To worship You in unity and diversity… is what we covenant with God and one another each week in worship.
As our congregation moves through this time of change and looks to the future, it does so by also looking deeply and critically at it’s past and present.
Ten years ago, I arrived at a UCUCC that had gone through some pretty major changes within the previous 18 months or so. You all had gone through a deliberative process and concluded to move from two services to one. The Family Friendliness Task Force had just concluded it’s work. You had also just begun to have cycles of regular “sermon series” that often correlated to some topic the Lecture Series was bringing to our attention.
Heidi Wyllis Blythe and I were relatively recent additions to the staff and we’d been brought with clear mandates: You all wanted worship to be a celebration of unity AND diversity.
You wanted traditionalists to feel at home and children and youth to feel welcome and engaged. You wanted musicians familiar with Bach, The Beatles, The Wailin Jennys, and West African Drumming. You wanted a service that encourages lay leadership and congregational participation; and that flowed from beginning to end without feeling like a series of acts. A service that reflected all our wants and one that centers God.
Over the last ten years, we’ve worked hard to keep this very wide perspective on the diversity of who we are in line with the one God we worship in unity. We’ve been honored to have our guest theologians and lecturers repeatedly say, “Wow, that was one of the best worship experiences we’ve ever had!” Musician-liturgists such as John Bell and Rawn Harbor both took time to name that this is a special place to worship. Most recently, our Futures Task Force consultant, Don Hill, also went out of his way to say,
“If you don’t know anything else about yourselves, know that you do worship better than just about any church I know… and I visit a LOT of churches.”
We’ve had a lot of changes and losses this past year. And we’re clearly perfectionists about worship because even with all of this praise… we’re still working, constantly listening to one another and to God for what we can do to experience and hear God’s Word and Will each week. Listening to our youth who, by in large, really appreciate the sermons but find most forms of hymnody baffling. And listening to some voices in the choir that would prefer we only do contemporary songs a few Sundays a year. Many want more silence…others say they have no idea what to do with those silences.
What I love about this is that it reflects a congregation that deeply cares about worship, that longs to connect to God and to one another. We’re a congregation that aspired to be both unified and diverse and these tensions reflect that we are! In the last ten years we have grown together. Everyone has tried something new and everyone has continued to feel that telling us how they feel is worthwhile and important. We’ll never please everyone, but that’s not the point. Our continuing to strive to connect to one another despite our differences is pleasing to God.