Pullen’s worship seeks to balance our Baptist heritage of worship in the free-church tradition while engaging in meaningful liturgy that is relevant to the concerns of our world. With the central focus being the worship of God, worshipers are invited to engage the liturgy (prayers, hymns, scripture, silence, and the spoken word) with their mind, heart, body, and soul. Our worship encourages worshipers to struggle with the hard questions of faith for the purpose of experiencing and living an authentic life of faith.
Our Worship Heritage
A core part of our worship identity includes affirming historical Baptist principles. These principles guide us as we worship.
Soul freedom is the right and responsibility of every person to encounter God without the interference or imposition of creed, clergy, or civil government.
Bible freedom is the belief that the Bible, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and teachings of Jesus Christ, is authoritative and central in the life of individuals and the church.
Church freedom affirms local churches to be free, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, to conduct their work and worship experiences, to ordain those they believe to be gifted for ministry, and to be active with participation in the larger body of Christ.
Religious freedom is broadly defined as freedom of religion, freedom for religion, and freedom from religion – often known as “separation of church and state.”
Pullen has a history of shared leadership of clergy and laity in worship. The worship liturgist is most often a lay person. The liturgist guides us in responsive readings, scripture readings, offertory prayers, and litanies. It is also the role of the laity to offer the joys and concerns and the prayers of the people. Most Sundays Pullen’s pastor offers the sermon. On occasion throughout the year, however, sermons are offered by other ordained or non-ordained persons.
With the understanding that all language for God is metaphorical, and that language instills truths of equality and justice in human relationships, we intentionally use inclusive language in our worship. This includes changing scripture to gender-neutral language or using a variety of feminine, masculine, and non-gender images in referring to God and humanity. Hymns, litanies, prayers, choral offerings, and other worship elements are also chosen, altered, or created to express this inclusive and expansive view of God and God’s people.
Baptism and Communion
We practice believer’s baptism at Pullen, which signifies an understanding of God’s unconditional love, a desire to trust in God’s grace and mercy, and a commitment to follow in the ways of Jesus as each person understands that commitment and calling. We baptize once a year on Easter morning. Membership at Pullen does not require a person who has had such a faith experience in another tradition to be rebaptized.
Communion is celebrated as a part of our worship on the first Sunday of the month. All people (adults and children) of all faiths are invited to gather around God’s table to partake in this feast of love. We often say that regardless of one’s belief, disbelief, or unbelief, all are welcome at God’s table. In our communion, the congregants come forward to receive the elements by intinction, an ancient tradition in the Church.
The Arts in Worship
We experience God and express our worship in a variety of ways. In order to engage mind, body, and spirit in the worship experience, we include elements that connect us to the sacred and help to interpret the seasons of the Christian year. These elements may include liturgical dance and movement, visual imagery, and dramatic presentations, as well as music and the spoken word.
Sunday worship services at Pullen are usually based on the Common Lectionary for the liturgical season. A Bible study currently meets with the pastor each Wednesday in the Pullen library from 12:00-1:00 PM (bring your lunch) for discussion of the following Sunday’s lectionary text. The text for the next Sunday can be found in the current week’s Sunday Update and on the internet.
For a link to this year’s lections on the Vanderbilt library Web site, click here.
Children are welcome to participate in worship with their families. Kindergarten through second grade children are invited to Children’s Worship where they can experience God through story and play. If needed, childcare is available on the first floor for infants and preschool children.
Worship Services in the Liturgical Year
For everything its season and for every activity under heaven its time.
A calendar reminds us of important dates: anniversaries, birthdays, appointments, and necessary tasks. On it we record what matters to us. The Christian calendar is, therefore, incalculably valuable to us as a worshiping community. On that calendar, Christians throughout history have marked the significant events of the life of Christ, of the Church, and of God’s people. Pullen’s worship seeks to follow the tradition of the Christian liturgical calendar. Our church year begins with Advent followed by Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and Ordinary Time. Within each of those seasons, there are special worship services that help us name and celebrate our participation in the Christian story today. What follows is a description of the liturgical seasons and the worship services that help us live into that particular season.
Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany
Originally begun as a time of preparation for the coming of Christ, Advent is a time of expectancy and anticipation in which we “prepare the way of the Lord.” In the ninth century, Advent was established as being the four Sundays before Christmas. Our worship services throughout advent focus on the four themes of Advent: hope, peace, joy, and love.
A candlelight labyrinth service provides time for quiet reflection during Advent.
Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ, has drawn many pagan and Christian events into one joyous holy day. Santa Claus came from the festival of St. Nicholas on December sixth. The Journey of the Magi, though it occurred years after the birth of Christ, has become part of the Christmas celebration. In fact, Christmas became so full of different customs and joyful revelry that the Puritans banned it. When Charles II restored the monarchy, he also reinstated Christmas.
The early Christians met and broke bread together to signify their union, fellowship, and love. In 1727 the Moravian Church revived this practice and established the custom of celebrating the great church festivals by partaking of a simple meal known as a “lovefeast.” Pullen celebrates Christmas in a Lovefeast on a Wednesday evening each December. In Moravian tradition, the Pullen Orchestra and church instrumentalists lead the congregation in singing carols of the season as scripture is heard, the meal is shared, and candles are lit.
Pullen has two Christmas Eve services that celebrate Christ’s birth in our world. Our first service is at 7:00 PM. While the structure of this service may look different from year-to-year, the traditions of reading and/or telling the story of Jesus’ birth and singing carols makes it a worship service enjoyed by all ages. Our second Christmas Eve service begins at 11:00 PM and is led by our youth. Each service concludes with candle light and the singing of a familiar Christmas carol.
