Good Friday | North Central University

Coming to The Table in worship

Daily chapel is almost synonymous with North Central University. Students may admit there are times they don’t want to attend, but most alumni will say that attending chapel at North Central University provided some of the most meaningful spiritual experiences in their formative years.

Sometimes, chapel music is high-energy and filled with praise and the speaker energetically proclaims God’s Word. Other times, the music may be more subdued and the speaker challenges students to go deep in their faith. And sometimes, the format shifts more dramatically, and the NCU community is simply invited to come to The Table.

According to Associate Professor of Worship Arts Vinnie Zarletti, D.W.S., The Table provides an opportunity for the North Central University community to come together for communion and worship in a traditional liturgical format that helps bring worshipers back to the roots of the early church.

“The way we most often do chapel,” Zarletti explained, “is 18 minutes of music, a short time of announcements and prayer, and a speaker who speaks twenty-five to thirty minutes.

“For The Table services, the sermon is usually ten minutes and we incorporate additional liturgical elements, other aspects of worship we are focusing on, such as corporate confession, creedal recitation, singing the Word of God, and liturgical prayers.”

Historical roots

Zarletti said the format for The Table is purposeful in not being modeled after any denominational styles of doing communion, and the goal is to help introduce students to the historic fourfold order of worship, which includes:

  • Gathering
  • Word
  • Table
  • Sending

“The first mention of corporate worship in Acts 2 talks about them fellowshipping with word and table,” Zarletti said. “These are the building blocks of Christian worship. Gathering and sending became the fullness of the fourfold order.”

Zarletti said that The Table as a name suggests a sense of community. “When we think about the table beyond Christian worship,” he explained, “it brings about a certain type of imagery. For example, if you eat by yourself, you don’t usually set the table. If you set a table, it’s because you expect more than one person.”

Inviting unity

The Table is a place that invites unity among brothers and sisters, as well. Zarletti noted that in many settings, “communion” has become more associated with personal introspection and repentance, rather than a community act. “The table is a great equalizer,” he reflected. “It is all about equality at the table—rich people, poor people, men, women, race, class—there is not a distinction or hierarchy.”

Denominational unity is important, too, according to Zarletti. North Central University is affiliated with the Assemblies of God, but less than 50 percent of the student body has come from the AG tradition. “We are unique in being an educational institution and also a worshiping community,” Zarletti said. “There is a desire from the students to have rhythms of worship that are regular [and which often reflect NCU’s Pentecostal heritage] but they also like variety.”

Zarletti said it’s important to note that the fourfold order of worship represents a model, not a style. “It’s a tried and true model of worship dating back to the early church,” he noted. There is room for many forms of expression in that model and he has enjoyed using choral, gospel music, a full band and worship team, or a low-lit piano as part of The Table worship experience.

By any name, it is the Lord’s Table

In the Christian tradition of Holy Week, one of the things remembered is Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples—the first “communion” ever celebrated. In traditions that have emerged since that time, some believers call it “the Eucharist,” some may call it “communion,” “the Lord’s Supper,” or “breaking of bread.”

The reference of “The Table” at North Central is designed to create community, not only within the university but with believers everywhere. Zarletti said, “I love these services as a way to show that we have a lot in common with a lot of other believers.”

Come and worship

In John 1:29, John the Baptist declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” This verse is the basis for the liturgical prayer called the Agnus Dei (Latin for “Lamb of God”). Traditionally at The Table, this is the prayer that is prayed as the consecrated bread is broken. At NCU, Zarletti often leads his own musical setting of the Agnus Dei as the students are leaving their seats and coming to The Table to receive the elements. The words of this prayerful song simply say, “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, we pray. Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace, we pray.” This timeless prayer echoes John the Baptist’s declaration in John 1:29, and humbly asks Christ for mercy and peace.

In this video, Vinnie Zarletti leads worship through the singing of the Agnus Dei. We pray this may help ready your heart for worship during Holy Week—and any time—as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior.

Lamb of God

Lamb of God who takes away
The sins of the world
Lamb of God who takes away
The sins of the world
Have mercy on us
Have mercy on us… we pray

Lamb of God who takes away
The sins of the world
Lamb of God who takes away
The sins of the world
Grant us peace
Grant us peace… we pray

Agnus Dei – Agnus Dei
Qui tolis peccata mundi
Agnus Dei – Agnus Dei – Qui tolis peccata mundi
Miserere nobis – miserere nobis
Dona nobis pacem – dona nobis pacem

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