Testimony, Collect, Lectionary

What is Testimony?

testimony [ Latin testimōnium < testis (a witness)]. In the Christian context, a testimony is letting the Good News of Christ be shown by way of telling a part of one's own story, and what that Good News did in/for/to/with oneself. Its religious use came from its use in law, where the testimony of witnesses is part of a body of evidence in finding out the facts of a case. In many churches, it's common for someone to testify at church services about their experience with Christ or the subject of the sermon.

Why Testify?

The role of Christian testimony is often misunderstood. Testimony is often seen by others as merely the story of the person testifying. But it is really the telling of a part of that person's life within the framework of the larger story of how what God made has been brought back together with its Creator, the greater story of the Good News and of the gathering of believers which that Good News created. Each testimony is an open, face-to-face version of what is actually so, which, when added to the testifying of others, becomes an up-to-the-minute part of the Scriptures' 'cloud of witnesses'. Sometimes a testimony is done to support what someone else is doing or saying by giving some additional life-stuff to think about. Testimony shows that a person can be changed, and the Christian faith is not a fantasy and can be lived. Since anyone can testify and anyone's testimony can have an effect, the practice of sharing testimony can break down the walls of race, age, gender, or socio-economic class.

Testimony can be an eye-opener for visitors who have no idea of how good the Good News can be. It can help people to be less afraid of God and more aware that God is near and at hand rather than at a far distance. Money, illness, conflict, fidelity, young love, addiction, attitude, work, daily encounters with evil -isms, new awareness, sadness, fear: all kinds of matters of who they are and what happens to them are all brought to the Body when testifying. But they're not brought up as matters to discuss or as a laundry list of failings or successes. They're brought up as a place in life where God is at work, where the struggle is bared, where the victories are celebrated and the Source of all true victory is given praise.

When done in a worship service or a church meeting, testimony must fit in with Paul's concern for good order, and not take over the place of the sacraments or Scripture. There are places in the service that may be suitable for testimony in worship, depending on the format of the service, the minister, and the tradition of the congregation. For instance:

Testimony is usually more impactful in a small-group setting where it is more likely to be trusted and the testifier is more easily held accountable. In that context, testimony is part of the caring and sharing which is the net of support for which small fellowship groups exist. Testimonies can also be helpful as part of church non-worship events.

What Testimony Is Not

Testimony is often given wrongly - to get attention, grab a piece of the spotlight, or to give others a voyeur's thrill while leaving the inner self untouched, or to tout some preacher's or writer's stature. Yet, one of the Ten Commandments is against bearing false witness. In court, it's called 'perjury', and is itself a crime. Some people 'dirty up' the testimony of what they were, and 'clean up' what they are, in hopes of having an impact on others. They replace God's indirect and sometimes messy work with a seemingly-clear and direct word from God. All that really does is clean out anything that a person in spiritual need can identify or connect with. The key to testimony is to tell the truth, and let the Spirit create the impact. Testimony is for learning to live a Christian life, not for defining what a Christian life is. (The Bible does that.)

Yet, how can we do without testimony? If we're sold on the faith, if we've invested our identity into it, it would become very difficult not to tell Jesus' story when we share our own story. Just by being shared, a testimony says, 'Jesus is meant for you, too.' Can I get a witness?


What is a Collect?

collect [ Latin ōrātiō ad collēctam (prayer at the gathering) < colligere (to gather) < co- (together) + legere (to gather, store)] Also known as the Prayer Of the Day.

In liturgical churches, the collect is a specific prayer designed for that particular day's worship. It is usually taken from a worship book. It is found at the end of the entrance rite (the part of the liturgy at the beginning of the service), before the day's Scripture readings.

It is typically led into by the apostolic greeting :
Presiding Minister : The Lord be with you.
Congregation : And also with you.
Presiding Minister (with hands flat against each other, chest-high): Let us pray.

It's followed by 4-10 seconds of silence, a time for the congregation to collect its thoughts and turn them to God.

The traditional collect follows a set format :

  1. Address the Father;
  2. appeal to something about God's character that is relevant to what is being prayed about;
  3. the request, usually drawn in some way from the Scripture readings for the day;
  4. why you're asking;
  5. through Jesus;
  6. a praise of God.

It is usually said by the presiding minister, but can be spoken by anyone. Or everyone: some pietist-leaning churches have the whole congregation speak it together, read from the bulletin or screen. (High-churchers diss this practice, since it undercuts the special role of the minister as liturgical leader. Which, to a low-churcher, is a reason in its favor.) In some places (including some Scandinavian churches) the collect is often chanted or intoned; others believe that takes the prayer-ness out of it.

Prayers that are similar to the collect, but not in a tight pattern, are sometimes found in various places in Charismatic and Evangelical services. There, the prayer marks a transition from one part of worship into another.

You can also check for the noun ' ' in the dictionary.


What is a Lectionary?

Lectionary definition: A formal set schedule of Bible readings, for use in each day's worship. [ < Latin lēctiōn (a reading or lesson) < legere (to read)]

A standard lectionary is divided into an Old Testament section, a Psalm section, a lesson drawn from the New Testament Letters, and a reading from the Gospel. In most traditions, the sermon is drawn from the lectionary reading, especially from the Gospel reading. The lectionary is there so the congregation or worshiper will eventually go through the full span of the Bible, accounting for theological importance and church season. Without using a lectionary, a congregation or preacher might focus too much on a few passages, and miss out on the wide range of what the Spirit is saying. Today, most churches use the Revised Common Lectionary, which has two cycles: the 3-year Sunday Lectionary (used in Sunday worship), and the 2-year Daily Lectionary (for personal use or with the Daily Office). The first Christians brought the idea of a lectionary with them from the Jewish worship in which they were raised. Jesus Himself did at least one lectionary reading, in his hometown of Nazareth, but it got Him into lots of trouble.

In the church's first few centuries, long before verse numbers, the Lectionary would have the full quote from Scripture. Those early lectionaries were an early witness to the ancient text.

You can also check for 'lectionary' in the dictionary.


What Are Vestments?

vestments [ < Latin vestis (garment)] The ceremonial clothing worn by those doing the ceremonies of the church, including worship, dedications, etc.. Also : priestreafs, priestgarb. Particular items include alb, surplice (overslip), cope, chasuble, rochet, maniple (handline), scapular (axlecloth), and mitre.

'Vestments' also refer to the clothing which marks a person as a minister or member of an order of monks/nuns, or a deacon in liturgical worship. For worship services, the colors of the clothing are changed to reflect the church season. I won't go far here into the many different kind of vestments there are, because that would go on endlessly. Each church vestment has its own symbolic meaning. Much of the time, noone who's there knows or cares what that meaning is, and so it is lost. Yet for those who know the meaning, it can enrich whatever occasion it is used for. Sometimes the visual beauty of vestments can draw you deeper into worship of an awesome God. At other times the visual effect brings so much awe to itself that you forget to worship God.

You can also check for in the dictionary.

Next page: more about .