After three years of contemporary worship at a third service on 12:30 Sundays, we are “going primetime”, that is, folding the contemporary services into the two morning services. Current plan is to see how it works with two contemporary and two traditional services a month. (Note that our “traditional” services are already quite eclectic musically, but with a typically UU-structured order of worship.)
Our Senior Minister clearly explains the rationale behind this in her blog:
Our worship staff (with assorted spouses and friends) went to some local mega-churches to scope out what they did and how it worked. The ministers and I have spent a lot of time and attention to find what works best for UUs — for the flow and balance of worship — in the mega-church services and in our own, and have settled on a much-simplified contemporary order of service that can also be used in our traditional services.
Just to re-emphasize an important point: contemporary worship is not just sticking some Jesus-rock songs into your usual liturgy. It entails approaching people’s needs and comfort zones in new ways. The whole “look and feel” of your worship changes, not just the music!
The really important thing here is that the ministers understand what contemporary worship is all about, why it’s vital to UUism, and are totally on board with making changes in that direction. We as musicians — even the music ministers among us — don’t usually have the authority or influence to make this kind of change happen alone. But we can educate our colleagues in the pulpit*, assist them or guide them, and learn along with them. It’s been an amazing journey for us, so far!
* One early step is to get rid of the pulpit, if possible. Contemporary preachers have a little table or music stand for their notes, and tend to sit on stools or move around the stage. That might be difficult in a place like Arlington Street Church, but surely not impossible to work around.