We have to start a third service next year. Gulp. Many UU churches have successfully made the transition to two services, but few have tried three services, so we're making this up as we go along. One option is a band-led service, and in pursuit of knowledge of this worship-beast, several of us crashed a Presbyterian Contemporary Worship service on Saturday evening. It's my third such venture, (one Reformed mega-church, one medium sized UU church, and one big mainline church.) Here's what I'm learning.
Contemporary Worship seems to be a matter of developing a higher level of energy than a traditional worship service has. Indeed, I think that the basic aim of a traditional worship service is to calm people, quiet them, help them be receptive to the message. The music is used to awe and impress...big organ, beautiful anthem...the Glory of God revealed in Music.
In Contemporary Worship, the aim is to get folks up, singing along, and clapping. There's a beat to the music, and the singing goes on for a good long (20 minutes?) time. Well done, and in a well-filled room (last night was well done but a very small crowd, perhaps 60 people in a room that must seat 4-500 people) all that energy is very, well...enlivening, and I can easily imagine that this, too, helps people to focus on the message of the day.
The did project their words, but to very high screens. I bet there's a science to screen height and I bet those were too high. It was a very good message, weaving in Pentecost, Mothers Day, and the end of a sermon series on the gifts of the Spirit. This was the first time I've seen the use of an embedded video in a sermon...this hilarious clip of all the things Mothers Day, sung to the William Tell Overture. Judging by the comments on YouTube, it was shown in a lot of churches this morning, and a lot of folks looked it up to see it again.
I have to say that it feels just impossibly intimidating to be having to find video clips as a part of sermon-writing. I'm feeling glad that our sanctuary is just too bright for projection.
Speaking of intimidating, I think that finding a music repetoire for Contemporary Worship, especially without violating copywrite law, is going to be the biggest trick of all. These Christian Churches can download their stuff off of websites and easily pay royalties. We UU's can't even easily use things from our own hymnals, not to mention finding a way to get permission to use, say, Cris Williamson's "Song of the Soul" as a worship tune.
1. Even in informal worship, I think the preacher and band should be dressed up just a tad.
2. Looks like intergenerational bands work.
3. The band needs to have practiced enough that they can put energy into connecting with the congregation...eye contact, etc.
4. electronic drums: This was a great discovery. They can be played at a volume that would work in our sanctuary, they don't take up too much space, and they are not prohibitively expensive.