A ten-month check-in and boost for your worship team. Each month, we’ll discuss a new idea/aspect/tool to incorporate. The team will be charged to try the new thing out (and take video); when we meet again, we’ll look at the video, talk about the implementation, make tweaks, and then introduce the next month’s new idea.
Great for established worship committees/teams
10-15 hours, spread across ten months (60-90 minutes per month)
Even the tightest-running worship team needs a tune up – some new ideas, some reminders, some reconnections. In this workshop, we’ll highlight what’s working, fix what may have slipped, and engage some new ideas to boost your worship.
Do you need a worship team? Did you have one that faltered and want to start one again? Consider this four-part program:
1. Consultation with the minister/music director to determine needs, scope, and history. (1 hour)
2. A worship and arts workshop/retreat/service for the whole congregation, with an ask for interested parties. (3-7 hours)
3. A worship team training/startup retreat. (3-5 hours)
4. Six month follow up with minister, music director, and team. (1-2 hours)
Tired of the same old <insert holy day here> service? Want to shake things up with some creative approaches? Consider a two-session consultation: In session one (usually 4-6 weeks prior to the service), we’ll brainstorm ideas for a new kind of service; in session two (1-2 weeks prior to the service), we’ll distill those ideas into a workable service plan. Note: this is especially helpful for groups in your congregation that may only do one service a year, like youth or a social justice committee.
Great for ministers, worship teams, and other groups planning occasional worship
Just when congregations think they’ve got a handle on what will attract youth, the youth grow up and another batch, with different needs, shows up. We’ll talk about what the current generation may be seeking, and more importantly, how to be more agile and flexible in worship.
Great for ministers and worship teams concerned with appealing worship for all ages
Sometimes even the most experienced preachers need an inning of relief pitching from a fresh arm – someone to offer some insight, perspective, and creative ideas. Let’s talk – we can find readings, hymns, perhaps a new way to explore the topic, and find the ‘so what’ of your sermon.
Great for ministers and other religious professionals
Most of us create weekly worship for a few hundred or less. Yet there are often opportunities to create worship on a larger scale. We’ll explore what it takes to create large scale worship for your cluster, district, synod, region, or national gatherings.
Great for professionals and lay leaders preparing to create big worship
What started as a silly exclamation after drinking at the pub one night turned into two major projects that I undertook at seminary.
The exclamation – interjected as a group of us at Union Theological Seminary discovered a mutual love of musical theater – was “we should do a Broadway Revue!” A few months later, we were making that silly notion a reality, and we created and produced “In the Beginning: A Broadway Revue Inspired by Genesis.” A year later, we created and produced “The Other Side” which was inspired by Exodus – complete with a three-credit course led by one of the world’s top Biblical scholars.
It was really a silly idea. We had heavy work loads, field education, other interests. Yet it sparked a creativity that would not be relegated to ‘silly idea.’
Fast forward to now: a colleague’s son is in the hospital with a sudden illness; to cheer her up, another colleague suggested we post funny/made up memories of her on Facebook. The entries were funny, sweet, and sometimes fantastical. But one of them – suggesting that they were doing a service that was replaced by a Golden Girls script – was the silliest of them all. And sparked an incredible conversation that is now leading us to create a “Thank You For Being a Friend” Sunday – coordinated worship services across the country, focused on the wonderful lessons of friendship, generosity, acceptance, worth, family, storytelling, cheesecake, and shoulder pads.
A silly idea. A REALLY silly idea. But now we’re plotting and planning and, as I experienced in the Broadway revues, feeding and being fed off others’ creativity, spirit, and yes-and attitude.
Just yesterday, I was remarking to my internship supervisor that I felt a bit exiled – not just the geographic exile of being at the end of an archipelago where the Atlantic meets the Gulf of Mexico, but also exiled from my support systems, from connections, and most of all, from my own – and others’ – creativity. Somehow being physically separated from the people who stir my creativity led me to being separated from my own.
But a silly idea has brought me back from the brink.
A silly, creative, meaningful idea that can be accomplished and activates all that I love about the creative process – collaboration, expansive thinking, inspiration – has brought me back from the brink.
Saying YES-AND to this silly idea has reminded me to say YES-AND to myself, to that which I call God, to the universe, to others, and most of all, to my call.
But it’s not just personal; as career coach Bob Proctor points out, it’s the silly ideas that are “the most stunning, spectacular concept you could possibly imagine. Something there’s an enormous market for. Something that millions of people are absolutely crying for someone to provide them with.”
Imagine what happens when we use the power of silly in our spiritual settings… we might get a raised eyebrow or two, and hear the seven deadly words “but we’ve never done it this way.” But we may often have found the most spectacular concept we could possibly imagine, something millions are absolutely crying for someone to provide them with – healing, comfort, joy, awakening, enlightenment. It happened for me, and it keeps happening.
I love their power to evoke emotions, actions, ideas, images. I love how a carefully crafted phrase can roll gracefully and deliciously like a warm cinnamon bun, or jar us like an unexpectedly bitter orange.
