Last Sunday, after worship, a big group gathered in the fellowship hall to talk about my vision for our Sunday morning experience. In case you weren’t able to be there, here’s what we covered. We began with worship:
- We’re going to keep our single Sunday morning worship service. Worshiping together on Zoom showed us how good it is to be together as one faith community at one worship service on Sunday morning. One service allowed us to build relationships with one another and strengthen our community—something we struggled with when divided between three services. It will also allow better opportunities for faith formation and fellowship. (More on that below!)
- While no time is perfect for everybody, bumping the service back a little to 9:30 a.m. seems to be a good balance. Nine is a little too early, ten a little too late, but 9:30 seems to be just right. We’ll stick with 9:00 a.m. through Labor Day weekend and then begin worship at 9:30 starting on September 12 and going forward.
- Our online worship adaptations revealed that increasing individual participation in the service is really good. In person, we’ve continued to invite people to lead individual petitions as the Spirit moves them. So many people have told me how much they like this practice. It makes the prayers feel like something we’re all praying together. We’re going to keep doing this.
- We’ll also continue asking for volunteers to read the lessons and carry our offerings of bread, wine, and money to the altar. Scheduling these roles ahead of time mostly had the same few people doing the work every week (and thanks to them for stepping up!). But when I’ve asked for volunteers just before the service many more people are involved, including some who wouldn’t otherwise participate. It adds to the feeling that our worship is something that belongs to us as a community.
- On that note, we’re piloting a new system for volunteering. There are four cards on the table in the entryway that indicate the four volunteer jobs: 1st Reading, 2nd Reading, Elements, Offering. If you’re up for fulfilling one of those roles, please grab a card on your way into church to indicate that you’ll do the job. No qualification is needed—all are invited to participate!
- In the months to come, we’ll keep working on the development of our worship service. Things like: having the choir sit together in the pews so they’re better able to lead the congregation, coming up front to sing anthems; working to increase the diversity of our music in instruments, hymns, musical styles, etc.; and looking for ways to increase congregational participation in words and action. I want worship to feel like something that belongs to us and that everyone participates in.
- Along those lines, I’d like us to remove a few more pews. First, an additional pew cut or two to make more space for people who use walkers or wheelchairs. At least one of those should be off the main aisle. Second, I suggest we remove a pew or two in the back to make space for a rug and soft toys that’s particularly welcoming to young children and their adults.
We also talked about the other aspects of Sunday morning, fellowship and faith formation:
- Faith formation is really important to our development as followers of Jesus, but our pre-pandemic pattern wasn’t serving us very well. Offering the Sunday forum between the two morning services meant that we excluded the choir and missed any ten- or five-o’clock folks who couldn’t come to church early—not great. In this new Sunday morning pattern, we’ll offer faith formation three weeks a month, following a brief coffee hour. There will still be time to connect with friends and socialize, but this will also give us time to cultivate our faith in ways we can’t accomplish during worship.
- Content-wise, this new faith formation time will be focused on the practical things you can put into practice right away; topics like how to build a personal prayer routine, how to discern God’s movement in your life, or how to read the Bible and get something out of it. We’ll learn by interacting with one another, engaging in conversation, and trying out new practices. I want it to be intergenerational, fun, and inspiring.
- Once a month we’ll take a break from faith formation so we can focus on fellowship. We’ll put our fancy new kitchen to good use in putting on an over-the-top coffee hour—maybe even a full brunch. Something that’s big and festive and gives us an excuse to eat, socialize, and linger as we build new friendships and strengthen old ones.
This is just a digest of last week’s long and energizing conversation. I’ve done my best to summarize briefly (and it’s still this long!) but there are so many details that just didn’t fit in what’s above. If you’d like to talk more about this, especially if you weren’t able to make it to the conversation, please get in touch! I’d love to fill you in over a cup of coffee and hear what you think.
In a pivot to much more prosaic news, I’m taking some vacation soon. I’ll be away from Tuesday, August 17, through Monday, September 6 (Labor Day). I’ve arranged for supply priests to preach and preside on the three Sundays I’ll be gone. The Rev. Alan Tilson will be here on August 22 and the Rev. Kathleen Charles will be here on August 29 and September 5.
Finally, Lee and Laura Kraemer’s youngest child, Olivia, is going to be baptized on August 22 at our nine o’clock service. I love doing baptisms and I’m sorry to miss this one, but I know you’ll turn out in force to celebrate Olivia and welcome her into the household of God.
Yours in Christ,