The opportunity for renewal (our theme for January) is always before us as the calendar turns and we welcome a new year. This year in particular, we will be engaging as a congregation in some of the practices of renewal that go a little beyond creating a new vision board (no offense to vision boards!). We’ll be diving into an exploration of our past, sharing some of the stories and influences and circumstances that shaped this congregation, as a way to create our multifaceted story of who we are now. All in service of building the community we are becoming.
Many Americans of African descent have embraced the concept of Sankofa – a Twi word for the process of looking to the past in order to move forward – as a way to reclaim and reckon with a past that has been obscured by oppressive systems that ignored or misrepresented their past as a way to keep them subjugated. A community like FUUSN, which has long been identified with the dominant culture, also needs to pause and take stock of the whole of its past in order to learn and grow into its future. There are stories in the past that are not what we wish them to be with modern eyes. There are stories of resilience and resistance that we can also name and claim. There are stories we may see from different perspectives and in multiple voices. We, too, can look to the past in order to pick up what we have forgotten and to make more informed choices as we move forward.
We’ll be engaging in a progressive conversation to build a timeline for the congregation’s life and how we came to encounter FUUSN – regardless of how long we’ve been around. More information and links to the Zooms will be sent soon, but mark your calendars to be sure to participate in one of these sessions in the coming weeks!
January 26, 7-9pm via Zoom
January 29, 12-2pm in the Parish Hall RSVP here
February 11, 10am-12pm via Zoom
Sunday Services – Trying Out a New Liturgy
In the spirit of looking back and moving forward, you may well be aware that FUUSN’s order of service on Sunday mornings mirrors a lot of Protestant worship services in the order of elements, building toward a sermon at the end of the service. What you may not be as aware of is that this pattern is a direct descendent of the structures of services from early evangelical times when the purpose of the sermon was to draw people forward in an ‘altar call’ to accept Jesus into their hearts, to claim or reclaim their baptism, repent of their sins and be reconciled. When mainline Protestants gave up the altar call, they simply ended the service with the sermon and left it at that. This pattern of liturgy we know so well is therefore called the truncated altar call – truncated to remove the altar call.
Students of ritual practice and liturgy note that an experience of reflection is not complete without a response in ritual, words, or song, from the congregation. (In some Protestant liturgies the altar call was replaced by communion – a ritual of reclamation and remembrance.) Letting the preacher have the last word, they have discovered, is not a spiritually satisfying way to have a full experience of community gathering and meaning-making.
We’ll be experiencing some renewal and experimentation in our Sunday services beginning on January 8th and continuing through February. Don’t worry, I won’t be bringing back the altar call! We’ll simply be moving some participatory parts of the liturgy after the sermon, and experimenting with some opportunities for ritual that include the congregation.
As you experience these changes, I’d like to invite you to consider a few things:
What am I noticing in my body? In those around me?
What is my first reaction/desire as I experience this change?
How am I growing or learning something new in this situation?
“No challenge, no change” is one of the things my favorite fitness instructor often says while I am straining to keep up. Even as I grimace and groan, I have to admit that she’s right. So in the spirit of letting a little (manageable) challenge open you to change, take it in, let it work on you for a bit. See what happens. Pause to sit with both any delight and any discomfort you experience and ask what they have to teach you before you make a judgment about what should stay or what should go. We’ll take some time to reflect on the changes together once we’ve had a chance to acclimate. (Yes, this is practice for welcoming the inevitable changes your new settled minister may want to make to the liturgy.)
See you on Sunday!