Experimentation, Change and Community

From Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael, Senior Co-Minister

Perhaps you were present for the “Experiment!” service on March 18, 2018. If not, I encourage you to listen to the sermon podcast (https://uumontclair.wordpress.com/2018/03/18/experiment-03-18-2018/). As senior co-minister with accountability for Worship at UUCM, I am excited to announce some new experiments:

Our Music Director Markus Grae-Hauck had the bold idea to tilt our chairs a bit, so that while we attend to the worship service in front, we can feel the presence of the rest of the congregation. Almost every comment we have received has been affirming. Some congregants shared that they felt a deeper experience of the sacredness of worship – an experience made possible because they could feel that they were worshiping with one another.

While the Chalice Choir performed, Andrea Sandahl, professional dancer, dance therapist, and member of our congregation, shared a liturgical dance. This experiment in embodied worship was designed with Markus and my support and guidance. Looking out into the congregation, as Andrea danced down the aisle, I saw surprise melt often into awe and engagement. After the worship service Andrea was approached by congregants, some expressing a desire to work with her on future dances, and many expressing appreciation for her offering.

We experimented as well with a new story telling method for the Time For All ages called “Wonder Box.” This is a technique that our religious education (RE) program uses for our youngest learners in their RE classes. While I haven’t heard many reflections, save affirmation from our staff team, I can attest that this method felt deeply meaningful to me. Palpable connections were made and our children need to feel that that they are a necessary and valued part of our congregation. Please visit: www.uua.org/re/multigenerational/ga/287054.shtml for more info.

Experimentation allows us to feel our way, together, as a congregation, to a new revelation. Are the tilted chairs, the liturgical dance, the wonder box right for us? We responsibly, reflectively, and collectively experiment to decide. Please share reflections by emailing me at revanya@uumontclair.org.  

And this column wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t add how one experiment has been transformed by your engagement. At the beginning of the year Rev. Scott and I added to our worship script, an invitation to “share the good news that you find here” on your devices, during our worship. Having heard powerful testimonies from some of you, regarding the fast pace of life, and the seemingly impossible struggle you engage to put aside the digital realm, we have decide to remove this invitation from the worship script. While Rev. Scott and I still feel strongly that anyone who chooses to use their phone in worship, to engage with the worship, in a way that is meaningful to them, should not be shamed for doing so – we also recognize our role in assisting you to let go your devices, and be present for worship, in a way that is necessary for your spiritual health.

Thank you for your participation in this holy work!