Lay-Clergy Collaborations for Worship
The image of the lone minister facing a congregation, standing slightly elevated and apart, is deeply rooted in our cultural iconography—in fact, it's part of the lived experience in many faith communities: the ordained clergy person leads nearly every aspect of a worship service.
Happily, more Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations are seeking new ways to practice shared ministry by creating collaborations between clergy and laity. By viewing worship as a shared project, they're upholding the original understanding of the word liturgy, which literally means "the work of the people."
Some of these are collaborations are called Worship Associates Programs, or Worship Weavers' Guilds. Some still retain the time honored title of "deacons." As you might expect, the names aren't the only differences among these experiments. However, these programs share an effort to bring the clergy and the laity together in a creative collaboration in the development and facilitation of the weekly worship experience.
Several years ago InterConnections published an article about the Worship Associates phenomenon that remains a useful introduction. At the end of that article there is a reference to a manual written by Rick Koyle, Building a Worship Associates Program (PDF, 63 pages). That book—in its 30th printing!—is now available for you to download for free right here on the the WorshipWeb.
In The Shared Pulpit: A Sermon Seminar for Lay People, Erika Hewitt offers a small-group program to develop sermon-writing experience among lay people. This 8-session seminar includes a leader's guide, readings, sample sermons, and exercises to help first-time preachers polish their craft.
Laura Horton-Ludwig has also developed a teaching outline (PDF) for a 4-session lay preaching class based on Jane Rzepka & Ken Sawyer's Thematic Preaching.
To find out more about how Worship Associates are formed in our congregations, you might explore these examples of lay-clergy collaboration:
- First Unitarian Church of Oakland (CA)
- Unity Church-Unitarian, St.Paul (MN)
- Williamsburg UUs (VA)
- West Shore UU Church (OH)
- First Unitarian Church of San José (CA)
The programs above have been structured in different ways, but are willing to share their wisdom with you if you have questions. Thanks to them, and to you, for creating a web of teaching congregations, each supporting the evolution of this development of our faith tradition.