Don’t Go It Alone When Changing Worship

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When I arrived two years ago at Redondo Beach, I was told that there were three very different worship services: one informal, one contemporary, and one traditional. Bringing my own assumptions about what these definitions meant, I immediately diagnosed what was clearly wrong with the traditional worship service and implemented what I felt were the appropriate changes.

While there were some for whom any change in worship at all would have been untenable, this process helped alleviate some of the damage caused by my failure to understand the culture of the church,

However, I soon realized that I had changed the worship service to meet my needs and had haphazardly insulted the worship culture of the traditional service worshipers that went back many years. This required some healing work with the congregation.

I offered classes on worship and had informal discussion groups with key persons from the traditional service. I helped them to remember their past — particularly that weekly communion had been a part of who they were. This was helped by a woman who has been at the church since 1931, who brought me an order of worship from 1939 that indicated communion was held every Sunday! I also subtly educated the congregation why having the altar surrounded by United States flags was perhaps not the best use of the chancel area.

While there were some for whom any change in worship at all would have been untenable, this process helped alleviate some of the damage caused by my failure to understand the culture of the church, as well as my failure to recognize the need to involve the congregation in shaping any new direction for worship.

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About Author

The Reverend Rick Uhls is pastor of First United Methodist Church of Redondo Beach, California, and a Doctor of Ministry student in church leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary.


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