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Components of Worship

from the UUA Chrysalis Spirituality Development Conferences for youth


This can be done in many ways–e.g. asking people to gather outside the worship space and proceed in holding hands and singing or silently, allowing people to just filter into the room while music is playing and ask them to center themselves. The goal of this component of worship is to create a sacred space and to help participants find a worshipful mood.


It is always important to welcome those participating in the worship, especially if there are some who have never attended before, but even if there are not, remind all that this is their community and that we are happy to see them. A welcome might include brief information about the congregation or the group hosting the worship.


This is usually done by lighting a chalice and saying a few words. Lighting a chalice, the symbol of our Unitarian Universalist faith, marks the opening of the time we have chosen to spend with one another and reminds us that the space and the time are sacred. The words can be simple, like “We light this chalice for love” or can be a reading that has to do with the worship theme. The opening often sets the tone or theme for the worship.

Songs and Hymns

Hymn is simply a word for a religious song or a song of praise. Songs are generally used to unite the group in a shared activity and raise or calm the energy level of the community. They are a way to make the worship participatory, to make the worship be a creation of the group. There are many short chants and songs that are easily taught and easily sung without having to look at a book or a sheet of paper. Don’t hesitate to repeat. Singing for too short a time will fail to bring about the desired effect.


Readings are used to give participants a time to reflect and center themselves. Readings can be poetry, guided meditations, and lyrics of songs simply spoken, taken from any book for children or adults, or written by anyone planning worship. Readings should relate to the theme of the worship.


Giving might include offertory, announcements, milestones. By this we participate in the life of the religious community—by the gifts of our physical substance, and by our willing presence.  Offerings may be financial, material, volunteer, or of a spiritual nature like collecting written gifts of skills and hopes that participants are willing to share and contribute to the community.


Receiving can be readings, sermon, dance, poetry, visual art.  This inspires, informs, deepens, declares the possibilities, encourages, comforts, disturbs.  This part may include discussion, talk about.  Never a “talk back,” in the sense of argumentation disputation.  There are more appropriate forums for these outside of worship.


Most services have a centerpiece component. In most congregations on Sunday morning, it is the sermon. The centerpiece can also be a sharing or a check-in, a dance or movement activity in which all can participate, a time to write, to breathe, to laugh, or a combination of these. Some examples of centerpieces are passing around the chalice and sharing a moment of awe from your past week, or passing around a bowl of water and having participants dip their hands in the water, say what they are washing off (something bad in their life, like stress) and say what they are taking in (something good, like warmth). It can also be something like having two concentric circles rotate around each other so each member of the inner circle can hold hands and make eye contact with each member of the outside circle.

If you are having participants share, consider the size of the group. Small-medium sized groups can go around the circle and give everyone a chance to share (or pass.) Medium-large groups can do a “popcorn” sharing where people share when they want to, if they want to. In large groups, participants can turn to the person next to them and share with a partner, so that everyone gets a chance to share in depth without taking too much time.


The closing of the worship brings everything together, while officially marking the end of the worship. Closings are usually short, and they can be short readings (or writings), a few words like “This worship is the end to our weekend here together, but may we hold its spirit in our hearts forever.” Or even fewer words like “Blessed be.” Closing words can be followed by a closing song or postlude.

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Last updated on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.

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