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Today in the Mission Yearbook

What does poverty have to do with worship?


‘Call to Worship’ issue explores the relationship between poverty and liturgy

June 17, 2021

The November “Call to Worship” issue (Image courtesy of contemporary iconographer Kelly Lattimore @

In what is believed to be a first, “Call to Worship: Liturgy, Music, Preaching, and the Arts” a quarterly journal produced by the Office of Theology & Worship, has focused an entire issue on poverty.

“In 54 years, I don’t think we’ve ever taken this topic on,” said the Rev. Dr. Kimberly Bracken Long, editor of “Call to Worship.”

Long said she felt an issue on poverty and the liturgy was timely, in part because of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Matthew 25 invitation. Eradicating systemic poverty is one of the three foci in the vision, along with dismantling structural racism and building congregational vitality. These Matthew 25 priorities, Long said, are reflected in our worship. She believes that worship shapes how we live in the world — and that our life in the world, in turn, affects our worship.

“How, then, does what we sing influence how we see those who are poor? How does our work to eradicate poverty inform how we pray?” she said. “And what does Scripture say about poverty and how do we hear and respond to those biblical texts?”

Long said all of these questions are addressed in the poverty and liturgy issue of “Call to Worship,” which was published in mid-November. In addition, there are articles about poverty related to the sacrament of the Eucharist; how vital the arts are for people experiencing poverty; how to think of the act of liturgical giving as an act of solidarity, rather than charity; and a new prayer book for people in prison, written by those who have been in prison.

“I asked those writing about issues of poverty to be aware that the language we say, preach, pray and sing can lead to objectification of the poor,” she said. “When we talk about ‘the poor,’ we’re not talking about people, but about labels and categories.”

For Long, far too often people’s assumptions have been that our churches don’t include people who are poor — and that these things happen to other people. As members of the body of Christ, we must recognize that some of us live with poverty, she said.

The following is a sampling of pull quotes from the Poverty & Liturgy issue of “Call to Worship.”

“All of us, rich and poor, need the scandalously particular reminder of God’s blessing to those whom the world has turned its back on. The true spirituality of the church is founded not on some otherworldly generalized religiosity but on a righteousness that focused on this world — a real-life spirituality that is formed by the real life, the real death, and the real resurrection of Jesus Christ, who came ‘to bring good news to the poor.’” — Buz Wilcoxon

“Are the songs we sing about poverty integrally connected to our commitment and work toward economic justice?” — David Bjorlin

“The Bible reminds us that our possessions are not our own. God’s abundance belongs just as much to our neighbor as it does to us.” — Grace Pomroy

Learn more about “Call to Worship” or subscribe by clicking here.

 Paul Seebeck, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus: ‘Call to Worship’ Issue

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Deidra May, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Anne Marie Mazzone, Board of Pensions

Let us pray:

God, you called us before we knew our names; you walk beside us when our steps are uncertain; you whisper before we know the words to speak. Continue in your teaching and help us to bear witness to your unfolding story among us. Amen.