Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Worship Retreat

This weekend, my worship team is going to have a worship retreat. We've been operating on my worship vision since January, but I want an actual team vision of what we want worship to be.

So, hep me? If you had a team of dedicated, highly motivated folks who wanted to create great worship experiences, what would you have them think about? Question?

Give me your ideas. Much thanks. Mwah, mwah.


Jess said...

I'd start with what they think worship actually is, and what acts, words, or rituals they think serve that definition/purpose. Then I'd go to experiences each has had that they felt were worshipful and powerful, and how to either recreate or build upon those.

Then I'd go to the practical stuff, such as looking at the church's current model and each element with the questions above, and then perhaps develop a template with set elements and but also set areas that can be tweaked each week, and talk about how much sitting, standing, singing, silence, etc makes sense, and how to incorporate children if appropriate.

I always feel worship is stronger if each element points to a common purpose, and is considered in the light of that purpose rather than, "This might be cool. . ." Don't get me started on circle "worship."

ms. kitty said...

I agree with Jess's thoughts, pretty much, but I would add that it's important to think about what worship is beyond the structure and the elements.

What is its purpose? It is the most public act of the gathered community; what does that mean? Why do we worship, what do we "worship", in terms of the old meaning of "shaping what is worthy".

To know these things about the act of corporate worship is to lay a foundation that you can return to over and over again, when the individual elements are not quite right.

Worship is more than an order of service; it is a gift you are giving the gathered community, one you are inviting them to receive, one you are receiving with them.

Like Jess says, too, find out what moves your folks to feel worshipful; their own experiences are a yardstick.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should ask. Our church is going through a visioning process for the entire church. we tried this a few years ago, but it didn't work well. I think it will this time because, quite frankly, one of the committees did this without really knowing it and it was the worship committee. With a part-time minister, we had guests or lay leaders in the pulpit more than we had our minister. We also had the challenge of having "whole worship" where children stay in for the entire service. What do we want? we asked, and the answer came back quite clearly: Consistent, quality worship.

What does that look/feel/sound like? We hammered it out--in the retreat and then each month in our meetings, giving broader definition or narrower as we went and experienced new and different things. Once we hammered out what worked for us (or was tolerable for some), we modeled it for the congregation by doing one of the first services.

What was key, I think, was us sitting together over a meal and some wine (really helped) and talking through the entire service and what elements work and what don't. The sermon itself is key, of course, but setting the mood for it was even more important. We decided to control what we could (move the welcome and announcements BEFORE the prelude, allowing the prelude music to usher people out of business and into contemplation; allowing flexibility with certain elements; and (my favorite) adding a third hymn back in.

It is a tightrope we walk as we plan our worship calendar. We were intentional about which lay leaders we would invite to lead services and we broadened our scope of what guests we would invite, as well. All of this being done, guided by the words "consistent" and "quality."

Our work was affirmed at one of the visioning meetings for the church, with people noting that one of the things that is working in church right now is worship.

Good luck. Just remember to be clear and concise about what you want to see happening each week, then be creative about the particulars. This has been some of the best collaborative work I've ever done in my life, but if we hadn't had strong leadership with a vision for positive change, it would have faltered.

Oh, one more thing (which you may have already thought of): be sure to have everyone ask themselves why they are on this particular committee. (Many of us were motivated to be on this committee because we were distressed by our weekly worship, rather than uplifted or inspired.) I think this question, coupled with "why are you a member of this congregation?," will help you all understand each others' personal vision, commitment, drive.

Again, good luck!

Anonymous said...

Wow! That was a long comment! Should have written a post. Sorry!

Ali said...

A fantastic exercise to kick off a worship workshop/retreat that we've used (I'm a worship co-chair) is:
(1) display dozens of random items (things from around the house) on a table
(2) each person chooses 5-10 items
(3) folks go off on their own to arrange items to represent their experience of the flow of a worship service at your church
(4) each person explains their selection and arrangement of objects to the rest of the group

In this way folks reflect upon (and then have to communicate) their own experience, and also hear about others' experience. It's a great intro to a discussion on how all the elements of a service work together. Is also a fantatstic tool for folks to speak their own Truth -- which is lovely to get persons without a lot of "official" worship expertise to recognize that all of our perspectives are terribly relevant.

You could ask people to bring the objects with them, but that gives them too much time to think about it and I'd fear that too many folks would show up with mirrors and stones.

My two cents.

karen said...

I'd like to add to uuMomma's comment. I'm her Worship Committee co-chair, and I noticed that she left off one thing that's just as important as all the things she wrote. We didn't call it this when we started focusing on trying to create consistent, quality worship, but Ms. Kitty articulated a concept she called UU protein that has been crucial to our work. If you haven't seen it, it's in her Nov. 5, 2007 post.

Lizard Eater said...

Ali -- can you give me an example of the household objects exercise?

Ali said...

LE - By example, do you mean examples of the kinds of objects?

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Karen and LE, for lifting up the idea of UU protein. It is so important that those who walk through our doors to worship receive something substantial about UUism, whether it's about principles or sources or theology or personal experience or whatever. The theme of worship should always be one of the building blocks of UUism. Otherwise we're not that different from the Rotary or Kiwanis.

It's important, if you have a guest speaker whose topic is a little off the mark, for the worship leader to deliberately tie the topic to UUism, even if it's a stretch. Do this for your community, don't make them make the connection or you're apt to disappoint them.

And another concept that's useful is to help people understand that every element of every worship service may not be just perfect for them, but that in every worship service we strive to offer as many ways as possible for people to connect to each other and to the theme.

I think it's also a good idea to visit other UU congregations when you can, to see how others do things and what you might incorporate or what you don't like.