And more, I love that as Unitarian Universalists, we delight in words, and all that they can evoke. We memorize quotations from great thinkers and doers, we wrestle with words long laden with pain, we use as many words as we can to understand our world and the Divine. We continue to find new ways to describe the expansiveness of our extravagant welcome. We continue to explore theological and philosophical ideas in our deep-seated earnestness to understand the understandable through reason and fact.
This is why I am a reader. I want to see how others are thinking about things, describing things, wrestling with things. I love those moments when a phrase catches me and lives in my mind for hours or days or weeks. My vast collection of books are filled with post-its marking pages, sections highlighted, words underlined, and occasionally a conversation with the author scribbled in the margins.
This is also why I am a writer, and why I continue to blog, whether I have one reader or thousands. I love using words and playing with words to explore the joyful, thoughtful, and painful. I love writing papers for my courses. I frankly even loved writing the essays for the Regional Sub-Committee on Candidacy (but don’t tell anyone).
I am also a talker. I’m one of those people who best processes ideas out loud. I make decisions best when I talk them through with someone. I love class discussions and small group discussions and Q&A sessions. I love preaching and teaching and leading workshops.
Yes. Words matter to me. To us. Our fourth principle, the responsible search for truth and meaning, relies largely on words.
But are the words we say to each other enough? Is it enough to read each other’s blog posts and sermons, to absorb books and podcasts, to relish in the reading and the talking, to let words rule? What of the UU who says “worship is my least favorite part of being a UU”? What of the UU who says “I dislike music in a service. I’d rather just hear a sermon and some readings”? What of the UU who says “I don’t want spiritual experience, I want to do social justice”?
If we followed their lead, we probably wouldn’t need to come together for services.
If we followed their lead, we could sell off the beautiful buildings and instead build server farms where we host blogs and online books and occasional chats.
If we followed their lead, we would stop being a religion.
Obviously, I am not saying we don’t need all the words and intellectual stimulation. But I don’t think it’s enough.
In 2009, I chaired our congregation’s Stewardship campaign; part of our campaign included a call for pledges of Time, Talent, and Treasure. In our planning, we all agreed that members should be willing to make an investment in all three, but what did Time mean, exactly? Was time the hours spent in Sunday services and at church-wide events? Or was it okay if someone didn’t come to church but attended a small group ministry once a month? Do we ask for a commitment to the one hour a week that everyone shares (as opposed to the many more hours we share in small groups, committees, task forces, etc.)? What of the people who feel like the Sunday worship was a waste of time – a wasteland of intellectual stimulation?
To them I say that worship still matters, whether you think you’re getting anything out of it or not.
Without worship, we are nothing more than an intellectual social club with a service focus. Without worship, we forget how to enact the deeper parts of ourselves, which long remember the rituals of our ancient ancestors. Without worship, we become isolated, away from the interconnected web of which we are a part. Without worship, we lose touch with the sacred.
And more…without all the elements of worship – sights and sounds, touch and scents, words, music, movement, and silence – we are missing ways to access our own Divine spirit, as well as that which we define as Divine that is outside ourselves. We can think about, write about, talk about, intellectualize about this spiritual dimension all we like. But that thing inside us – the divine spark, the soul, the spirit, the human consciousness – that thing needs to be activated and engaged for us to really understand. There’s a scene in The Matrix, where information is uploaded to our hero’s brain:
The scene doesn’t stop there. Lawrence Fishburne’s character, Morpheus, takes Keanu Reeves’s character, Neo, into a room where they actually fight.
Engagement matters. And for most of us, we find that the habit of weekly worship provides the best chance we have of that engagement. And it’s not just about our individual selves getting engaged; it’s about the group experience. For several years, I was what they call a solitary practitioner in the pagan tradition. I held rituals, by myself. I meditated, sang, danced, incanted, by myself. And half the time, I gave up before I had finished, because it felt empty or I felt silly. When I was in ritual with even one other person, suddenly there was meaning. A shared experience. A connection. What I read and studied suddenly became real.
It’s this connection that then leads me on to act. just being with other people in scared space makes me want to be a better person, more engaged, more connected. They don’t tell me to, I feel it. I sing it. I smell it and touch it and taste it. All the books and blogs and discussions in the world cannot replace that.
So what do we do about it? How do we create communities that have room for all of it, such that even the woman who dislikes worship can find and make meaning?
I think back to the question my stewardship team wrestled with – what we mean by Time. As we reimagine what congregations look like, when and where they meet, we need to recognize that every opportunity to gather is both an opportunity to engage our intellects and to worship. And this is more than lighting a chalice before a committee meeting starts. It’s about action – doing something besides talking (like singing or meditating to start the meeting), or taking an intellectual idea and physically applying it to the world (like going down the street and showing the homeless woman you value her inherent worth and dignity). Every time we gather, we should be making meaning, engaging our minds and our bodies. Every time we gather, we should be engaging in worship – in making worth and meaning.
This isn’t easy. it’s one thing to say that the Buildings and Grounds Committee are “stewards of our sacred space” – it’s another to make taking out the trash a spiritual endeavor. It’s one thing to say the pot-luck should be a communing of our spirits – it’s another to let go of the random gossip and griping and actually show care for each other.
But it can be done. We need all the words – and touches and tastes and actions and images – we can get our hands on. Our souls demand it. Our denomination’s future depends on it.