There's a movement gaining strength in my denomination that is pushing for a radical new way of doing worship. This is arising out of our Youth groups and the participatory , circle style worship that they do. There's a call for more voices and ways to get a message across (not just a sermon, but a dialogue, a discussion, a set of readings, a skit, or a combination thereof) And because it's basically a youth movement, there's more than a small tendency to not only push for something new but to be derisive about what is old. ("Corpse Cold Unitarianism" thundered the Transcendentalists, and our youth are almost as derisive about what they term "Sermon Sandwich Worship")
It seems reasonable on the surface that this multi-tasking, multi-media generation would crave or just assume the same variety in worship that they have embraced in their lives, and I'm all for their and our experimenting with this kind of worship to see how it develops. In Albuquerque, for instance, we've adopted the occasional practice of having all who wish come up to light a candle for some aspect of the morning theme as a meditation practice, and this seems to have worked well for us.
But I also note that churches like the Evangelical, multi-site mega-church I visited last Spring featured a 47 minute sermon by one person. I don't myself remember much of it. What I do remember is the lively singing that we engaged in before and after that sermon, and how much that singing "got me out of myself" and let me relax into my own center.
My experience in ministry tells me that every UU generation from boomers on, and including much of the female side of the silent, or pre-boomer generation, has asked for two things of it's worship leaders, a solid interpretation of our lives (as in, "good sermons"), and a sense of the holy in a worship service, a way to "get out of one's self", a place of quiet, an empty center, a deep connection to others present, and a break from the multi-tasking, multi-media world in which we all live, most of us uncomfortably.
Whether that interpretation, and that sense of the presence of the holy, and that space to find it in one's self is produced by lighting candles, a pastoral prayer, a hymn or a praise song, a well chosen set of readings, a skit, or even a sermon...what will be a matter of individual taste and experience. What we UU's have difficulty with is creating that sense of the Holy, and we're most likely to produce it, as if by accident, in our close knit groups, the tender moments of sharing Joys and Concerns, or in the enforced silence and inwardness of various ceremonies.
I'm all for continuing to see how we can use those elements in worship. But I maintain that we will not thrive as a religious movement until we learn to produce a sense of the Holy in readings, skits, prayers, sermons, singing, taking the offering, and greeting each other.