It's Sunday morning

The Worship Task Group continued our conversation with a discussion of Vine Street’s Sunday morning schedule. The current schedule is

  • 8:30am worship in chapel
  • 9:30am Christian education for children and adults
  • 10:45am worship in sanctuary
  • Coffee & fellowship in the columbarium/reception area before and after the 10:45am service

We recommend that we continue to follow the basic order of events, but start earlier in order to allow an earlier start time for the current 10:45am service. A new schedule could look something like this

  • 8:00am worship in chapel (45 minutes)
  • 9:00am Christian education for children and adults (45 minutes)
  • 10:00am worship in sanctuary (55-75 minutes)

We consider it crucial that we move ahead with plans for transforming the fellowship hall into a welcome area (see Journey story) where guests can be greeted, information can be shared in a variety of ways, friends can hang out, and good coffee is available from 7:45 till noon (we pay a barista and help offset the cost by charging for the coffee). The current entrance to the fellowship hall from the parking lot would become the main point of entry on Sunday morning.

We highly recommend hiring teachers for the children’s Sunday School to allow parents to participate in groups on Sunday morning. This may be a good opportunity for students in general, and students of early childhood development/education in particular.

We urge members and leadership to continue to greet guests on Sunday morning and help them find their way around our complicated campus.

We suggest roping off sections of the sanctuary, both to enhance the sense of being part of a community on the part of the congregants, and to make serving communion with trays less awkward.

We are very aware that changes in schedule are difficult to make; we suggest that we use the summer to introduce the changes and invite feedback from congregants, guests, and staff.

Worship - another conversation

The worship task group met again on April 15, and this time we discussed a proposal for an order of worship for our 10:45am Sunday worship service.

This proposal is based on maintaining the current overall structure (gathering, listening, giving thanks, and being sent), while improving flow and disrupting patterns of "too much predictability."

We recommend that the Passing of the Peace be replaced with an informal greeting at the very beginning of the service.

The Scripture reading that informs the Children's Conversation should actually take place while all children are in the sanctuary. When appropriate, a very accessible translation (other than the standard NRSV) can be used or storytelling can take the place of the reading.

We encourage the formation of a diverse group of lectors, i.e. people who lead prayers and responses, read scripture, etc. The members of this open group love participating in worship leadership, they are willing to develop their skills, and they understand the importance of practice. We believe that a web page with simple instructions, e.g. for how to introduce a scripture reading or how long to pause between two readings, would also be helpful.

We strongly recommend that Ministerial Interns participate in all aspects of worship leadership.

Diverse musical styles should be included in every worship service, and "special music" like harp, flute, guitar, violin, viola, trumpet, etc. should continue to move from "only occasionally" to "just about every Sunday." Selection of music, songs, and hymns, as well as their place in the service must always follow the overall theme or design of the service rather than random patterns.

Several members of the group commented on the section headers (The People Gather, The People Listen, etc) as being more engaging and action-oriented than the current ones.

After our conversation, the emerging proposal looked only slightly different, but the comments and recommendations are essential pieces of whatever may become final.

At our next meeting, we will discuss the current Sunday morning schedule.

At the Heart of Worship

“Worship at Vine Street is home. I come for the message. I get to sit and listen to something. It slows me down. It’s not about me. It gets me outside of my world; reminds me of the world outside of my own.”

The worship task group met on Maundy Thursday for a meal and conversation.  We talked about what is, for us personally, at the heart of worship at Vine Street, and how other Vine Streeters name that heart, that soul of worship. The text with quotation marks aren’t exact quotations, but snippets of conversation.

“For me, at the heart of worship at Vine Street is the focus on social justice, social issues. A connection with outreach in our city, not just “the world” in a global sense. I come to be inspired to action. Sometimes it’s the music, sometimes a story, etc.”

“For me, it’s about centering, learning, focusing on God. I get to cut out all the noise and get my priorities straight. I remember there’s something outside of my life that is bigger, it helps me make sense of the world, and the world is often crazy. I love communion. Worship keeps me going in the direction I need to go, and just being there is comforting.”

“For me, word and table are at the heart of worship. Centering and being called to respond outwardly. God’s kingdom through social justice. It’s very “Disciple” in the intentionality of the table and the connection to mission.”

  • Music can be powerful, and we desire more opportunities for being touched deeply by images, clips, stories, moments, etc. We want to make room to include creative and memorable elements that break the mold of predictability, room for a little playfulness within the pattern/flow of the service. 
  • We want to find ways for worship leaders to introduce elements of the service in a way similar to the invitation to the table (“this is why  we do this, this is what we are doing here” without becoming overly didactic).

At our next gathering, we will discuss how we will include the characteristics mentioned in the previous two paragraphs into the current order of our 10:45 worship.

Worship tomorrow

As a community, we have spent significant time over the last two years talking about worship at Vine Street. The conversation was part of the Journey process from day one.

In the late summer of last year, the Elders hosted a series of Worship Forums, where we looked at how Christian worship evolved over the centuries and how our Sunday morning services at Vine Street are structured.

The Elders asked me to put together a task group that would work on a proposal outlining changes we will make this year.

The group - Kathy Berhow (Chair of Worship Committee), Sarah Ligon (Deacon), Greg Rumburg (Elder), Pat Cole (who has served in every capacity imaginable), Stephen Moseley (Chair Elect of the Board), and myself - had our first meeting on Tuesday, March 16, where we clarified our goals (see below). I will continue to blog about the process, so you can follow our discussions.

These are the notes from our first meeting:

For the time being, we only look at Sunday morning; i.e., we won’t talk about Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, or Christmas.

Sunday morning currently means 8:30 chapel/9:30 christian education/10:45 sanctuary; we will discuss this arrangement and its merits.

From the Journey Story we get two key directives:

  • “clear profile” – How do we describe what makes any worship service a Vine Street service (outside of our people)?
  • “unique format” – How and why does each differ from the other?

We will

  • Refer to the Journey notes when appropriate
  • Take concrete action by June 2010
  • Make changes motivated by who we say we become according to the Story
  • Pay attention to how changes are introduced and implemented, and measure the response
  • Look at worship as the core of what we do as a church, and let it define who we are and what we do in education and other areas of our ministry
  • Make worship easy and meaningful for those for whom it has become a chore
  • Keep three dimensions in view at all times during our conversations

o    What is at the heart of worship?
o    What are the logistics?
o    How does this shape us as a community?

When we come together again, we will have thought about and answered two questions:

What is, for me, at the heart of Vine Street worship?

What is, the way I observe it, at the heart of Vine Street worship for Vine Streeters?