I haven’t written about it much recently, but over the years, I’ve been involved in creating some alt.worship (alternative worship, emerging worship, interactive worship, etc.) services. It all started with a couple friends in Idaho back in the summer of 2003. I was thinking about that today…it’s been over 10 years since I started putting on these alt.worship services and gatherings.
I did the service in Idaho quite a few times (at the church I worked at, a camp, an Idaho Catholic Youth Convention, and other retreats). I also put on the service at a few other places, including: Princeton Seminary (2005 and again later that year), Princeton University (2006, in the University Chapel no less), Little 5 Points in Atlanta (2007), back at Princeton Seminary (2008), at Asbury UMC (2009), and a smaller variation of it in Ashland.
I put together an alt.worship service this past week at Winnetka Presbyterian Church, and it reminded me just how unique this experiential form of worship still is for so many folks in our churches. I don’t think that what I’m doing is all that original or creative, but people always have such great experiences at these types of services.
One thing this has helped me remember, is that as pastors and church workers, we need to continue to offer up new and different opportunities and ways for people to connect with God. And even though folks may tell you that they are completely comfortable with a traditional worship service with hymns and an organ…it’s quite possible they don’t know what they’re missing.
There were many folks who attended our alt.worship gathering who, I’m sure, would never have thought that they would connect with this type of service. People walked around experiencing different prayer stations, lighting candles, and listening to electronic/ambient/techno music in the background. And yet – for folks of all ages – it was a really moving worship opportunity for them.
Folks enjoyed it so much that we’re leaving it up for Holy Week, and we had our children’s Sunday School classes go through all the prayer stations (with guides) this past Sunday, and they really enjoyed it as well.
When was the last time you stretched beyond your comfort zone when it comes to worship? When was the last time your congregation was presented with a radically different way of connecting with God through worship? These aren’t hypothetical questions – I’d really love to know what you all are doing to keep worship fresh and new and vibrant for folks in your churches – whether you’re a new church plant, or a 200+ year old mainline congregation.