Worship: Lively, Joyful, and Traditional — Issue #117
When asked to choose which aspects of their congregation they most valued, the item receiving the highest number of responses from United Methodists participating in the U.S. Congregational Life Survey was the "traditional style of worship or music." The survey also asked what style of music they preferred and "traditional hymns" was chosen twice as often as the next most frequent choice of styles.
When the Call to Action report was released, Lee’s Summit United Methodist Church in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, took note of the identified drivers of congregational vitality, including the importance of a mix of contemporary and traditional services. The church offers five services to 1,300 worshipers each week, with two of those services being large traditional services. Rev. David Hutchison, associate pastor, reports that the church committed to "not just keeping traditional worship, but making it excellent and meaningful — offering traditional worship for contemporary people."
In addition to the various choirs and ensembles that support worship each week, the church decided to add an orchestra as a means of "reclaiming the authentic, robust nature of traditional worship" and a means for people to offer their best gifts to God and each other. Various church committees offered support and a conductor was recruited. Orchestra members, ranging from youth to older adults, came from within the church, area churches, and the community.
The 30-member orchestra rehearses weekly, and the piano and organ are integrated into the orchestra. Two Sundays each month the orchestra plays a prelude and postlude. It also accompanies the choir and congregational singing.
Hutchison says the change that has resulted in the spirit and vitality of congregational worship, especially the singing, is remarkable. Singing is strong and invigorating, contributing to worship that is lively, often spontaneous, and a joyful celebration.
Some Questions for Discussion
What adjectives would you use to describe worship in your congregation?
What drives (or determines) the quality and vitality of your congregational worship and singing?
What gifts and talents exist in your congregation that could be tapped to increase the vitality of your worship services?