The image of the lone minister facing a congregation, standing slightly elevated and apart, is deeply rooted in our cultural iconography. And in many faith communities it is part of the weekly lived experience. The ordained clergy person says or does nearly everything that happens on a Sunday morning except, perhaps, for playing the piano and singing the hymns.
Yet many Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations have begun experimenting with ways of returning to the original understanding of the word liturgy, which literally means, "the work of the people." These congregations have developed collaborations between clergy and laity. Some of these are called Worship Associates Programs, or Worship Weavers' Guilds. Some still retain the time honored title of "deacons." And, as you might expect, the names aren't the only differences among these experiments. Yet what all of these programs have in common is an effort to bring the clergy and the laity together in a creative collaboration in the development and facilitation of the weekly worship experience.
Several years ago InterConnections published an article about the Worship Associates phenomenon that remains a useful introduction. At the end of that article there is a reference to a manual written by the Rev. Rick Koyle titled, Building a Worship Associates Program (PDF, 63 pages). That book—in its 30th printing!—is now available for you to download for free right here on the the WorshipWeb. (Thank you Rick.)
The Rev. Laura Horton-Ludwig has also developed a teaching outline for a 4-session lay preaching class based on Jane Rzepka & Ken Sawyer's Thematic Preaching.
To find out more about how these programs look in actual congregations, here are links to some of the many congregations that have information on their websites about their efforts in lay-clergy collaborations:
- First Unitarian Church of Oakland (CA)
- First Universalist Church of Minneapolis (MN)
- UU Congregation of Princeton (NJ)
- Unity Church-Unitarian, St. Paul (MN)
- South Church, Portsmouth (NH)
- UU Church of Eugene (OR)
- UUs of the Cumberland Valley (PA)
- Williamsburg UUs (VA)
- West Shore UU Church (OH)
- UU Church of Tuscon (AZ)
- First Unitarian Church of San José (CA)
- First Universalist Church of Yarmouth (ME)
Take some time to peruse their sites. See the different ways these programs have been envisioned. Contact the congregations whose programs particularly appeal to you and ask questions. In this way we can create a web of teaching congregations, each supporting the evolution of this development of our faith tradition.
For more information contact worshipweb @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Thursday, June 30, 2011.