32-United Church of Christ (UCC)

“We are a welcoming, Open and Affirming congregation. Whether you are married with children, single, widowed, GLBT, divorced, engaged, you are welcome – whatever expression of family you know, you are invited to become part of our church family.”

December 15, 2019 1030 AM

There are many windows and skylights in this church’s sanctuary, giving the feeling of openness and light. I was struck by the aesthetic of this worship space as it seemed welcoming on its own. As the congregants gathered, I also noticed a few same sex couples with children. Although a mainly white congregation, they obviously are diverse in other ways.

The pastor opened the service by welcoming visitors and then said, “we will start as we always do by greeting one another with words of welcome and peace.” I liked the way she worded that. So, I stood and turned to my left to greet some folks. When I turned back facing forward, there was a little boy, about eight or nine years old, standing to my right with his hand extended for a handshake. He looked like a blond Harry Potter. I shook his hand and said, “well, hello, sir.” He didn’t say anything, just shook my hand and moved on. A few more people greeted me in this time.

Several folks made a few announcements, one being that they were anticipating their new pastor soon. Then, the children’s choir sang a centering song, followed by the lighting of the Advent Candle, a responsive reading and a hymn. A ten person choir helped with the congregational singing, but I think a singer at the microphone would have been even more effective. A prayer of confession, words of assurance, a song of praise led by a man with a guitar, and then the scripture followed. So far, I have enjoyed the liturgical flow of the service.

A man named Jeff called the children up front for the children’s time. He asked them to name something that’s difficult to do. They offered various answers like “picking up toys,” “doing homework,” etc. One child said, “listening,” and that worked nicely into the theme of Jeff’s lesson. The children sang an anthem and then left for children’s church. It had been a long time since I had seen so much interaction with children during a worship service. And it was delightful. It seems when children are missing from the worship experience, something is lost. I was reminded of the joy and innocence they bring to the church service.

The woman pastor moved out from the pulpit and holding a binder in her left hand, she read the sermon. Despite that, it was one of the more entertaining messages I have heard. She started by role playing a humorous modern day conversation between Mary and Joseph. The remainder of the talk felt a little formal, but overall, she gave a solid Christ-centered sermon about walking in faith and taking risks in order to follow God.

The Offertory, Doxology and Prayer of Dedication came next. Then, the choir sang an a cappella prayer song which led into the silent and pastoral prayer, followed by the Lord’s prayer. We stood to sing the sending forth hymn. The pastor asked us to raise out hands in a mutual blessing and gave the benediction. Then, the choir sang a short song as the postlude. I really liked this ending to the service.

On my way out of the sanctuary, the pastor was waiting to greet me.

Even though no one spoke to me beyond the greeting time, I felt welcomed and comfortable in this church. I think their effective use of liturgy and the way the service flowed from Greeting/Centering, Confession/Assurance, Scripture/Message, Response/Sending gives the worship time a sense of order and yet serendipity. I felt as though I had worshipped in a meaningful pattern with both ritual and openness to the moment. This church PASSED the WELCOME TEST.

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