Worship For All Ages!
Worship For All Ages!

The sixteenth episode in the "A Religion for Our Time" series explains how Reverend Erika Hewitt and her worship leaders create the magic of story-based intergenerational worship at the Live Oak UU Congregation in Goleta, California, attendance goes up!  Based on the concepts illustrated in Hewitt's book, Story, Song & Worship (published by Skinner House), this is intergenerational worship that engages kids and adults alike.

Download Episode Sixteen (MP4) (right-click to save the file).


[MUSIC PLAYING] REV. PETER MORALES: I know the thought of an intergenerational worship service can strike fear in the hearts of some UUs. They worry about kids getting fidgety and stressing out their parents. Or that the service will be so geared to the kids that it doesn't really speak to the adults. But it doesn't have to be that way. At Live Oak UU in Goleta, California, the congregation looks forward to multi-generational worship.

ANNIE PARRY: The people in our congregation love the stories, and whenever there's a play, people get excited. The attendance is always up.

SPEAKER 1: Oh, oh, he is, he's going to force us off our land!

Immediately, the smart, brave, little mouse began to think of what she could do.



The story at the center of today's worship service for all ages is a story I've always loved. It is a folk tale about a mouse. And one of the best things about this story is that it has a great lesson, but it also invites a lot of participation. So whether it's asking people to have little cloud puppets and balls to represent the sun. Things like the windmills that our volunteers made. It lets people sort of not just sit and hear the story but know that they have a part in it.

SPEAKER 2: Who is the sun talking about? If you have an idea, hold up your clue.

JIM PEARSON: I think these services are extremely important for two reasons that have everything to do with our mission. they're intergenerational. And we're very much about it being an intergenerational congregation. Everyone has a part. But the other thing is anybody who goes there is not going to watch a service, they're going to be in worship. And being in worship might sometimes mean being silly and putting on a costume and having fun on behalf of our children and the children in all of us.

JAN ROSS: I've heard several adults say they've just really enjoyed those services and I think it's because Reverend Erika includes a theme to it that has relevance to both our children and adults.

REV. ERIKA HEWITT: Many of you are, like Mirin the Mouse, in search of something greater than yourself. All of you, by virtue of our being human, are on a journey to find meaning and to find truth.

NARRATOR: So how does it work? At Live Oak, story based worship follows the structure that Reverend Hewitt presents in her book, Story, Song and Spirit. Players act out the story, weaving it throughout the service with its other more traditional elements. This usually means one rehearsal the week before the service.

REV. ERIKA HEWITT: And over the course of the rehearsal this magic emerges. So we find the jokes and we trade ideas about what will be most vivid, or what would be most fun, or what would be most humorous. And near the end of the rehearsal, then we start talking about props and costumes.

ANNIE PARRY: My kids are away at school. So this gives me a chance to indulge in my creative side. And you know give me a pair of scissors and some cotton balls and this is a cloud with a silver lining.

[This Little Light of Mine]

NARRATOR: Music is another important consideration.

REV. ERIKA HEWITT: When I do worship service for all ages, I try to choose music that is not the kind of music that you have to read along in the hymnal to be able to sing. The point is if children is there, and they might not read, to sing songs that have more repetitive lines or songs that the congregation might know by heart.

[Go Now in Peace]

One of the balances I try to strike in these worship services is room for people to make mistakes because it won't be perfect, and room for silliness and playfulness. And to include all that and yet still make sure that the worship service feels like worship. That there are moments of reverence, there are moments of pausing to lift up the big picture.

Intergenerational worship works at my congregation. It works at Live Oak. Because the congregation has decided that children need to be known, and seen, and welcomed and included. So it works for us, because that's who we want to be at the congregation. That's what we to welcome and create together. That's who we want to be.

Visit the Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Goleta, CA website for more information.

For more information contact worshipweb@uua.org.

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