s central purpose should be
stated early in the prayer (for example, strength to fulfill the
congregation’s mission, reconciliation and healing, and missionary witness).
The Petition: A petition for God’s blessing that is
mindful of the age groups and families represented.
Congregation’s Covenant: An expression of the
congregation’s commitment to work toward the desired focus (missional goals,
reconciliation, healing, expansion, etc.).
God’s Covenant or Promise: An expression of the
Spirit’s covenant to bless the congregation’s efforts, including specific
words of counsel and guidance. In essence, this is the central body of the
prayer, an expression of God’s wish to strengthen the congregation as a
Community of Christ.
Conclusion: The prayer’s “amen” prefaced by praise
and thanksgiving for God’s blessing and sustaining grace. See the
congregational blessing at
In broad terms, the blessing’s content might include:
Thanksgiving for past contributions (those who birthed and
sustained the congregation)
Appreciation for God’s faithfulness through challenging
Affirmations of worth
Expressions of God’s love
Assurance that gospel principles are being expressed in the
life of the congregation
Guidance in making adjustments
Opportunity for repentance and to experience forgiveness
Insight into giftedness
Suggestions for continued spiritual growth
Counsel for the congregation’s journey
Encouragement in the midst of challenges
The post-blessing plan should be well-considered so all
priesthood can be involved to ensure the greatest experience for all
congregation members. The congregational blessing is an inspiring,
instructional, and deeply valued “moment” in the life of any congregation. We
all desire, though, that the experience will be more—far more— than a warmly
remembered event. While it clearly is important that careful planning and
preparation precede the special experience of blessing, it is equally vital that
careful planning be done for afterward.
No two pathways for what happens afterward will be identical. It
is important that planning be done with the end in mind. God always calls his
people to be the blessing they have wanted to receive. Now that the
congregational blessing has been given, they must share and embody what they
The following suggestions, drawn from various places, show the
variety of choices available. The goal is to find ways to integrate the content,
direction, and spirit of the blessing into the life of the congregation and its
individuals. It becomes a “living blessing” to the extent the people receive,
respond, and reflect its messages to one another and to others not yet in
It should be understood that the congregational blessing speaks
to a moment in time, not to all time. In fact, it may be important to encourage
the possibility of periodic congregational blessings. Pondering its meaning
should be done with the purpose of finding fresh expressions of its message
individually and as the local Body of Christ that brings new energy, deeper
devotion, and passion for Christ and the cause of Zion. It should continue to
speak to all as its message is studied and used for guidance and instruction.
A word of caution: The congregational blessing is not in-tended
to be elevated to the status of scripture or prophetic guidance for the World
Church or other congregations. By its nature, it is particular to a specific
people, time, and place, though based on eternal principles and understandings.
In fact, its growing value is always found in its relevance to the local Body of
Christ and the many ways it blesses their lives together while calling them to
higher levels of devotion and witness.
We invite you to share the ways your congregational blessing has
been a blessing to your people and the com-munity based on what occurred
afterward. We hope the following ideas spark other ideas that you could share
Ideas for Distribution of Congregational Blessings
Give everyone a copy of the tape or CD, DVD, or video.
Prepare a booklet containing the total service and blessing
for each member.
Post the blessing around the church building and in
classrooms, where all can take ownership.
Place the blessing in the conventional blessing envelope for
Give each member a copy of the blessing at a special
Have priesthood take the blessing to every home and review
it as a blessing to the family.
Create a DVD as a worship resource with selected messages
from the blessing, accompanied by inspiring photos, perhaps including
pictures of local members, with appropriate musical background.
Post the blessing on a congregational Web site.
Ask children and youth to prepare materials, banners, etc.,
showing key messages that spoke to them.
Give a copy to new people who come into the congregation.
Continuing the Experience
The congregation may take numerous steps to experience continued
enrichment of the blessing:
Create adult and children’s classes using the
congregational-blessing document as the study focus.
Convene the priesthood in special study sessions and prayer
to examine how the blessing speaks to its general calling and specific
office ministry. Identify actions members may covenant to take individually,
as well as collective commitments for ministry for the next 12 months.
Hold a congregational retreat within 60 to 90 days of the
blessing, creating theme and content sessions that arise from the blessing.
Revisit the specific purposes identified for the
congregational blessing and discuss implications that arise after the
blessing is given. Identify specific follow-up steps that seem appropriate
to better accomplish the purpose(s) for which the blessing was given.
Actively encourage the people to seek other types of
personal and family blessings, bringing fresh vitality to their spiritual
lives as individuals and families while the congregation experiences a
“newness” of life.
Create music, hymns, poems, artwork, or other expressions
that reflect the congregational-blessing message. Deliberately involve all
Hold six- and twelve-month reflections or evaluations of
what the blessing has done or should yet be doing in the congregation.
Revisit its message and identify what needs to happen to keep it relevant
and inspiring. Use it as a guide for intentional congregational planning.
Use the blessing to frame messages of invitation and
involvement that are relevant to the community, friends, and others not
presently part of the fellowship. Look at how it can shape your intentional
outreach in service and invitation to others.
Develop family worship materials that build on the themes
from the blessing, just as such worship guides likely were prepared in
preparation for the experience. Use key messages from the blessing,
selecting relevant scriptures, hymns, and other resources that connect to
the key message.
Have a service of praise and thanksgiving for the blessing.
Include individual expressions of commitments to be a blessing by several
Ask people to share how the blessing has spoken to,
affected, or changed them. This could be done as part of Sunday-morning
worship services, as part of prayer services, or in other settings.
Continue to more fully use the available evangelists
(particularly those involved in the blessing) in public and personal
ministry. Ask them to more fully expand the blessing message and build on
its relevance to the membership.
Use key blessing messages for worship themes, preaching
topics, prayer-service focus, and personal and family study.
Challenge the congregation regularly on how members, as the
Body of Christ, can be a blessing to each other and those in the
neighborhood. Ask members for specific suggestions that could be compiled
and used for discussion.