sex, money, and miscellany: talking about what matters

many ways to worship

In Uncategorized on April 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I grew up Unitarian Universalist. My first experience of worship had nothing to do with a sanctuary. We were in a circle, on the floor, in a classroom, with a chalice in the middle, in the dark. The dark was important. Voices emerged from the shadows as one person after another shared music or words on the theme. We held hands, we sang, we connected. We had ritual. We had history. Sometimes we had dance. We almost always had spontaneous song.

Tandi, a religious educator I know, posted this, which is also very familiar: puppy piles.

These are how I worship best.

How can we bring these worship forms to people who know only pews and pulpits?

  1. It’s absolutely a challenge to introduce these (in my opinion) more community-based, connective, and formative ways of worshipping to those attached to the traditional scheme of worship. As a youth and now a young adult, I’ve had the opportunity to lead/collaborate on worship services for my congregation. Ways I have tried include…
    -Moving the chairs. With pews this is impossible, but for one service I rearranged all the chairs in a spiral/circle (with aisles in many places for people to get in and out). There were many of us speaking so we would move around the inner circle (where we put the chalice) as we did readings, homilies, and led songs. Many participants had a positive reaction to this change and enjoyed seeing the faces of their fellow congregants instead of always facing the front.
    -For readings, having a series of mini-readings or quotes that comprise one reading. What we’ve done is have people with loud speaking voices situated throughout the sanctuary (on the balcony, near the back door, by the front door, in the pulpit). Then they read the quotes/readings in succession. It creates a great effect of different voices around the room and makes participants in the worship have to focus in different areas of the space.
    -For a worship service I did last summer, I had people physically move seats as a part of the worship. We did so when we were all singing a chant (another contemporary worship form as opposed to the hymnals) that I taught them. It was a multigenerational service so the goal of them moving was to sit next to someone of a different age bracket/generation than them. The worship service was extremely successful and again, I got a lot of positive feedback from people who were so happy to be forced out of their comfort zones.

    Those are just a few ideas I have tried in the past! 🙂

  2. Ohhhh, I REALLY like the idea of having us in a circle. Can we do that, Leela? Or on pillows on the floor, with chairs for those who need them? Sermons in the dark with hymns we already know or very easily taught ones?

    • @Andrew, YES. Yes, we can. In my experience the trick is not to do .sermons. per se, but shorter readings/reflections interspersed with music, just as you say–ones we know or ones we can learn. We can do a circle of pillows with a circle of chairs, and yes, in the dark. So here’s my followup question (that I’ll repost to our UUCE FB page): when, not Sunday morning, would you come to church for worship?

  3. Wednesday night? That’s when lots of churches do things like youth group, bible study, missionettes and royal rangers… that sorta stuff.

  4. Ok, so, not sermons but maybe… not totally free form? Cos then it’s people awkwardly sitting in the dark OR it’s world’s longest joys and sorrows.

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