Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: The New UU: A Program for Welcoming Newcomers to Unitarian Universalist Congregations

Activity 4: Worship in Our Congregation

Part of The New UU

Activity time: 40 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • A typical Order of Service, or a list of the regular elements of a worship service at your congregation
  • Leader Resource 2, Elements of Worship
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Bell or gong, and a timepiece (minutes)

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy the Order of Service for all participants.
  • Review the questions in Leader Resource 2, Elements of Worship, to be sure you can answer them for your congregation.
  • Invite your parish minister to lead this segment of the workshop. If your congregation is lay-led, invite the Worship Committee chair to take part.
  • Write questions on newsprint and post:
    • What is most meaningful or inspiring to you in worship in this congregation? Why?
    • What challenges, confuses, or distances you about worship in this congregation? Why?

Description of Activity

This activity invites participants to consider how worship in your congregation reflects Unitarian Universalist thought and practice and to learn something about the uniqueness of your congregation's liturgy. Begin with words such as:

A question often asked of Unitarian Universalist is: "If you don't all believe in the same God, what are you worshiping?" The word "worship," though, comes from "worth-ship." In our congregations, worship is not about bowing down to a deity, but instead, considering what is of worth. Worship, then, is our opportunity to contemplate what is most worthy in our lives, to discover anew what we value most deeply, to recognize how to align our true values with our actions-indeed, to find what is sacred to us in our lives and to consider how we wish to relate to what we find sacred.

Distribute copies of the Order of Service for participants to refer to as they share their personal experiences of worship in this congregation. Invite participants to pair up with someone they don't know well. Read aloud the questions you have posted. Ask one person in each pair to respond to the questions, without interruption from their partner, for two minutes. After two minutes, ring the bell and invite the other partner to speak. After another two minutes, ring the bell and invite partners to discuss the similarities and differences they discovered in their responses. After five minutes, ring the bell and invite everyone to return to the circle.

Lead a large group discussion with these questions:

  • What similarities did you find with your conversation partner?
  • What differences did you find?

Invite further conversation about the elements of the worship service, using material in Leader Resource 2, Elements of Worship, as a starting point. To conclude, ask "Did any of your perceptions about the elements of worship change based on our discussion during this workshop?"

Including All Participants

Find alternate spaces that can be used if some pairs are unable to hear well in the meeting room.