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Lay-Clergy Collaborations for Worship

The image of the lone minister facing a congregation, standing slightly elevated and apart, is deeply rooted in our cultural iconography. And in many faith communities it is part of the weekly lived experience. The ordained clergy person says or does nearly everything that happens on a Sunday morning except, perhaps, for playing the piano and singing the hymns.

Yet many Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations have begun experimenting with ways of returning to the original understanding of the word liturgy, which literally means, "the work of the people." These congregations have developed collaborations between clergy and laity. Some of these are called Worship Associates Programs, or Worship Weavers' Guilds. Some still retain the time honored title of "deacons." And, as you might expect, the names aren't the only differences among these experiments. Yet what all of these programs have in common is an effort to bring the clergy and the laity together in a creative collaboration in the development and facilitation of the weekly worship experience.

Several years ago InterConnections published an article about the Worship Associates phenomenon that remains a useful introduction. At the end of that article there is a reference to a manual written by the Rev. Rick Koyle titled, Building a Worship Associates Program (PDF, 63 pages). That book—in its 30th printing!—is now available for you to download for free right here on the the WorshipWeb.

Erika Hewitt has written The Shared Pulpit: A Sermon Seminar for Lay People, a workshop guide to develop preaching experience among lay people. This 8-session seminar includes a leader's guide, readings, sample sermons, and exercises to help first-time preachers polish their craft.

The Rev. Laura Horton-Ludwig has also developed a teaching outline (PDF) for a 4-session lay preaching class based on Jane Rzepka & Ken Sawyer's Thematic Preaching.

To find out more about how these programs look in actual congregations, here are links to some of the many congregations that have information on their websites about their efforts in lay-clergy collaborations:

Take some time to peruse their sites. See the different ways these programs have been envisioned. Contact the congregations whose programs particularly appeal to you and ask questions. In this way we can create a web of teaching congregations, each supporting the evolution of this development of our faith tradition.

For more information contact worshipweb @

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

Last updated on Tuesday, December 2, 2014.

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