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Other Models of Worship

Other Theoretical Models

While Vogt seems to provide the basis for much Unitarian Universalist worship, even for those who think in more thematic terms, there are other theoretical models which have their own validity.

Gendlin's Theory of Psychotherapeutic Change

Eugene Gendlin, a University of Chicago psychologist and philosopher, has a theory of psychotherapeutic change which has application to worship. It develops as follows:

  1. Awareness of the issue at hand.
  2. Owning one's relationship to the issue. (Reality testing)
  3. Application of the issue to aspects of living.
  4. Shifting back to the self with a new sense of wholeness.

Applied to worship, there are similarities to Vogt. The major differences lies in the final act, which is less active and more quietly integrative.

The Educational Model

The educational model which is the foundation of many Unitarian Universalist religious education curriculum kits, notably About Your Sexuality, takes a very similar course to Gendlin's:

  1. Initiation
  2. Interaction
  3. Investigation
  4. Internalization

Or, applied to worship:

  1. Entering
  2. Joining
  3. Venturing
  4. Returning In the latter case, Act 2 is more community-centered while Act 4 is integrative.

Worship as Pilgrimage

Several persons have suggested that worship is pilgrimage in which the individual is drawn out of one's own individual concerns into a group exploration. At the end of the journey the individual is alone again, but renewed and inspired by the group process. The acts of a service following this model might look like this:

Act 1. Approach/Call
Gathering together in a particular time and place

Act 2. Connection/Community
Realizing our connections with one another and with transcendent values.

Act 3. Return/Thanksgiving
Turning back to everyday life as an individual. Again, Act 2 is community-centered and Act 3 is inward. Some variations add an "Emptying" section between Approach and Connection. This is similar to Vogt's "Humility."

Wieman's Model of Creative Energy

The Unitarian theologian and philosopher Henry Nelson Wieman regarded common worship as an opportunity for individuals in a group to find integrating energy to deal with deep questions of life. He outlined five steps in the act of worship:

Step 1. Approach
Relaxation: awe and wonder; awareness of dependency.

Step 2. Vision
Calling to mind the possibilities for good in the world.

Step 3. Exploration and Illumination
Facing a particular problem.

Step 4. Reflection
Self-analysis to find change necessary in mind and action. May even include Confession.

Step 5. Affirmation/Dedication
Comprehensive reformulation of what has to be done. The main difference between Wieman's model and Vogt's model lies in the position of the act of self-examination. In Vogt and most others it is preparation for exploration. In Wieman it is preparation for dedication.

Variety of Models

Obviously, in a denomination as diverse as ours, no one model is the "correct" model. Each of these examples involves the individuals as they relate to the religious community, to transcendent values, to their own responsibilities in everyday life. Each includes an intellectual element. Each includes inward, reflective time.

An inspiring religious celebration shows careful attention to the succession of moods, to the types of materials used, to the involvement of the people, and the direction in which the worshiper is expected to move. All this is true whether the main vehicle of expression is the words of the leader, or whether these words are combined with music, responses, or other congregational expressions.

Next: Worship Styles

For more information contact worshipweb @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Wednesday, December 5, 2012.

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