I wonder: what will worship look like in the future? WRITTEN BY – Rev. Debbie McMillan

Written by Unity United Church on. Posted in News

question headMaybe you haven’t noticed. But over the past six years, new things in worship usually begin in January or September. It’s okay if you haven’t. Some of those changes have been subtle.
But this change I’m writing about isn’t subtle at all. For the past few weeks, I have been experimenting with the message: its delivery and the method of preparation behind it.If you’ve been worshipping with us, you know what I’m talking about: I’ve been focusing my attention on the symbolic materials rather than on your faces.
I’m telling stories, rather than doing something that resembles “traditional preaching”. And I have a time of “wondering”. (Ok, my preaching wasn’t exactly traditional to begin with, but some do experience it that way, even though I preach without notes and away from the pulpit),
In any case…..(Please click “>>” to see the rest of the message)
Some had no clue what I was doing. Some  just continue “to rest their eyes” through the message as they do anyway. (And that’s ok. For some, that’s the first sleep you’ve had in a day or so.) There is intentional method to my seeming madness. And, frankly, I’ve put a lot of prayer, preparation and discernment into it. (And I continue to do so.) Now some at who worked with Godly Play recognized what I was doing right away–and told me so on the first Sunday I tried this. They saw their methods had inspired me.
As we have been working on this section of the Narrative Lectionary, we have been “Living”. The tent in our sanctuary represents our place of living. All of us “live” in different places, and I’m not just talking about our homes.
Some of us live in our hearts and speak from them…….
Some of us live in our heads and find it difficult to speak to others because of it…..
Some of us live in our gut and we speak before we can think…..
I wonder where you live?
In any case, symbols and props have been placed on the communion table under the tent–each item is connected to the story being shared. You are welcome to check out the materials after the service. And if you missed a week, you will see the symbols beautifully arranged in the window ledges thanks to our decorating team.
But it’s way more than decorating the sanctuary and “playing with stuff.”
In the Godly Play environment, I’ve noticed that the story is the focus. Attention is directed on the materials–not the story teller. Interactions happen between the listener and the story, not the story teller and the listener. People -whether they are 2, 22, 72 or 102- are invited to focus, pay attention and have their own responses to what they see and hear. The success of this program comes from its ability to foster deep thinking–rather than having someone tell participants what to say, think and feel. In case you didn’t know, the United Church of Canada has invested heavily in this program across the country. In fact, the Canadian representative for Godly Play is a United Church person named Amy who works at our national offices. Unity United Church is even considered to be a training site because of what we have in human and material resources connected to Godly Play.
I have noticed that the first generation of Godly Play children are growing up. And sometimes the ones who are really grown help downstairs in the Godly Play environment. And sometimes they sit upstairs in the sanctuary. And what we do upstairs looks different from what they do downstairs. Now, this may surprise you, but some of those kids aren’t comfortable with participating in worship in ways we adults may expect them to. Sometimes, when we ask for help we’re met with a “no” or “can I do this instead?”
So all of this has had me thinking and praying very deeply. Thinking deeply with a sense of awe is called “wondering”. In Godly Play, there is wondering. Lots of wondering. Now, the same questions are asked but other questions are too. And since I’m inspired by Godly Play and not doing and actual Godly Play” story, I change my questions from week to week. And in the spirit of those wonder questions:
I wonder: how will United Churches offer worship to the generation of children who have been raised on Godly Play?
I wonder: what will have to change in the future of worship so that worship is relevant to those growing children?
I wonder: how do we hang on to traditions but make room for change?
I wonder: how do we live in the present and look to the future?
You are invited to wonder along.
(The Rev.) Debbie McMillan   www.unityunitedchurch.ca
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