Last Tuesday and Wednesday I attended a workshop on worship and preaching that was held in a movie theater in Maumee…that theater is the home of a new church start in the Toledo area, which is co-sponsored by the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church. They call themselves The Village Church; their mission is to reach people who have felt excluded or unwelcome in other churches. The workshop was led by the church’s pastor and by a preaching professor from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
The focus was how to create worship and preaching which is meaningful to all generations: those who have been in church for decades as well as those who are new to the church. For example, Karyn says that in every congregation there are “Googlers” (people of the screen) and “Gutenbergers” (people of the book — so every church has to communicate everything on paper and electronically, multiple formats, multiple ways.
One of the most moving moments was when a parishioner from the Village church came into the session and told her story. Her name is Rock, and before she found the Village she had been a 30-year addict. She said she began drinking when she was 6, selling drugs when she was 9. Now she helps set up and take down chairs every Sunday morning for worship, she’s married, sober, and, as she says, “My life is great now…I know that God loves me and forgives me.” She was wearing a t-shirt which the church sells; it said, “No Perfect People Allowed.”
I got home Wednesday night, and Friday noon left for London, Ontario. Doug and I were accompanied on this trip by Phil and Laurie Cooper, members of ALUCC’s Worship Planning Committee and native Canadians…Phil went to the University of Western Ontario in London, so he served as our tour guide for the weekend.
I wanted to visit the Metropolitan United Church for several reasons. First, it is the largest congregation in the United Church of Canada; second, it is pastored by my classmate Jeff Crittenden, and third, it has three worship services each Sunday – each service with a different style of worship and music.
The church building is over 100 years old; the woodwork and stained glass are magnificent:
The 9:30 AM service featured music led by piano, guitar and bongo drum. The 11 AM service had a large choir (including 12 paid section leaders from the local university) and a fabulous children’s bell choir:
The 6:30 PM service was held in a more intimate setting; it’s clearly serving as an outreach to the college community, although some older folks worship there regularly as well. Usually a band plays, though the night we attended the band had been hired out (!) to the local Anglican church and music was led by a soloist, a guitarist and a plugged-in violin.
In between the two morning services, we all chatted with several members of the congregation. I learned about a program that’s been taking place at Metropolitan for 40 years: a 8-week series of senior adult continuing education classes. It’s a wonderful outreach to the community, and also raises funds. You can read more about it here: time out 2013 (4)