Learning from Peter

A Series on Vertical Habits

Begun in 1853, College Hill Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, is a vibrant church that is passionate about worship and “committed to the vision of harnessing the arts as a pathway into the presence of Christ” (www.chpc.org/min/WorshipArts/General.html). Each Sunday two services are offered, the Heritage and the Kaleidoscope, each incorporating different media to present the same gospel message. From choirs to praise teams, organs, pianos, orchestra, and drum, dance and flag ministries, banners, PowerPoint, and video clips—each media is thoughtfully chosen and serves the main message of the service. In order for all this to come together, planning is a necessity (see pp. 12-13), as is a clearly articulated theme.

In 2005 College Hill became part of a group of churches and individuals from various denominations who received a grant to explore the concept of Vertical Habits (for more on Vertical Habits see Betty Grit’s article on p. 4). After much reflection, College Hill decided to plan a series of services that would encourage the development of Vertical Habits through prayer, learning from the life of Peter.

Since there are not many churches with the wealth of resources available to College Hill, what follows is the backbone to a series of services meant to teach its congregants about eight Vertical Habits. Our hope is that your worship committee will take this skeleton and give it flesh using the unique gifts of your own church.


Week 1

I’m Sorry


Mark 1:4-11; Genesis 1:1-6; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7

Story Arc

Jesus lays the groundwork for discipleship by being baptized himself “to fulfill all righteousness.” Meanwhile, Peter seeks truth, admitting he is not “a whole man.” For Peter, knowing God—being made “whole”—begins with repentance.


Prayer: humility; repentance; forgiveness; freedom to worship


Meaningful prayer begins with humility. It frees us from having to sustain a phony “not guilty” status. Repentance, in the presence of a gracious God, leads to true freedom!

Visual Ideas

Gauze (as used in bandages) and white handkerchiefs. To say “I’m sorry” is to repair or heal a relationship, therefore the use of gauze. Handkerchiefs are also a reminder of our emotional vulnerability in repentance, humility, and surrendering our pride.

Song Suggestions

“Create in Me a Clean Heart” SNC 49, SWM 153, SFL 41, WR 378

“Search Me, O God” CH 657, WR 385

“Perdón, Señor/Forgive Us, Lord” SNC 59, SWM 154

“Kyrie” SNC 50, 52, WR 379

Week 2



John 1:43-51; 1 Samuel 3:1-11; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

Story Arc

Prompted by Andrew, Peter goes to “listen” to Jesus, and finds someone who has been listening to him! Nathaniel is stunned that Jesus knows him even before they’ve met. God is able to use Samuel because he listens (1 Sam. 3:11).


Prayer: knowing God (and ourselves)


Prayer isn’t about getting; it’s about knowing. We can’t truly know ourselves unless we know the God who made us. But to know him requires getting out of our own way (Luke 17:33).

Visual Ideas

Phone cords and cables, cell phones, phone receivers. Listening is communication! Prayer is always a two-way conversation. We want to always be listening for God’s voice.

Song Suggestions

“Be Still, for the Presence” SNC 11

“Spirit of the Living God” CH 389, PH 322, PsH 424, SFL 184, TH 726, WR 492

“Thy Word” CH 184, SNC 86, SWM 177, WR 664

“Open Our Eyes, Lord” CH 633, SNC 80, SWM 179, WR 491

Week 3

What Can I Do?


Mark 1:14-20; Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Story Arc

Simon Peter and others have only been listeners so far. Now they are called into full-time service.


Prayer: lifestyle evangelism; sharing faith; sharing grace


The call of God’s kingdom is to make disciples. Faith and works belong together.

Visual Ideas

Fish netting: The text for this Sunday is “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” This is a very representational element but effective.

