Reflections 10/7/12

A Culture of Worship

In September, I gave a sermon about creating a culture for worship. In that sermon, I said, "Remember, we are a covenantal religion. We are about promises and relationships and agreements rather than beliefs and creeds and rules. We are about being responsible for and accountable to ourselves, one another, our congregation, and our larger Unitarian Universalist tradition.

So, we do not need rules and regulations for worship so much as we need to discern how to weave this mutual accountability and responsibility into a culture of worship....I believe the first essential practice for worship is hospitality. Hospitality is more than being welcoming and saying how glad we are that you are joining us today. It is making our service as accessible as possible for all who need or want to share in our Unitarian Universalist worship. I believe this is how we give shape in worship to our first principle of affirming and honoring the inherent worth and dignity of every person, of acknowledging that every person is a beloved child of the spirit of life, God or the universe, and that somehow all of us in all of our various shapes, forms and ways of being in the world, are a reflection of the divine or the sacred.

The second practice: paying attention to the sacred nature of this time and space. This is part of hospitality for sure, but it goes a little deeper. What do I mean by paying attention? Being engaged and aware of what is happening in worship or, if it is not your thing, intentionally giving space for those who need it. Remembering that we are all responsible for creating and nurturing this sacred time and space for each other, as well as for what we name as sacred and holy."

The Worship Committee and I then held listening circles after the morning service and during the evening service to help us listen to each other about what we might need to promise each other in worship. The circles were small, but those who participated said some beautiful, beautiful things. I began by asking, "Why do we worship?" Responses included, "Gratitude and to give back," "Opening myself to a greater self-understanding," "To increase awareness of the common good and to live that way," "A powerful place to be together alone,", "a reminder that we swim in mystery, something we can easily forget." Comments about what we need to offer one another to create a culture for worship included, "To be cognizant and courteous of others," "to respect each other's spiritual practices," "to create room for respectful demonstrations of 'the Spirit' or spiritual emotions," and "sharing and honoring each other's stories."

These are not easy things to offer each other, as simple and nice as they are. We may have different ideas of what "cognizant and courteous" or "respectful demonstrations" look like. We may have different levels of comfort in sharing and listening to one another's stories. And only a few people attended these listening circles. So, I hope that this conversation will be ongoing. In the meantime, may we help each other make our worship together accessible, meaningful, hospitable, and sacred.

In faith,

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824