Tapestry of Faith: Spirit in Practice : An Adult Program for Developing A Regular Practice of the Spirit
Main Content

Activity 3: Worship As Spiritual Practice

Activity time: 35 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Determine whether participants will be able to sit at tables for writing and drawing. If not, provide clipboards, books, or other hard surfaces they can use to support their papers as they write or draw.

Description of Activity

Introduce a time of quiet reflection with these words, written by the UUA's Commission on Common Worship:

Worship is a human activity. Though it is often defined as reverence given to a divine being or power, worship need not have supernatural implications. The origin of the word "worship" is in the Old English weorthscippen, meaning to ascribe worth to something, to shape things of worth. We worship, then, whenever we ascribe worth to some value, idea, object, person, experience, attitude, or activity-or whenever we give form or shape to that which we have already found to be of worth.

A worship experience can occur at any time: while one is alone or part of a group. Whenever something beautiful is perceived; whenever there is a deep sense of connectedness with other persons, with the natural world, or with the transcendent (however you might define it); whenever one gains insight or a new sense of wholeness; whenever one perceives an ethical challenge; whenever life is deliberately focused or ordered-in all these situations one can be said to be worshipping.

Explain that today's workshop focuses on worship done in community and its role in spiritual growth. Invite participants into a time of silent reflection with these or similar words:

In the minutes of silence that follow, I invite you to reflect on a meaningful experience of worship in community. Several experiences might come to mind at first. Choose one and reflect on it. What made it meaningful? How is that meaning related to your spirituality?

Allow two or three minutes for quiet reflection, then ring the bell.

Invite participants to rise in silence and gather materials for reflecting on this experience by writing or drawing.

Allow three to five minutes for writing or drawing, then ring the bell.

Invite participants to find a partner, preferably someone with whom they have not spent time before. Instruct the pairs to take turns sharing about their significant experiences of communal worship. Explain that each person will have three minutes to speak without interruption while the other listens attentively. A bell will ring when it is time to switch speaker and listener. Emphasize that these are moments of precious sharing and confiding, during which we offer one another our mutual trust and regard.

Keep time and ring the bell after three minutes. Ask participants to pause and let there be a moment of silence between them. Then invite them to switch roles. Keep time and ring the bell after another three minutes.

Bring the whole group back together for discussion with these questions:

  • Was it easy or hard for you to recall meaningful experiences of communal worship? (To draw out participant responses, ask follow-up questions such as "What was hard about it?")
  • What did it feel like to recall these powerful moments?
  • How do you think the presence of a community affected your meaningful experience in worship?
  • What do you appreciate most about worshipping with a community?
  • What can you do to help yourself experience worship more deeply? (Encourage participants to focus on what they themselves can do, rather than on what the congregation or minister could do to improve worship experiences.)

Distribute Handout 1: Tips for Making Communal Worship a Part of Your Spiritual Regimen. Review the handout if you have time, or encourage participants to read it at home. Conclude by encouraging participants to bring their whole selves to worship, allowing themselves to be fully present to the words, music, arts, and community.

Including All Participants

You may wish to pass a cordless microphone during the large-group discussion so that participants can hear one another better.

If you notice participants struggling to hear one another in their pairs, allow some pairs to leave the room and find a quieter space. If two participants require American Sign Language interpretation and you have only one interpreter, pair up those participants. If more than two participants need ASL interpretation, find a second interpreter to help.