Song Suggestions

“Lord, Make Me an Alleluia” SWM 223

“I Want to Walk As a Child of the Light” SNC 77, SWM 207, WR 248

“Take, O Take Me As I Am” SNC 215, SWM 227

“Here I Am, Lord” CH 589, SNC 268, SFL 243, WR 559

“Take My Life and Let It Be” CH 597, PH 391, PsH 288, TH 585, WR 466

“Be Thou My Vision” CH 562, PH 339, SWM 161, TH 642, WR 502

“May the Mind of Christ, My Savior” CH 568, PsH 291, SWM 211, SFL 72, TH 644, WR 464

“Step by Step” SNC 17, SWM 12, WR 494

Week 4



Mark 1:21-28; Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111:1-10; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Story Arc

Peter, apostles, and others are stunned at Jesus’ “authority” over demons and disease. “Who is this guy?!”


Prayer: supplication; authority of Jesus versus human authority; Jesus’ unparalleled power


Only Jesus, not the church, has authority—and power—to resolve conflicts and heal souls. Bringing the kingdom of God into our midst begins with “conversion of the church!”

Visual Ideas

Rock-climbing gear and ropes. A rock climber would never attempt a climb without the proper gear that is designed for safety as well as making the climb possible. Prayer is the spiritual gear that enables us in our walk with God and keeps us safe from worldly influence. Also, remember that the climbing gear links climbers together—they are dependent on one another. Our requests for God’s help on behalf of others link us together.

Song Suggestions

“Our Father” (Lord’s Prayer) CH 631, PH 589, PsH 207, SNC 196, SWM 174, SFL 48, WR 740

“O Lord, Hear My Prayer” SNC 203, WR 484

“O God, Our Help in Ages Past” CH 686, PsH 170, WR 84

“Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” PsH 625, SWM 170, SFL 54, WR 489

“Jesus, Lover of My Soul” CH 710, PH 303, PsH 578, TH 509, WR 439

Week 5



Mark 1:29-39; Isaiah 40:27-31; Habbakuk 1:2-4; 2:1-5; 3:17-19; 1 Corinthians 9:16-17

Story Arc

Peter and others are confused. Jesus doesn’t behave the way they think he should (we don’t have the same priorities as God). His real purpose is to preach the good news. He brings healing far greater than the merely temporal.


Prayer: illumination and lamentation; questions and doubts, but also gratitude (“Why are you so good?”)


It’s not only OK to ask God why—it’s necessary, because the real value of conflict is the ability to deepen relationships. In asking God “Why?” we tear down barriers and draw nearer to him. We need to ask God, not each other. In the end, God himself is the answer.

Visual Ideas

Barbed wire as a barrier—if we don’t go to God with our questions, we create a barrier in our relationship.

Song Suggestions

“Good to Me” SNC 71

“We Cannot Measure How You Heal” SNC 69, WR 628

“Don’na Tokidemo/Anytime and Anywhere” SNC 188, SWM 188

“Day by Day” CH 718, TH 676, WR 449

“Precious Lord, Take My Hand” CH 684, PH 404, PsH 493, WR 500

“When Peace Like a River” CH 705, PsH 489, TH 691, WR 428

Week 6

Thank You


Mark 1:40-45; 2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Story Arc

Jesus heals many. Peter and the other apostles grow a bit frightened (“Who is this guy?”), even while the healed rejoice.


Prayer: thanksgiving/gratitude; humility versus pride (“spiritual leprosy”)


Naaman had to be lowered from false god status. The leper in Mark had to be raised from subhuman status. Both had to be made fully human by God, as do we. Result: true gratitude.

Visual Ideas

Plush materials (velvet, chenille, or fleece) in deep jewel-tone colors. The softness and depth of these materials illustrate our gratitude. These are comforting materials—thanks is a response to being comforted, that is, made to feel warm and safe.

Song Suggestions

“We Give Thanks unto You” SNC 26, SFL 204

“Give Thanks” CH 170, SNC 216, WR 359

“In the Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful” SNC 220, WR 448

“There Is a Redeemer” CH 308, SNC 145, SWM 128, WR 117

“Now Thank We All Our God” CH 788, PH 555, PsH 454, SWM 230, SFL 33, TH 98, WR 14

“Imela” SWM 36

Week 7

Bless You


Mark 1:40-45; Matthew 16:13-20; Psalm 150; Isaiah 43:18-25

Story Arc

Peter and others begin to get a sense of who Jesus really is. Peter makes his great profession of faith: “You are the Christ” (Matt. 16:16).


