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Worship That Works

Theory and Practice for Unitarian Universalists

Wayne Arnason and Kathleen Rolenz

Worship That Works is a practical guide for the renewal of Unitarian Universalist engagement with worship.

Wayne Arnason and Kathleen Rolenz, co-ministers at West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church near Cleveland, OH, embarked on an eighteen-month sabbatical road trip in search of the cutting edge of innovation in worship practices. They attended services and interviewed worship leaders at thirty congregations of diverse sizes and traditions. This book—the result of their research—is a challenge to all Unitarian Universalists who care about the services in which they participate. Full of insight and vision, Worship That Works provides practical, specific advice to improve the key elements of the service and increase the spiritual resonance of worship through symbols, music, cultural sensitivity, inclusion, and more.

Arnason and Rolenz show how trends and innovations in other religious traditions can translate to a Unitarian Universalist context. Included are detailed descriptions of four transformative worship services with commentary—at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, Cleveland, OH; Saint Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco, CA (Episcopal); First United Methodist, Fort Worth, TX, and All Souls Church, Washington D.C. (Unitarian).

Wayne Arnason is a former president of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association and served on the boards of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Starr King School for the Ministry and the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship. He is the co-author of We Would Be One, a history of Unitarian Universalist youth movements.

Kathleen Rolenz is the vice president of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship and is the editor of their publication Good News as well as the Skinner House book Christian Voices in Unitarian Universalism.

Praise for Worship That Works

"On these pages liberal worship is revealed as central, formative, exemplary, beautiful and expressive of our every desire for justice and right relation. The authors root their observations in a high vision, but for the benefit of all, move from vision to practice. This book might prove to be a turning point in how Unitarian Universalists understand and practice worship."
—Mark Belletini, senior minister, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, OH

"Worship That Works: Theory and Practice for Unitarian Universalists is a creative resource for worship committees, lay leaders and professional religious leaders from Skinner House Books. Authors Wayne Arnason and Kathleen Rolenz, co-ministers of the West Shore UU (Unitarian Universalist) Church near Cleveland, OH, challenge and invite UU worship leaders to deepen the experience and intentionality of worship by delving into our own faith tradition and exploring those of others. They encourage worship leaders to engage all of our senses—affirming the importance of carefully integrating music into the service as well as the power of silence in creating a space for grace. They also offer useful guidelines for designing intergenerational worship and clearly distill the current wisdom on incorporating word, music, and ritual from diverse cultures in a respectful and non-oppressive manner. This book clearly articulates the do's and don'ts for designing transformative worship experiences."
—Elizabeth Norton, Music Director, First Parish in Concord, MA

"Worship That Works is truly a treasure! Regardless of a worship service's perspective—Humanist, Christian, Buddhist or Pagan—the authors skillfully and sensitively offer pointers to guide worship leaders through the minefield of the diverse spiritual and intellectual needs of the congregation. Their reverence for worship, in its many manifestations, is certain to evoke the reader's enthusiasm and inspire meaningful worship. The book's user-friendly format makes it a convenient reference source that is certain to be used over and over.”
—Christie Anderson, worship associate, Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, OH

For more information contact skinnerhouse @

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 30, 2010.

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