As UUCF’s Lay Minister for Worship & Arts, I am privileged to have special insight into how much goes into the Sunday morning worship services. The months of planning, the weekly Worship Team meetings, the hours of music preparation and sermon writing. The team of people, both those we see in front of the congregation during the service and many more behind the scenes. The many contributions of words, music and insights from those outside the UUCF community. It is all truly remarkable.
Worship at UUCF is of such high quality and almost always goes so smoothly that those of us experiencing worship in the Sanctuary or through the livestream might find ourselves imagining that we are merely passive consumers of a performance. We might be tempted to feel ourselves at something of a distance, or that our presence makes no difference to what happens in a worship service.
We would be wrong.
Worship is not a performance and we, the congregation, are far from passive observers. Though of course it is the leaders of worship, primarily our ministers and music director, who put in the hours of planning and writing and preparing, but the rest of us are also essential to what happens at UUCF on Sunday mornings.
This is true in a couple of ways. My mother, Rev. Helen Lutton Cohen, a retired UU minister, likes to say that worship is a conversation. What happens on Sunday mornings comes out of the life of the religious community. Though most often we hear the words of Rev. David A. Miller and Rev. Christin C. Green and the music that Laura Weiss and our other musicians choose, those words and music come from our life together. They come from pastoral conversations, from social justice endeavors, from interactions with children and youth, from our history as a congregation and a faith tradition, from our shared mission. They come from book and movie recommendations people have made, or links to articles people have sent. Most essentially, worship comes from our relationship with one another. Without that relationship, without that conversation, worship would be missing its greatest source of depth and meaning.
There is another way that worship is created by all of us together, a truth that became more apparent during the height of the pandemic when we were forced to do worship entirely remotely. Something remarkable happens when we are in the same space with each other, attending to those things of highest value together. Every person contributes to the worship experience – with our breath, with our voices lifted in song, with the meeting of eyes across the room, with our presence reminding each other that none of us is completely alone. Each of us alters the space and the experience for everyone, simply by being there. This aspect of participation is more complicated for those attending worship remotely, but rest assured that those leading worship are aware of your presence as well.
All of this is to say that our presence at worship, in person or otherwise, matters. Each one of us contributes to this central activity of our religious community. It is a sacred thing that we do, all of us, when we gather together in worship. Thank you for offering yourself to the worship life of our congregation. We couldn’t do it without you.