Prayer: praise; faith; acknowledgment of Christ’s divinity


It is by our faith that we bless God. Faith begins with acknowledging who God is. Also, when we praise God, we simultaneously choose not to worship that which is not God.

Visual Ideas

Little packages tied with curly ribbon. Our praise is a precious gift to God. We enjoy finding just the right gift for those we love and watching their joy when they open our gift. Is it any different with God?

Song Suggestions

“Bless His Holy Name” CH 55, PH 597, PsH 627, WR 4

“Stand Up and Bless the Lord” CH 65, PH 491, TH 15, WR 11

“My Friends, May You Grow in Grace” SNC 288, SWM 234

“To God Be the Glory” CH 56, PH 485, PsH 473, TH 55, WR 66

Week 8

I Love You


Mark 9:2-9; John 14:15; 15:12-15; 2 John 6; Psalm 91;

2 Kings 2:1-12

Story Arc

Peter and the apostles move, however clumsily, from admiration and awe to true love for the Master. This is when they truly begin to change.


Prayer: adoration; loving God, loving others; practical versus emotional love


Loving God = loving what God loves. This is most authentically expressed not in emotional outpourings but in obedience (John 14:15).

Visual Ideas

Shiny streamers in gold and silver and red heart garlands. Our love is our most treasured and protected possession, therefore the gold and silver. The streamers are also a reflective material—we reflect God’s love back to him (“We love because he first loved us,” 1 John 4:19), and we also reflect God’s love to others. The red heart garlands are used because our love for God needs to be whole-hearted.

Song Suggestions

“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” CH 90, PH 464, WR 59

“I Love You, Lord” CH 78, SNC 16, WR 85

“Santo, santo, santo, mi corazón/Holy, Holy, Holy, My Heart” SNC 19, SWM 27, WR 737

“Holy God, We Praise Your Name” CH 2, PH 460, PsH 504, TH 103, WR 138

“Father, I Adore You” CH 191, PsH 284, SFL 28, WR 143

“Oh, How I Love Jesus” CH 92

“My Jesus, I Love Thee” CH 79, PsH 557, TH 648, WR 468




The team at College Hill created a vertical collage with a new element added each week. It is also possible to hang each element alone rather than doing the collage. In order to hang the material from the ceiling, they used a 60-pound test fishing line that was doubled by twisting two strands together. This not only strengthened the line but also was better for wiring the materials to the line. By placing the wire that connected the material between two fishing lines the material did not slide. The material was tied down to eyescrews that were screwed into a platform made with 2x4s.


Planning Format

Following is a sample of the format College Hill uses when planning worship services. Their actual planning sheet is a little more complicated, as they have both a traditional and a contemporary service—so while the message is the same in both services, the worship leaders, the songs, and the way the message is presented will differ between the services. While not all congregations will have this many people involved, it is always helpful to be specific about who is responsible for each task.


First Draft

College Hill Presbyterian Church

Sunday, January 8, 2006

"I'm Sorry!"

Service Outline

In Atrium

Hospitality Team greets people with phrase, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” (Hospitality)

Hospitality and deacons hand out bookmarks and Vertical Habits Prayer Journals with series titles/themes and Lectionary texts on them. (Hospitality (cont.), Deacons, Communication, Aesthetics)

Galleries (Atrium, Library, and Fellowship Hall areas) feature original works on the themes of humility, repentance, and spiritual freedom. (Fine Arts)

In Sanctuary (Pre-service)

Lighting: Low lights; emphasis on chancel platform area. (Lighting)

On the Chancel Platform: Abstract theme of gradual revelation, plus (possibly) images of hands (realistic or stylized), and image of person in prayer, humbled. (Design, Construction)

In the Nave and Chapel: Key visual ideas are echoed throughout. (Design cont.)

