From the Rector – Column 12

December 5, 2019

Dear Friends,

On Sunday, November 24 we had our final adult forum of the fall worship discussion. The purpose of this forum was to check in about the Worship Space Experiments, process our experiences, and talk about what we learned. 

First, we recalled all the experiments we had tried. Then we remembered what we learned at our parish weekend workshop with the Rev. Isaac Everett about the difference between preference and effects. When we just talk about preference, it’s hard to have a further conversation (I like chocolate ice cream, you like vanilla – end of conversation.) But when instead we talk about the effects, we can dig in to further conversation and learning. To identify effects, we ask “what happened when we did that”? The formula Isaac taught us was, “When we do X, the result is Y”. 

We had identified our “Y”s, which is to say our shared values and goals for worship, at the Adult Forum we had back in September. At that forum, we shared stories about worship in our own lives, brainstormed a long list of shared values, then invited everyone to “dot vote” for three of the values they felt were most important to Redeemer. The results of that dot voting led to identifying these values (in order of what got the most votes):

  • Inclusion/Welcome: Including children, allowing people to bring authentic selves, an invitation to all to participate in being creators of worship
  • Music: Emotionally connecting through music, praying twice, being able to hear 
  • Space for Community: Experiencing Holy Spirit in community, space supports a sense of community, intimacy, and liveliness, sense of togetherness
  • Prayer: A sense of holiness, sacred space, serenity, silence, presence of God through symbols
  • Traditional Plus: Familiarity and comfort, sense of safety, grounded in but not bound by ritual and tradition
  • Beauty: Physical beauty of the sanctuary

In last week’s forum, we then broke into small groups to discuss which X’s that we experimented with led to the Y’s that we had identified as our goals. 

Back in the larger group, each small group reported out, which led to a general discussion. Here’s what the people shared from their small groups and in the general discussion. Each statement represents a small group discussion or one person’s opinion, not necessarily a consensus of the entire large group: 

  • When we had horseshoe, it felt inclusive and welcoming
  • When we had a circle, it did not feel inclusive and welcoming.
  • Pews feel more comfortable and inclusive than chairs.
  • We noticed that we find security and comfort in traditional arrangement with clearly defined altar area. Especially as contrasted with in-the-round.
  • We feel more connected to the community when we can see what’s going on.
  • Having a more flexible worship space helps us use it for different purposes than just worship
  • Chairs are not comfortable, especially when trying to squeeze in an extra person, etc.
  • Changing too often hinders the sense of a prayerful, meditative experience.
  • Having the clergy closer made it easier to pay attention and felt more connected.
  • Clergy up one step is easier to see. 
  • We like seeing the choir. 
  • Most of the experiences succeeded in reaching on Y, but some of the Ys are in conflict with each other. For example, the choir sounds better in the balcony, but we feel disconnected from them when they are there. 
  • We liked semicircle the best. 
  • We couldn’t agree on screens.
  • Is there a way we could get the benefits of screens without the downsides? 
  • We observed that things can be positive and negative at the same time. For example, the altar in the middle made us feel together but also was confusing. 
  • It’s too crowded in Great Hall – a nice sense of togetherness, but tricky for those who come late or for newcomers. 
  • Sense of sacredness of space is important, and we noticed that being in the Great Hall instead of the Sanctuary. Symbols of faith, banners, etc. make it feel like this is a holy space. Bulletin boards, coffee pots, etc. make it feel less holy. 
  • We need to always have a “back row” that latecomers can slip into. Soft space needs to be easy to find and easy to get to. 
  • Another vote for horseshoe over circle. Horseshoe is intimate, but not as distracting as circle. Circle felt intimate, nice to see faces around the altar. Need defined front of the church to feel like it’s a traditional, holy space. 
  • The choir really likes being part of the congregation, not isolated. 
  • Upstairs, we have lots of visual representations of power – Greek columns, raised pulpit, etc. Architecture says something about power, not just sacredness. 
  • Illustrations during sermon are great, but also distract from the words. It’s hard for me to listen to what the speaker is saying when there is an image on the screen. 

Lastly, we talked about the next steps in this process. 

  • The WSRD Team will take today’s discussion and all your feedback (notecards) on the experiments and create a report to the vestry.
  • The report will include an initial assessment of what the “must-haves” and “nice to haves” might be in a renovated worship space. 
  • We will share this assessment with the whole parish, hopefully at the Annual Meeting in January, to get your feedback before proceeding. 
  • In coordination with the Organ Committee and Vestry, the WSRD Team is working on a timeline of how this process might move forward over the coming months. 
  • A timeline will be shared with the parish at Annual Meeting in January. 

Thank you for all your participation and engagement in these Worship Space Experiments!