The Christmas season concludes with Epiphany, a word meaning “manifestation” or “showing forth.” The festival commemorates the visit of the Wise ones to the Christ child. The Magi understood that this Jesus was “God with us”; it is the mystery and the miracle of Epiphany that these wise ones, these scholars and intellectuals, knew enough to fall down and worship Jesus. Epiphany Sunday is observed on the Sunday closest to Epiphany, January 6. Sundays after Epiphany point to other “manifestations of the Word made flesh” in the Baptism of Jesus and his early ministry. The final Sunday after Epiphany recounts the Transfiguration of Christ.
Lent is part of the Easter cycle beginning forty days before Easter (excluding Sundays). Lent is a time to rest, to meditate, to pray, and to gather spiritual strength. Even though Sundays are not included in the days of Lent (each Sunday being considered a “Little Easter”), Pullen observes the Church tradition of putting “Alleluias” to rest, as services offer a more introspective focus. During this season we emphasize our connection to the American Baptist Churches USA and take up the ABC Mission Offerings.
Ash Wednesday begins the Season of Lent. Pullen’s Ash Wednesday service is a reflective service including the imposition of ashes on the forehead (taken from the burning of the previous year’s Palm Sunday palm fronds).
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, the celebration of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Worship on this day enacts this event and foretells the coming week in the life of Christ.
“Maundy” is derived from the Latin word meaning “mandate” and recalls Jesus’ new mandate from his teaching in the upper room: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Pullen’s Maundy Thursday service relives Jesus’ last evening through meditative scripture and song, and invites congregants to participate in stations of footwashing, communion, and/or prayer.
On Good Friday, the most solemn date on the Christian calendar, we remember the Crucifixion of Christ. On this day, Pullen offers opportunity for private, reflective prayer through the walking of thelabyrinth in the chapel.
In ancient tradition of the Church, Easter morning begins with baptism. A service of Easter Baptism is held in Finlator Hall, which houses Pullen’s baptistery. The first proclamations and hymns of Easter morning are offered in this early service as the church congregation celebrates with those who are baptized. A service of Easter worship in the sanctuary follows. This festive service is marked with joy and festive expressions in the exclamation of Christ’s resurrection. The Easter service of worship at Pullen includes resurrecting the use of “Alleluias” (put to rest during Lent). Children are invited to ring alleluia bells with each alleluia sung or spoken. The Easter service concludes with worshipers invited to the chancel to sing “Hallelujah” from Handel’s Messiah.
Fifty days after Easter, Pentecost celebrates the birth of the church and empowering of the Holy Spirit. A vibrant service of worship celebrates Pullen’s welcome for all and the recognition that all are gifted through God’s Spirit.
In the month of June, following Pentecost, Pullen celebrates a liturgical season highlighting creation and our role as co-partners in caring for everything God has made. Each Sunday, aspects of the service remind us of the many gifts nature gives unselfishly to us and challenge us to care for our fragile planet.
Ordinary Time and Other Observances
The Sundays after Pentecost comprise the liturgical year’s longest period and include a variety of emphases in the life of the church. While the other liturgical seasons relive the life of Christ, this season focuses on the ongoing work of the church. Sundays during this season include:
This Sunday service in May is planned by and is a celebration of the youth of our church. Individual youth speak scriptures and proclamations, the Youth Choir and Pullen Orchestra offer music, and the service concludes with the recognition and blessing of graduating seniors.
Rite-13 Sunday is another of our worship services focusing on our youth. On this Sunday, our worship includes a Rite-13 ritual that blesses those who are 13 or will soon be turning 13 as they journey toward adulthood. Some years Rite-13 Sunday is scheduled in the fall and other years we celebrate it in the spring.
The first Sunday in February is Peace Sunday at Pullen. With a focus on world peace, following communion each congregant is given an origami dove, an international symbol of peace.
Alliance of Baptists Sunday
This Sunday celebrates the partnership of Pullen as a founding member of The Alliance of Baptists, an association of Baptists upholding historic Baptist principles, freedoms, and traditions as it engages churches in mission and ministry.
World Communion Sunday
Pullen connects with the larger Church in commemorating World Communion Sunday. This day brings the awareness that our faith community is part of a worldwide body of faith. Worship on this day at Pullen is accented with music, languages, and sometimes communion bread from various places around the globe.
This Sunday service in October expresses gratitude to God for the children of our congregation. Children offer worship leadership in a variety of ways. The Children’s Choir sings, and worship proclamations focus on our care for children and the gifts they bring to our church and world.
Marking the historical movement known as the Reformation of the Church, Reformation Sunday celebrates the Priesthood of All Believers and connects our heritage as Baptists with others in the reformed and free-church traditions.
All Saints’ Day
The first Sunday in November remembers saints who have “gone before.” With an awareness of the “great cloud of witnesses” among us, worship on All Saints’ Day at Pullen includes the reading of the names of our loved ones and saints as communion is taken.
Service of Remembrance
There are many different kinds of loss that hit us hard during the holidays. The loss of a family member or close friend through death takes us into the long journey of grieving. We can also experience a sense of loss when we are cut off from home and family because of who we are or whom we love. Still others carry the pain of lost health or careers. Each year, in November or December, a Service of Remembrance is held. This is a time to gather with the faith community to remember, to grieve, and to give thanks. An important part of the service is to name the people and places remembered and to share a few words about them.
Pullen participates with four other West Raleigh congregations in a Community Thanksgiving service held each year on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving at one of the five churches. Choirs, ministers, and laity from each of the churches combine to lead the service.
Worship in the Round
An informal service is held in the chapel on occassional Wednesday nights through out the year. These services weave together scripture, poetry, music, and the arts.