On screen: “Welcome to CHPC,” with series title slide “Vertical Habits”— interspersed with on-screen announcements for upcoming events. (No announcements from pulpit!) (Broadcast, Communication)

Prelude: “Listen”

Keyboards/orchestra/band plays “Vertical” theme (series theme song to be written). (Songwriter(s)?)

At end of prelude, lights are lowered, indicating start of service. (Lighting)

Gathering (Need)

Call to Worship: “Listen!” (Psalm 29, Romans 2:4) (4 min.)

Worship leaders (choir?) lead congregation (a cappella?) in song about humility and freedom in Christ (e.g., Micah 6:8, “He Has Shown Thee”). (Worship Leaders)

When they settle into place, reader does reading of Psalm 29 and Romans 2:4, as deacons enter, carrying candles (one at a time), then cross, placing them on Table. (Drama/Deacons)

Welcome and Opening Prayer: “Help!” (2 min.)

Pastor speaks of series theme—prayer—reflecting on previous week’s “Day of Prayer”; desire to see CHPC seek God in prayer with renewed vigor; remarks on setting, elements. (Pastor)

Hymns of Praise: “Bless You” (15 min.)

Worship leaders lead congregation in three to five songs about humility, repentance, freedom in Christ (e.g., “Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord”). (Worship Leaders, Note: Need to get lyrics to Worship & Arts three weeks before service.)

Worship dancing is included. (Dance)

Confession and Pardon: “I’m Sorry” (3 min.)

Pastor speaks of repentance and forgiveness, tying them to freedom of worship; challenges congregants to begin writing in Vertical Habits Prayer Journals things that God shows them in prayer: “What do you need forgiveness for? Who do you need to forgive?” (Pastor)

After a time of silent reflection, congregation is encouraged to seek out in the coming week anyone they need to be forgiven by.

Passing of the Peace: “Bless You” (2 min.)

Pastor instructs congregation to “Greet one another in the name of the One who cleanses us from all sin.” (Pastor cont.)

On-screen: Genesis 1:1-4 (Broadcast)

Word (Problem and Solution)

Lights adjust. (Lighting)

New Testament Lesson (Mark 1:4-11)

Short Film: “Baptism of Forgiveness” (4 min.)

Peter wrestles with not being a “whole man”; speaks of going to see John the Baptist and a man called “Jesus.” Voiceover is paralleled by images of struggling seekers, and amplified with sound bites of real individuals talking about the need for forgiveness. (Film, Broadcast)

Prayer for Illumination: “Help!” (1 min.) (Pastor)

Sermon: “Why?” (Mark 1:4-11; Acts 19:1-7) (15 min.)

(See Themes and Thesis.) (Pastor cont., Note: Need to get bullet points, images, etc. to Broadcast three weeks before service.)

Our Response (Re-solution, Visualization)

Offering: “Thank You” (4 min.)

Worship leaders sing about forgiveness (suggestion: “Revival in Belfast”—see Mitch or Valerie). (Deacons/Worship Leaders)

Doxology: “Bless You”

(offering-oriented piece) (Worship Leaders cont.)

Prayer of Thanksgiving: “Thank You” (2 min.) (Pastor)

Sending (Challenge)

Congregational Prayer: “I Love You” (3 min.)

Pastor directs congregation to pray aloud and responsively, speaking words of reconciliation to one another, with instrumental music under prayers, leading directly into hymn (below). (Pastor cont./Worship Leaders)

Closing Hymn: “Bless You” (2 min.)

Worship leaders lead congregation in song of gratitude for Christ’s provision, God’s kindness (e.g., “It’s Your Kindness” by Leslie Phillips or “Bless the Lord, O My Soul”). (Worship Leaders cont.)

Charge and Blessing: “What Can I Do?” (4 min.)

Offered by pastor, with challenge to “Be reconciled—and be a reconciler—to all.” (Pastor cont.)


Reprise of prelude. Or other? (Worship Leaders)

Mitch Teemley is Director of Programming at College Hill Presbyterian Church. He has taught preaching/public speaking and media arts for nearly 20 years.

Reformed Worship 84 © June 2007, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.