Church Creating Civility Through Worship, Spiritual Disciplines and St. Francis

We at Pinnacle are constantly looking for individuals, congregations, and denominations who are leaning into their callings, living out their faith with relevance and faithfulness. So, when we learned what The Bridge in Leland (Wilmington) NC is doing we reached out for an interview. Doug Cushing is a full-time new church developer, while also serving as a Pinnacle Associate.

In recent weeks, The Bridge is combining worship with a specific spiritual discipline revolving around the Prayer of St. Francis. The Interview below describes a seven week worship series, followed by a small group experience and spiritual discipline focused on St. Francis’ Prayer.

How did the idea for this series rise up? What was/is your motivation for doing this?

It’s no secret that the lack of civility in America is a major problem. Two in three Americans believe civility is a major problem. Everyone is weary of the anger and hostility that is dividing our nation. Yet, nobody seems to know what to do about it.

The sermon series encourages folks to consider their calling to be ‘instruments of peace’ in our uncivil society. Each person was given a laminated pocket-sized Prayer of St. Francis card to carry with them. They were challenged to read that prayer, at least, once a day and let the prayer begin shaping them. The hope is that our congregation would, individually and corporately, begin embodying the change we want to see in our uncivil society and pointing others to the love of Christ.

Tell us about the logistics. What are the specific sermon titles in this series?

The series is seven weeks long. Within the series, I discuss four characteristics of civility based on John C Davis' book: In Defense of Civility. At the end of each sermon the congregation stands and prays The Prayer of St. Francis, out loud. At the bridge Presbyterian Church, we have 6 Sermon-based Small Groups that meet to discuss the sermon and scripture passages as well as sharing the joys and challenges of praying The Prayer of St. Francis.

Here are the sermon titles:
• Civility - An Anthem Out of Season
• A Yearning For Change
• Showing Mutual Respect
• Humility and Limits of Knowledge.
• Integrating Truth with Love
• When Do We Call Sin, A Sin?
• Go and Tell

What hesitations arose when you considered this? Any fear of offending people or appearing too political? How have disciples at The Bridge received this so far?

I was excited about crafting and preaching this series. I felt like this series connects need and opportunity. There is a great need, even a hunger in our society, for more civility. This need creates an enormous opportunity for Christians to model a gospel-shaped civility that will point others to God's Kingdom and will being done on earth. We've been talking about how acting civil - with Jesus as our example, is a form of evangelism. A Jesus-shaped civility is an embodiment of good news.

What suggestions might you give to others who may want to do something like this in their context?

One thing we've tried to do is remind folks that the series is non-partisan. The goal is for us to be "instruments of peace" that embody civility within a deeply divided society. Additionally, it's important to keep in mind that the Spirit's work of transformation takes time and therefore offering folks something like The Prayer of St. Francis to pray every day is a concrete, practical way of letting the Spirit do its work.

Doug Cushing provides coaching and consulting through Pinnacle for new church developers as well as churches engaging change. You are invited to learn more about this worship-spiritual engagement practice or Doug’s Pinnacle work through contacting him at