Church tips found through social media

For a look at how some Sunday morning guests might see us, read the account of a Texas blogger on her first visit to a UU church. She wrote of her visit:

“I’m not sure what to think of this service. I expected something a bit more like Unity, Church of Religious Science or Divine Science. I didn’t hear any mention of Jesus Christ and only found the word ‘God’ in a few of the hymns. Most songs were about the clouds, community and beauty, etc.


Though I’ve never been to a Native American service, I would think it would have the same general feel.


I’d call this church a true ‘feel good’ church. While I didn’t get much from it, I’m glad there are denominations like this that are welcoming to gay, lesbian and transgender people, who often find it difficult to worship openly with their partner in an environment filled with judgment.

The comments to her blog entry by church members are useful reading as well.

Over on Facebook, an item notes a new book, Real Good Church, How our church came back from the dead, and yours can, too, by a United Church of Christ minister in Somerville, Mass. The church grew from 30 to 150 members. The Rev. Molly Phinney Baskette writes, “It wasn’t one thing (that made us grow). It was 200 things: about signage, about stewardship, about advertising, about staffing, about creative worship.”

A few excerpts:

“Don’t privilege the people who have been at your church over the people outside your community who don’t even know about you yet.”

“Your work, as a pastor or lay leader, is to build up your own tolerance for disappointing people. Learn how to evaluate criticism for what it can teach you, don’t take it personally, and don’t let it slow you down or hijack God’s work.”

New books about congregational fundraising, storytelling in worship

The following Skinner House titles are now available for pre-order through the UUA Bookstore:

The Generosity Path: Finding the Richness in Giving, by Mark Ewert, (available Dec. 20, $14). Ewert is a UUA congregational stewardship consultant. He writes about stewardship issues on his blog, Generosity From the book description: “Financial giving can be a spiritual path. We have a deep potential for meaning-making and life satisfaction when we transform ourselves from occasional, haphazard donors to deliberate, ambitious philanthropists.”

A Good Telling: Bringing Worship to Life with Story, by Kristin Maier, (available  October 9, $16). Using the art of storytelling to enrich worship. Includes workshop materials to build storytelling skills, and resources for appropriate stories.

Other new books, suitable for adult education or book groups, include the following:

Where Two Worlds Touch: A Spiritual Journey Through Alzheimer’s, by Jade Angelica, (available December 16, $16).  Angelica chronicles her mother’s journey through Alzheimer’s and her own experiences with grief and the unexpected gifts that can come with this disease.

Jewish Voices in Unitarian Universalism, edited by Leah Hart-Landsberg and Marti Keller, (available Jan. 22, $14). A collection of reflections from people who are both UU and Jewish. From the book description: “While there has been a long and consistent presence of Jewish culture and people in Unitarian Universalism, this poignant anthology is the first to give voice to this community’s struggles, wisdom, and contributions. Essayists include born Jews who came to Unitarian Universalism, Unitarian Universalists who adopted Judaism as a spiritual path, and Unitarian Universalists who have encountered Judaism in diverse ways.”

Discounts are available for multiple copies.

Tips from Facebook on doing church

Congregationally-relevant articles that people like you have posted on Facebook in recent weeks include the following:

How Many Staff Do You Need, from the Ministry Matters website.

Why Worship Shouldn’t Feel Like Family, Ministry Matters

Why Are Fewer People in Church? It’s the Economy, Stupid, from the website Gestating a Church.

• Cabaret Church – On The VUU, a weekly webcast discussion sponsored by the Church of the Larger Fellowship, the Rev. Sean Parker Dennison explains his proposal for “Cabaret Church,” (Aug. 29 webcast) which would be centered around music, art, resistance, and community. He notes that cabarets were a response in the thirties to Fascism and they might well be useful tools today in bringing a religious perspective to contemporary culture and world politics. Cabaret Church also has its own page on Facebook and on Tumblr.

The Facebook page Growing Unitarian Universalism recommends the article “Are Your Church Facilities an Obstacle to Growth? about the ways first-time guests see your building.

Multigenerational service resources on WorshipWeb

If you are looking for ways to develop multigenerational worship services then look no further than the UUA’s WorshipWeb. Engaging a wide spectrum of ages in one service can be challenging, but WorshipWeb offers lots of resources to help make it happen.

WorshipWeb has drawn together articles on multigenerational worship from the Alban Institute and other sources. One useful article is the staff group of the MidAmerica Region’s “Ten Good Ideas About Multi-Generational Worship,” which include “keep it simple,” “keep it moving,” “think homily rather than sermon,” and “use multiple learning styles, engaging all five senses.”

WorshipWeb also includes a compilation of InterConnections articles about multigenerational worship and has a list of anthologies of stories and sermons for children. There are also book suggestions, such as Come Into the Circle: Worshipping with Children by Michelle Richards, and Story, Song, and Spirit: Fun and Creative Worship Services for all Ages by the Rev. Erika Hewitt.

Live-streaming services draws in stay-at-homes

UUA Growth Strategist Tandi Rogers couldn’t make it to church one recent Sunday because of a sick child, so she looked around for the next best alternative. She found around a dozen congregations that were live-streaming their services in a time frame that worked for her.

