Core Values in Creating Worship

  • Multiple Voices: In worship, we perform our mission- the congregation we are becoming; and as we perform it, we make it true. As a result, it matters who stands in front of the congregation and how they interact. It matters that we offer a worship service with multiple voices, representing the diversity of the congregation in age, stage, economic and educational background, theological perspective, race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc. – and that we are allowing new voices to be a part of our worship regularly, always building a congregation that is for the future.
  • Collaboration: I believe in a collaborative process in crafting worship. This often takes more time, but ultimately it makes for a richer worship experience, as well as deepened relationship amongst those who participated in creating the service. Through our work together, it’s important to me that we return to our covenant as our means and end – so that how we treat one another and how we hold one another through the creative process is just as important as how our “work” turns out on a Sunday morning. This is not to say that I do not believe in excellence in worship. I am committed to offering an excellent, rich worship experience each and every Sunday. However, as a learning community, I believe most important is that we learn from our experiences and commit to growing with each effort.
  • Integration of Elements: I believe that all elements in an order of service can work together in creating an overall experience, stimulating the different senses and relating with the different learning styles and vocabulary present in any given congregation. In other words, the opening music can relate with the reading which relates with the pastoral prayer which relates with the homily or sermon, etc. All of these elements can then approach the designated topic in complementary ways to help tease out the layers of meaning and possibility within the theme. I am not tied to a “sermon sandwich” mode of an order of service, and I enjoy experimenting with how things flow to best serve the intended message of the worship.
  • On Being Human Together – The Live Experience of Creating Worship: In some of my earliest worship services, I had to think carefully about the differences between what I was doing then and what I did when I used to work in the theatre. One of the main ways that I came to think about worship differently than putting on a play performance, was that worship is an experience of creation that happens in relationship – the worship leaders (musicians, associates, minister, board member, etc.) are in relationship with the gathered congregation, and together, in the very moment that worship begins, a new thing is being created. That’s the point. (Liturgy literally means “the work of the people.”) In the theatre, the weight rests on the performers (and the various techies of course!). In worship, the responsibility of worship rests within and among the whole gathered community, of which the worship leaders are a part. The hope for that single hour is that together we can all offer one another a glimpse into our most authentic experience of being human – our most vulnerable and most courageous selves, our imperfections and our struggles, our greatest dreams and our biggest disappointments. This is why a sermon preached in one congregation on one Sunday can feel like an entirely different sermon (even if it’s the same words!) preached the following Sunday in a different congregation. The gathered community is creating the worship together, and it is made holy by our mutual presence.
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About Rev. Gretchen Haley

Gretchen Haley serves as the Senior Minister of the Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins, CO. She's relentlessly curious about most things, especially the big stuff of theology, the beauty of creation and poetry, the magic of collaboration, and the great joy and often-great-depth of popular (and less popular) television and music. She and her partner of 17 years, Carri, have 2 children, Gracie (10) and Josef (8).
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