“What’s Up with Changes in Worship at Westside”
I’ve heard there’s some distress about all the changes in Sunday worship in the last years. I wanted to address it here and my reasons why we are in an experimental year of worship planning and performance.
First, it’s natural to want stability in a liminal season when things are chaotic. Sunday services are the anchor for a religious community like this one. There are many who find great meaning and comfort in traditional, stable and meaningful Sunday services. Any given Sunday we walk in the door and pretty much expect what we will experience.
Second, though, there’s also a group of people in congregations (especially during a generational change) who want something new and different. I think this is especially true right now with the focus on multiculturalism in liberal religious circles (UU, UCC, Methodist, Jewish, etc).
Multiculturalism is a tricky word just like the terms we find tossed around these days (‘white supremacy’ is another one). That said, we do live in a multicultural society and especially on the West Coast. It’s natural, then, to experience an eagerness for more multicultural models of Sunday services.
I made a decision last spring to dissolve the old Worship Council and start over. It was led most excellently for many years by (retired) chaplain Mark Newton and then Lisa Reitzes last year. Now, the staff has primary responsibility to get services together. Bert, Cynthia and I meet weekly to plan the next two Sundays and special services like Christmas Eve. Many of you have met the new service leaders who will work with me on services. Chris Darnell, Ali Yeates, Mark MacKay, and Jennifer Disotell will lead services with me and for guest speakers. Michael Matz and the praise team will present several services as well as Shelby Greiner and others doing Taize themed services.
There was much discussion about Praise services from the American Southern Protestant tradition. Last year, we had to address whether they continue or not this year. I know that many people liked them. Others didn’t. The national and UU conversations about racial justice became part of that conversation.
I made the decision to try a different approach for this year. Second Sundays would have a special type of creative service oftentimes modeled on the worship work of Marcia McFee (http://marciamcfee.com/) and other times Taize services, praise services and other types. The other 40 services during the year would be mostly traditional types.
Why did I do this? Firstly, I think it’s likely the next minister will bring their own models and styles of worship with them. They will want to partner with Westside in services that enrich the soul, inspire the weary, and help heal the world. I believe it’s important you experience some of each this year so you’ll know the different models of worship now evolving in our congregations.
Secondly, multiculturalism is a given in Seattle but sometimes more in theory than in practice. Sunday services give us an opportunity to find comfort and sanctuary but also to explore and experience new ways of worship.
The next two Sundays are examples of that change. This coming Sunday, J Mase III will be here to speak and perform. There’ll be a workshop after the service. He/they will talk about moving beyond passive faith. Here’s his/their website: https://jmaseiii.com/ – the service promises to be evocative and timely.
On November 11 we will honor Veterans Day and the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day marking the end of “the war to end all wars” World War I. Bert, Cynthia and I plan a service to invite us all to consider this question “what would a monument to peace look like?” Is it in our heads? Is it a living thing? Is a peace monument a slogan or a quote? It’s a special service Sunday so there will be some additional elements to the service but the core will be those questions as well as honoring the veterans we have known and been.
You’re always welcome to chat with me about services because they are an anchor for Westside’s identity and very soul.