Kells & I will start the new member process at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA) next week. One of the things I really enjoy about the Sunday service there is the liturgy. Here's how it went down last week:
Call to Worship (standing, call & response)
Hymn of Praise (standing, hymn)
Prayer of Adoration (standing, hymn)
Prayer of Confession (seated, prayer in unision)
Assurance of Pardon (standing, hearing from the pastor)
Grateful Response (standing, a stanza of a hymn)
Greeting (everybody shakes hands, etc.)
Life of the Church (announcements)
Offering (Money & Musical)
Song of Praise
Song of Response
Perhaps this is standard Presby(USA) practice, but only since attending WHPC has it come to my attention: We don't talk to each other, in announcements or "Greeting", until we've all Confessed, received our Assurance of Pardon, and given a Grateful Response. I really like that.
It's as if the entire congregation gets to start fresh at 11:20am (or whenever we're done with the Grateful Response) each Sunday and then we all start interacting together. That seems right to me: that we all confess our sin to God & each other (even if it's via a formal unision prayer), receive the pardon of God, and are then free to interact both with God (in/during the preaching of the Word) and with each other with clean consciences.
Sometimes we get late to Church and walk in right at the "Greeting" time. I always feel like I'm one step behind everyone else and not quite ready to shake anyone's hand yet. They've all gotten to confess their sin to each other and God, but I missed out on that community act. It kind of feels like I've skipped the most serious part of the service and am only sneaking in for the easy stuff. (As in, grinning, shaking hands, and passively listening to an entertaining and thought provoking sermon.)