Prepared for UUA.org by Doug Muder
I'm already falling way behind, both in doing things and
(even more) in writing about them. I have no hope of catching up systematically,
so I'll take a last-things-first strategy and tell you about the Church of the Larger
Fellowship (CLF) worship service
Here's what I learned this afternoon: If you have a talented congregation, a
great minister, and you do only one worship service a year, you can do it
really, really well. Every piece of the CLF service sparkled.
For those of you who aren't already familiar with it, CLF is the Unitarian
Universalist church you join if there is no UU church where you live. It uses
mail, email, the Web, and anything else it can think of to keep geographically
isolated UUs from feeling spiritually isolated. They have one big worship
service at GA every year, followed by their annual business meeting.
I went to the service on a whim. I've never belonged to CLF and haven't been
to one of their GA services before. Sometime in the distant past I heard a
sermon by their minister, the Rev. Jane Rzepka. She's a very good speaker, and
she was sharing the pulpit with the Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, the minister of
the Fourth Universalist Society in
New York. I hadn't seen her
before, but I've read some of her stuff and been very impressed.
Both of them lived up to their reputations as two of the best preachers in
the denomination. The service grew out of an informal theology conversation they
had at GA last year. Rzepka is a humanist and McNatt a theist, but their two
sermons had no resemblance to a theist/humanist debate about the existence of
God or any other topic of disagreement. Instead, each celebrated UU theological
diversity and inclusiveness from her own perspective.
As the "host" minister, Rzepka went first. I will not try to summarize her
sermon, which should be available as streaming video soon. When she was done, I
felt a little sorry for McNatt, since Rzepka had preached a sermon her guest
surely couldn't match. And then McNatt topped her, and spontaneous cries of
"Yeah!" and "Amen!" erupted from all over the room. Don't take my word—go watch
The streaming video, though, can't possibly do justice to the music. The
hymns were all very singable and the congregation sang with more gusto than I'm
used to hearing from UU's. Some hymns were traditional, but the closing hymn,
"The Fire of Commitment" by Mary Katherine Morn and the Rev. Jason Shelton, had
a Broadway sound reminiscent of Godspell.
Shelton was also involved in the musical highlight of the service: The choir
sang two selections from Sources, a brand new cantata whose creation
was sponsored by CLF. Described in the program as "a major work for chorus,
piano, string orchestra, and percussion, which explores and celebrates the
theological diversity at the heart of our religious identity," Sources
has a piece corresponding to each of the six sources of Unitarian
Universalism. The selections we heard celebrated the Humanist fifth source and
the Judeo-Christian fourth source. Shelton composed the music, and the words
were written by the Rev. Kendyl Gibbons.
The program promises that Sources will be performed in its entirety
at the 2007 GA in Portland. I think I'll be there.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.
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