Earlier this year, we as a congregation made a commitment to strengthen Westside as a Pastoral size congregation. One of the ways we discussed doing this is by drawing more young families, and people of all ages, to our community. Becoming a truly multigenerational community takes more, though, than just being welcoming at the front doors on Sunday mornings. It’s a project we’ll all need to get involved in, if we are to be successful. If we wish to be truly multigenerational, we will have to think carefully about the ways we do all the things we do at Westside.
Younger generations worship differently, play differently, and engage differently in many ways than previous generations. They are more used to using media—tablets, smartphones, audio-visual aids—for all aspects of life. They are also highly adapted to fast-paced and multisensory worship and learning environments—which can sometimes feel like ‘theater’ or ‘entertainment’ to other folks. And, as Rev. Erika Hewitt, head of our UUA worship web said at her General Assembly workshop on worship, ‘We no longer need worship in order to get information.’ In other words, while worship used to serve largely as a place to become more informed about the world, in our contemporary context this is simply not so much the case. With the internet and other media easily at hand, we can get whatever information we want instantly, with the touch of a finger. Now, successful worshipping communities are much more focused on emotional and spiritual experiences, and on community-based action. These cultural changes require us to think differently about how we can adapt our learning, worshipping, and community environments appropriately.
On Sunday, August 21st, at our monthly potluck, we’ll be sharing ideas and brainstorming ways we might accomplish this goal. I’m calling it our “Multigenerational Mind Meld” and I’m hoping we’ll have folks from all aspects and ages of congregational life present to help us think forward. One of the most important changes we’ll be talking about is an experiment, already agreed upon and approved by our Worship Committee, our RE Committee, and the Board, to make every activity on Sunday mornings fully multigenerational. Here’s what that means for Sundays starting in September:
Morning meetings—9:00-10:30am: There will continue to be meeting time for those groups who already hold them before worship starts (e.g. the Board, the RE Committee, the Committee on Ministry)
Worship—11-11:45am: Worship will be slightly shorter, and be for all ages every week,. This means that the children will not be sung out of the sanctuary to their classes, but rather have full participation in all services. And we will be trying some creative variations on our Order of Service, while maintaining the most treasured and familiar elements.
Coffee Hour—11:45-12:15: Then we’ll all have a slightly longer time for fellowship and eating (with more substantial snacks each week) during coffee hour, which will also serve as a transition into Religious Education time for children and adults
Religious Education for all ages—12:15-1pm : From 12:15-1pm, there will be RE offerings for all ages. The children will have their usual classes, while the adults can choose from a range of possible classes (depending on the week), including discussions about the sermon, Compassionate Communication, focused adult RE courses, and other options. This is also a time for other groups to hold meetings, if they choose.
Potluck Sundays: On 3rd Sundays, there will be no RE classes in order to allow us all to gather together for potluck and extended fellowship.
Sunday Afternoon Classes: There will likely also be additional Sunday afternoon RE options during the year, including OWL (Our Whole Lives sexuality education) for our youth, starting at 1:30 or 2pm.
This new schedule allows us to do a few things. First, it takes the pressure off our limited RE volunteer pool, by allowing more adults to be available to help out in the classrooms. Second, it allows our regular teachers to attend worship, which they have been missing in our existing model. Third, it allows parents and caregivers to experience both worship and adult RE on Sunday morning, with only a slightly longer total time at church. (Our nursery providers will be working the whole morning, so families will have childcare from 10:45am-1pm.) Finally, it creates an environment in which we are all learning, worshipping, and having fellowship together each week, rather than splitting off into various sub-groups. Though this may feel strange at first, it has worked well for other congregations, and actually serves to increase congregational involvement and a feeling of community.
This year is a year for trying new things, experimenting, adapting, and seeing what works well. And everyone has a voice in the process. Though we will all have to adapt and compromise some, together we’ll be creating the best possible new, welcoming, Westside.
So please come to the potluck on August 21, and help us think about other ways we can enhance our multigenerational community, and ways we can make this experiment more successful.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts,