Friday, August 29, 2014

A Time for All Ages, Backgrounds, Abilities...

Some of the congregations I've attended still call that period of the service near the beginning, after the call to worship and first hymn, while the younger congregants are still in the sanctuary "Children's time" or even "Children's Story."

I've been a proponent of calling that period "Time for All Ages" but the other day I was thinking. Why do we set that time out separately like that? Shouldn't more of the worship experience with our religious community be an experience that works for all ages?

And then I suddenly realized that the nearly sacrosanct tradition of the 20 minute spoken, uninterrupted, sermon, is probably barely a "time for all adults." It doesn't work for people of all spiritual types or all learning or communication styles. It doesn't work for people of all backgrounds or all abilities.

So I have two questions:
Do we WANT our service to be a time for all? And if not, who are we OK excluding? (and for how long?)

I think we do NOT want every element of a worship experience to work for every person there, simply because that would be impossible, or create communities of worship that were extremely small.

So, we need to be OK with some elements of the service not speaking to everyone there. But for how long is it OK to invite them to graciously wait while other's needs are being met? A full third of the hour, every week? That feels like too much.

I imagine each community will find a different set of proportions that they experience as OK. I do hope that each and every community will spend some prayerful time discerning what works for them, and revisit these questions frequently, playfully, and with commitment.

Meanwhile... I'm going to play with the options of switching the 20 minute sermon into a "double-homily" pattern, or perhaps, inviting the congregation into song, or verbal response, two or three times within the sermon, or, perhaps, another pattern altogether.
I'm going to try to remember ALL the people I'd like be in the community while I imagine a service.
And I'm going to try to make the whole service a time for everyone who shows up.

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