The North Carolina Council of Churches is proud to offer Acts of Faith, an ecumenical resource for pastors and other religious leaders offering lectionary-based worship aids focusing on themes of progressive social justice in North Carolina. Acts of Faith: Resources for Prophetic Worship addresses sixteen themes each liturgical year and is now available in a new online format. This new interactive format allows users to search across topics for key terms or scripture passages, while providing content in an easy-to-read format. In addition, pages can easily be converted into print-friendly versions for church bulletins or offline sermon preparation.
Acts of Faith has been several years in the making, involving extensive collaboration between Council staff and religious leaders across the state. In its new online format, it will continue to be updated regularly. This resource – almost 300 pages long in print – now covers all three lectionary years, with lectionary aids available for 48 different Sundays.
The themes chosen for inclusion reflect the Council’s focus areas of work. Each topic contains preaching aids, including scripture commentary and reflection written by a North Carolina pastor or religious leader; worship resources such as prayers, litanies, and hymn suggestions; and issue-based statistics and facts. Most units also contain a personal vignette by a North Carolinian affected by the issue.
The Council embarked on this project several years ago out of the recognition that there were very few worship resources available for pastors and religious leaders who wanted to talk about social justice issues in their places of worship. With Acts of Faith, we have brought together strong biblical interpretation, excellent liturgical resources and perceptive analysis of the issue as it affects North Carolina’s communities – all in a searchable, printable format that anyone can access for free.
We offer these free lectionary resources because we believe that this project helps to fill a vital need in our communities of faith: local, prophetic worship resources. Acts of Faith is a tool for pastors and worship leaders as they seek to integrate the biblical theme of shalom and the language of justice into their communal life of worship. Christian worship is that social space in which God promises to be present, to form and transform the people of God as they participate with God in the practices of the Kingdom: baptism, eucharist, forgiveness, prayer, offering, sending. Worship is where Christians believe God is present to reform our moral imaginations in such a way that the work of justice becomes possible and sustainable. As we gather together in worship, we learn what it means to offer hospitality, to make peace, to offer confession to God and one another, and to engage in the difficult work of reconciliation. We gather around a Table to learn how to eat together and how to share our food. Through worship, we learn to see others and indeed, all creation, in the way God does. Therefore, it is simply vital that we incorporate a vocabulary of justice into our life of worship together. When it comes to social justice, we cannot afford to be silent.
We hope that you will find many different ways to use this resource in your own church setting. There are many possibilities – be creative! Tell your pastors and denominational leaders about it. Since each unit contains a number of additional texts, these resources are designed to be used whether or not your church follows the lectionary.
Many people have been (and continue to be) involved in the production of Acts of Faith. Religious leaders from many denominations have contributed insightful commentaries, reflections and vignettes. Chris Liu-Beers, Program Associate, is currently managing the project. He has provided research, writing, and editing. Denise Cumbee Long, a former Program Associate with the Council, had overseen Acts of Faith since its inception. Many seminary interns have made this resource possible through their dedicated research and editing work:
- Jason R. Jenkins (Duke Divinity School)
- B. J. Morton (Duke Divinity School)
- Liz Costello (Duke Divinity School)
- Angela Roberson (Hood Theological Seminary)
- Michelle Cockcroft (Duke Divinity School)
- Samara Joy Nielson (Duke Divinity School)
- Curt Lowndes (Duke Divinity School)
- Rennie Salata (Duke Divinity School)
- Lee Foster (Duke Divinity School)
- Tim Hetzel (Duke Divinity School)
Rose Gurkin, Web Coordinator, has handled the tasks of making this resource available in print and on the web (no small task!), while additional editing and oversight was supplied by George Reed, the Council’s Executive Director.
This project has also received generous financial support from The Sr. Evelyn Mattern Fund; The Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ; Ministries First, Western NC Conference (United Methodist Church); The Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, NC Conference, United Methodist Church (NCCUMC); “Living the Word” (a collaborative program of NCCUMC and the NC Council of Churches funded by the Duke Endowment); The North Carolina Union Community Fund; Rev. Joanna Hancock; and two anonymous friends.
Finally, the Council recently published an online sermon library that incorporates a number of our areas of work. You can access the library here. As you can see, we have poured extensive amounts of time and resources into making Acts of Faith the robust resource that it is today. If you find these tools useful, please consider donating to the work of the Council so that we can continue to offer Acts of Faith for free.