The Alchemy of Worship

Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd recently joined Rev. Erika Hewitt for a spirited conversation about how our Unitarian Universalist theology informs the the art and craft of worship (spoiler: it's all about relationship, not conveying information).

Portions of this video conversation will be included in a new, multi-session online worship course, Worship for Transformation, available in the fall of 2023 as part of UU Institute. The course is designed and produced by Rev. Erika Hewitt, the UUA's Minister of Worship Arts, featuring the wisdom and insights of many UU professional religious leaders. To receive notification when the course is published, please subscribe to WorshipWeb's newsletter.

Here are some benchmarks for this video conversation:

  • 2:40 — Nancy describes the shift from worship as a synthesizing of information to a forum for meaning-making, and pushing back at alienation
  • 6:05 — As an example, Nancy and Erika use an unplanned hypothetical worship topic to explore taking "information" and relating to it meaningfully
  • 9:55 — Nancy explains what it means to be in relationship with "The Text" and what it means to exegete a Text
  • 13:10 — Erika describes one use of technology & social media as Text
  • 16:45 — Nancy and Erika get (even more) excited about the implications of divorcing UU worship from the centrality of The Word, and specifically centrality of the sermon
  • 22:25 — Erika waxes poetic (and so does Nancy) about the power of Story
  • 25:25 — Nancy reveals that her inspiration for worship topic is discovering "what shimmers"
  • 31:00 — A bold UU theological claim meets Lord Byron
  • 35:00 — Nancy and Erika examine worship leaders' responsibility and accountability, including examples of what it means to set aside defensiveness while practicing self-differentiation
  • 45:30 — Remembering that responsible worship leaders don't center their own egos or emotional needs
  • 50:00 — Why it's pointless to use the phrases "a good sermon" or "people liked it"
  • 51:00 — What happens when you're leading worship and feel it tanking? Erika and Nancy discuss strategies... and Nancy drops the "T-bomb"
  • 55:40 — Mistakes that new preachers make when writing sermons
  • 58:00 — Erika gets all woo-woo about "vibrations"
  • 1:00:00 — Viewers understand the origin of this page's title.