Many Revgals celebrate Epiphany with some version of Star Words. It was written about in 2009 here. The list of words I inherited pre-dates that article. To the person who came up with the idea–thank you. It has taken on life and been adapted in all sorts of contexts.

Magi following a star on my desk. (My son accused me of stealing his toys. I pointed out he left them when he went to college.)

The premise is this: the magi followed the star to find baby Jesus, bringing their gifts. We are also seeking Jesus, trusting God can/does use many signs (or stars) to guide us closer to the Divine presence.

People are invited to take a star in worship. On each of the stars is a word. I invite people to trust the word that selects them, but we do not police the star choosing, so if people need to trade out a word, they are free to do so. When we first started doing this, people weren’t sure they wanted to trust the words they drew.

Now it has become an important part of our congregation’s liturgical year.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.
~ t s eliot

The list of words I inherited can be downloaded here.  And the excel list here, in case you’d like to print out the words on stickers and add them to pre-cut stars or something.

a previous year’s words

If you’d rather take the list and write them on pre-cut stars, some people have done that. Some people have combined Star Words with Baptism of the Lord and written them on “water drops” that are either cut out of paper or using those floral arranging “marbles”.

A few years after we started the practice at the congregation I serve, we started writing about our words and the way they worked on us throughout the year. Some churches have had people share their stories in worship, or in newsletters. Some of ours ended up on my blog. You can see the list of Star Word posts here.

Social media allows you to extend the reach for the practice. People who haven’t attended worship in years, or who are estranged from organized religion, will ask me to draw a star from them. It’s a very adaptable ritual.

Please share how you’ve used Star Words in your context. I know they’ve been passed out in hospitals, retirement homes, prisons, and during a “free prayer” session at a coffee shop. Feel free to upload photos and share links to blog posts.

Words written on “water droplets” for a Baptism of the Lord adaption. (Make sure it’s really permanent ink–or else the words will rub off).

Here is a prayer I’ve used in communion on Epiphany before. Thanks to Michelle Thomas Bush for sharing the prayer with me.

   God, we acknowledge that we are not always ready to receive your best gifts for us. You have given us an epiphany word in order that our searching will bring us to you.

    It is often our habit to turn aside, stumble over, or even reject experiences and encounters that we later understand to have been precious gifts.

    Help us to be open to the gift that you offer us now through our star words. We acknowledge that we do not fully understand what this word might mean for our faith, but we receive it from you with gratitude and pray that your Spirit will enable us to live into our word with intention and faithfulness.


Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho. She blogs at Glass Overflowing.


39 thoughts on “Star Words

  1. Stars are ready to go thanks to a Christmas elf. We are also in a process of thinking about naming our church a new name because of a merger. Hope this ritual helps make room for discernment.


  2. At our retreat gathering for our clean water ministry volunteers last year, I gave everyone a word on a water drop (just a paper cut out). I wrote the words by hand in calligraphy. Then we took everyone’s word and formed it into a “word heart” and made it into a magnet. Our volunteers loved it! Our weekend was a working weekend but we had a birthday party (with cupcakes and decorations) for all of our volunteers and our staff wrote each of them a special note. We also put together a favorite recipes book to give everyone and we played fun board-type games in the evenings and did a challenge course.

    Are the water drops in the picture above glass? I will try to upload a picture of our magnet to your blog. Thank you for sending me a star word all of these years and for sharing this idea.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wonderful idea! The January 6th/Epiphany service is already set, but your idea of using water drops is superb for the Baptism of our Lord/January 13 service. I absolutely will incorporate this for the service. Thanks so much.


  4. I cut the stars out of old Christmas cards, punch a hole and put ribbon through to make it a sort of ornament to be kept throughout the years if folks want.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the idea of making them from old Christmas cards! My question with this tradition was who thinks up the words and who says they’re the words we need? But I’m going to try something that makes me feel better about that. For devotions at our December session and deacons meetings, I’m going to ask them to think of three words that might be helpful or inspiration to someone in their spiritual journey–then those are the words we’ll use for our star words in January.


  5. Used star words for the first time this year and encouraged members (ave. 55 in worship) to allow GOD to use them and their word in a mighty way. As we visited after the service many members were amazed at how “their word” was so fitting for their current situation in life.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This might seem odd, but we live in an area where church life is very sparse. We are actually Orthodox, and go to the local tiny Catholic church. So, a domestic church has always been important to us. When we moved into our new home last year, we had a stairway with one side having a spindle banister. We have painted wooden stars blue and written words on both sides in white. They hang from the bannister between the spindles. We see them all the time, and we focus on different words at different times. They are another in our daily practises to draw us closer to God! Just love them!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Last year, 2019, i did StarWords for the first time with a congregation is was serving as a seminary intern. I am at a different church now but have brought the StarWord practic to this congregation. I am planning on using the extended study I developed at the other church as a midweek Soup and Study class during Epiphany,. I hve copied it here below incase anyone can glean some ideas from it.

    Week 1- draw word and talk about how to use the word as your lens through which God may be calling you to look at your life

    Week 2 – look for a scripture passage that resonates with you in light of you word and then look for one or more passages  you completely do not get the application and all God to reveal the lesson or healing or peace you are to receive

    Week 3- find as many antonyms for your word as you can. Think about what the antithesis of you word is. Be ready to recognize when you find your self in that void and try to use your word to pull yourself out.

    Week 4- find a hymn that brings you to your word

    Week 5- look at all the Creeds ( in the UMC we have multiple Creeds at our disposal at the back of the hymnal) and discover how your word fits and calls you into a right relationship with God

    Week 6- look at the communion liturgy in all elements and find how your word calls you into communion

    Week 7- look at the baptismal covenant and see how God is calling you to a life of discipleship thru your word.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Marci, to my knowledge, this tradition is from the Russian Orthodox church, and was started in this country at Carpinteria Community Church in Carpinteria, CA in 1981-3. The prayer you cite, attributed to Michele, is part of the litany that we’ve used since the beginning.

    My spouse was pastor there, and we have initiated the practice in each church I’ve served, including my current call in Fort Mill, SC. There was a Presbyterians Today article quite awhile that spread the word about the stars…

    I love that you are using and sharing the word on this very cool practice!

    Liked by 1 person

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