She notes, “I hope more congregations will consider using this technology as a way to lower their walls and to connect to members who are unable to attend for a variety of reasons.” Read her full post on the Growing Unitarian Universalism blog.

The UUA’s website has resources for congregations considering live-streaming. To livestream a service you need a video camera, microphone (sound quality is more important than video quality), and the ability to upload to a free service like Ustream or Livestream.

Rogers notes that some congregations post their Order of Service. Some pan out to show the congregation and choir in addition to focusing on the speakers, and some allow online participants to engage in a real-time chat about the service.

Letter: Holston Valley worship includes children

To the editor:

The congregation of Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, serving Gray, Kingsport, Johnson City, Bristol, and surrounding areas in northeast Tennessee, voted in its annual meeting to continue Expanded Sundays, the experiment it began last year around including children in the worship hour. There is paid child care for those 2nd grade and below if they choose to not stay during the service.

We are excited about this step. We include kids in all parts of the service. A middle school student just shared a marvelous and challenging This I Believe. Others have done Greeting and Welcoming functions, presented readings, played music, danced and sang with the choir. Religious education is 9:30-10:30 and is growing–especially the adult RE since parents have more freedom with their children involved in class at the same time.

This congregation has high hopes for its children and enjoys their presence and participation in worship. HVUUC’s social justice project this year is Hunger in Our Neighborhood. Children and adults bring cans of food to a tub in the front of the sanctuary during the first hymn. More experiential elements have been added to the service, including ritual singing, This I Believe, and more hymns from the teal hymnal that communicate the sermon’s message in various ways. I hone the sermons to 15 minutes without changing content, and I reference the Lesson for All Ages to tie the two together.  I’m sure the sermon goes over the heads of some, but parents do report their kids making references to what happens in the service.

—the Rev. Jacqueline Luck, Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

Editor’s note: Some other congregations that include children in a substantial portion of worship services are Emerson UU Chapel in Ellisville, Mo., and the UU Church of Ogden, Utah.

Using contemporary music in worship

One of the best places to keep up with trends in contemporary music as it is used in Unitarian Universalist worship is the blog “Liberal Religion Gets Loud” by Vance Bass, contemporary music/worship director at First Unitarian Church in Albuquerque, N.Mex.

In March, Bass posted a list of more than 200 songs that a band has either played during worship at First Unitarian or that were on CDs played as a prelude to worship. The list ranges from Raffi to Stevie Wonder.

Also on the blog is a sermon (March 13, 2011) by Bass about contemporary music and a post that notes that not all music is appropriate on Sunday morning, even if well played. There is also a video description of contemporary music at Albuquerque.

Military meditation manual available

Bless All Who Serve: Sources of Hope, Courage and Faith for Military Personnel and Their Families, a new pocket-size book of readings and songs from many faith traditions, plus reflections by veterans and military chaplains, is available free to military chaplains, ministers, and enlisted men and women of all faiths.

Chaplains and ministers should email Julie Shaw for copies. Other military personnel and their families may email Lorraine Dennis at the Church of the Larger Fellowship for a free copy. All others can purchase it for $8 from the UUA Bookstore.

Bless All Who Serve was written by the Rev. Matthew Tittle and Gail Tittle, both military veterans, and published by Skinner House Books.

Top-selling books at GA 2010

The top-selling books at General Assembly 2010 in June, in order of sales, were the following, says Rose Hanig, director of the UUA Bookstore.

House for Hope: The Promise of Progressive Religion for the Twenty-First Century, by the Revs. John Buehrens and Rebecca Parker. Necessity of Virtue, by Nancy Sherman. Serving with Grace: Lay Leadership as a Spiritual Practice, by the Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom.

Story, Song, and Spirit: Fun and Creative Worship Services for All Ages, the Rev. Erika Hewitt. People So Bold, Theology and Ministry for Unitarian Universalists, by the Rev. John Gibb Millspaugh. All Our Relations, Winona LaDuke

The Growing Church: Keys to Congregational Vitality, edited by the Rev. Thom Belote. Information from a conference of leaders of growing UU congregations.

Bless All Who Serve: Sources of Hope, Courage, and Faith for Military Personnel and their Families, by the Rev. Matthew and Gail Tittle. Cathedral of the World, the Rev. Dr. Forest Church. Stone Blessings: a Meditation Anthology, the Rev. Robert Walsh. Sunday and Every Day: My Little Book of Unitarian Universalism, by Patricia Frevert (for children).

All except Necessity of Virtue and All Our Relations continue to be available at the UUA Bookstore.

Add innovation to Sunday worship

From August’s InterConnections feature story, now online at

Is it worth the risk to try something new on Sunday morning?

Absolutely, says the Rev. Erika Hewitt. So do the Rev. Mark Belletini and the Rev. Wayne Arnason. Hewitt, Belletini, and Arnason shared worship experiences at two workshops at General Assembly 2010 in June, and InterConnections. All three talked about ways to introduce change to worship to bring it more depth and meaning.

For starters, it’s important to do rituals properly, says Belletini, minister of the First Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church of Columbus, Ohio. Take the annual water service, which will be coming up this fall in many congregations. How do you make it meaningful when it can easily veer off into “Look where we went”?

Go to the full article.