Monday, July 29, 2019

Worship will Ask to be Renamed 'Spiritual Life Committee'; Proposes 3 Formal, 7 Informal Services in 2020

SILVER LAKE, NY, JULY 29, 2019 -- The Worship Committee met this morning with seven members of the Trustee Board in an effort to understand what the Board is expecting of them. It was  eventually agreed that the word "worship" may be a problematic term causing the group to prefer some use of the word "spiritual" instead of "worship.'' Later, when the Worship Committee held its own meeting, it was decided to ask the Board to rename their committee from "worship" to "spiritual life."

Time was spent with an exchange about how to include Jewish folk or Islamic persons in our service. This led to the discovery of a disagreement in defining terminology. Worship was told to broaden its outreach which the committee saw more as a "watering down" of all faiths so there is no real strength in any of them. 

President of the Board told the group that he understood "non-denominational" to be synonymous with "inter-faith." The worship committee disagreed saying that non-denominational refers to a Christian expression of faith without any clear use of any one particular expression (or denomination) of Christian faith. Inter-faith, they said was an expression of all (or most) of the existing faiths, including for example, Christianity, Judaism, Islamist/Moslem, Hindu, Buddism, etc.

The committee was told that the Board was concerned about the committee's tendency to cling to the Methodist traditions in its approach to worship. This statement, the committee suggests, ignores the many efforts made to conduct worship with a strong ecumenical (non-denominational) approach. It is unclear to what the Board is actually referring. 

For example, the liturgies are based on writings by a Roman Catholic publishing house, the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer, and liturgical writings of the United Church of Christ (UCC). Each of these  were strong on civil and human rights with an emphasis on reaching out to those in all types of need. 

The hymns and songs used have been inclusive of those written by Presbyterians, Baptists, Roman Catholics, and non-affiliated (non-denominational) writers. Special litanies and prayers have come from a wide variety of spiritual writers who have been picked up by many denominations' publishing houses. 

If, by "clinging to Methodist traditions" the Board means the use of Epworth Hall for worship, the committee admits the difficulty in changing generations of thought with regards to Epworth. It takes time, but even in this area, great progress has been made as individual committee members do their best to divorce themselves from Epworth and all the religious commitment that took place and was regularly observed there. Perhaps the committee could be cut a little slack as they adjust to the Board's new decisions and directions.

Although both groups were very civil with no raised voices, it was becoming clear that they were quickly stepping into a form of theological quicksand. Eventually it was determined that the committee go about using its understanding of our common thoughts, and  create a proposal to bring to the Board that could be as short as for the period of next season only, or a longer range proposal, and this is what the committee went about doing after their meeting alone as a committee began.

The worship committee lost its chaplain last year when the Board eliminated the position without consultation with the committee. This year the committee is about to lose its chairperson by Sept. 1st. The committee has decided to expand its membership and is hoping that may help to spread the work load. The committee will also propose bringing up the amounts paid to guest speakers and keyboard instrumentalists closer to the going average rate for honorariums.

Committee members strongly agreed that the Chairperson include in his report to the Board that communication with the Worship Committee is essential. It has been considerably lacking and neglected, at best, in the last several years, and the committee unanimously urges that they be included in discussions about items affecting the spiritual life of the community. This best takes place during the six months when the full Board regularly meets as opposed to the winter "off season" when the Executive actions are unknown for up to six months.

The committee will also recommend for 2020 that they create only three formal worship services but then try the remaining services on an informal basis. Formal is what we have now with a printed order of worship whereas informal is more spontaneous, without a printed folder, and open to discussions of the topic area of the morning.

Guest Speakers for the informal worship will be called "facilitators." Two of the formal services will be held on the Dock--the first and last service, and the third will be the Memorial Service tentatively scheduled for Epworth Hall because its emphasis is on service to the lake community. This might have to be looked at again as will a year when the Silver Lake Experience is happening.

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