NOTE: Summer Worship will begin on Sunday, May 29 due to facility availability
A MESSAGE FROM THE REV. J.C. AUSTIN: WITH OPEN MINDS AND HEARTS
With Memorial Day just around the corner, many people are already thinking about summer: school will be letting out in just a few more weeks; people are thinking about where to go and what to do for some time off and/or time away; and the rhythms of life in general tend to take on a different dynamic.
In recent years, at least, one of the rhythms that has not changed here at First Pres is that of our worship life: we have continued to offer a Contemporary Service and a Traditional Service throughout the summer without pause or break. This summer, however, the Session (at the recommendation of the Worship Committee) has decided to try a new experiment: Summer Worship.
Probably the most obvious change for Summer Worship is that we will be offering one service instead of two: starting on Sunday, June 12, we will have one service at 10 a.m. instead of the two services we offer at 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.
Part of the reason we are doing this is because there is some work that needs to be done in the Kirk Center, where the Contemporary Service meets, that includes repairs for a roof leak that have been delayed because of both insurance and pandemic-related supply chain issues. So this service will take place in the Sanctuary to allow space and time for that work, as the Sanctuary is fully air-conditioned for the summer.
But we also saw this as not simply a challenge, but an opportunity for a short-term experiment for broadening our worship life. One of the strategic priorities the Session established for the congregation in 2019 was, in fact, about this very thing, as you may remember:
Vibrant and Diverse Worship – We will be considering, experimenting with, and implementing a variety of styles, formats, and approaches for worship experiences in the church, all while staying consistent with the key elements of the Reformed worship tradition (Biblically-based preaching, theologically-appropriate music, the regular administration of the Sacraments, etc.)
With the onset of the pandemic, most of our experimental energy went into figuring out how to offer compelling digital worship, but now that we are back in the swing of an in-person option for worship, the time seemed ripe to do something a little different.
In calling this service “Summer Worship,” we’re indicating that the experience of worship will not simply be what we’ve generally called a “Combined Worship Service,” simply incorporating elements of both our Traditional and Contemporary Services into one service, generally leaning in the direction of whatever service was normally held in that space (Kirk Center or Sanctuary).
Now, don’t worry: we will be having classic traditional hymns and contemporary worship songs in Summer Worship! In fact, we will even be asking for you to “nominate” some of your favorite hymns and songs so we make sure that they are included this summer (more on that in the newsletter after Memorial Day). But we are also envisioning new experiments along with those continuing commitments. While we are meeting in the Sanctuary, the pastors will not be wearing robes, and we encourage people to dress more casually with a “come as you are” feel.
We will be incorporating some elements of worship to be more intentionally intergenerational and welcoming for children. And we will be actively soliciting feedback on what you’re enjoying, what doesn’t resonate for you, and what ideas you have for experiments as the summer goes on. We are excited about co-creating this ministry with all of you!
So, I want to encourage you all to join into this experiment with open minds and hearts as we strive to live into our strategic vision as a church, and to continue to claim our identity as an “Experimental Church”!
Grace and Peace,