Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Building a new home together: Re-imagining 9 o'clock worship at Christ Church Cathedral

Beginning in the fall, we will be going back to having three services on Sunday – 8, 9 and 11:15.

From a practical standpoint, it is not sustainable in terms of staff resources for us to have both a 9 and a 9:15 service -- but more than that it is not healthy for us as a congregation to be divided at that time. We need to come together, and it’s really as simple as that.

As I’ve talked about this move, the image I have used is when a couple comes to me wanting to get married, I encourage them not to move into one person’s house or the other but to find a new home together. I urge that because it prevents one person from feeling like they are the guest, that the home isn’t really theirs … but also because building a home together can be a wonderful experience of loving and learning about one another. For many couples the new home is the first incarnation of the new creation that is not one or the other but both of them.

That’s what we’re doing at 9 am. We’re all building a new home together. So what does that look like? Very briefly, it looks like this:

*Over the summer we’ll have at least three open forums. The first was June 21, the next two will be July 12 and August 16. The guiding question for these gatherings will be “What do we want this liturgy to communicate about the life of Christ at Christ Church Cathedral?” These gatherings are open to everyone!

*Renee, as canon liturgist, and I as provost, will be putting a small design team together for the 9 am liturgy. The primary job of that team will be to craft a liturgy that accurately reflects the values expressed in the forums. A piece of that will necessarily be that we are an Episcopal congregation and bound by the canons of the church. (Particularly as a Cathedral, this is a non-negotiable element not just with the bishop but with me.)

*It is possible that, particularly in the last two weeks of August and the first week of September, we will “test drive” some liturgical ideas that have come from our forums during the 10 am service.

*This team will develop a liturgy that will be used from Celebration Sunday through Christ the King Sunday (the last Sunday before Advent). During that time, there will be several opportunities for anyone interested to gather and share what their experience of God in this worship has been. These conversations will always be framed by the same questions: “What do we want this liturgy to communicate about the life of Christ at Christ Church Cathedral?” and “How are we doing at building a liturgy that communicates those things with excellence?”

*It is possible that we will tweak some things here and there, but more than likely we are going to stick with the basic liturgy for the three months. Why? Because it takes a while when we move into a new home for us to distinguish between what just feels exciting or uncomfortable because it’s new and what really is reflective of what we want or don’t want this home to be.

*There will be an ongoing process, probably at least through Christmas, 2010, of occasional but regular feedback and looking at adjusting the liturgy. This will be done by the calendar of the seasons of the liturgical year and will also allow us to make changes to express those seasons.

At our first community forum (called “Re-imagining 9 o'clock worship”) last Sunday, I identified four things that we all need to covenant to for this process to work:

1. Prayer
2. Honest, loving communication
3. Deep, loving listening
4. Trust

The 30+ people gathered there covenanted to these things with a hearty “we will with God’s help!” If we all as a Cathedral community can do likewise, this cannot help but be wonderful because whatever happens we will be doing it together.

Also at that gathering, we had everyone write down their hopes & dreams as well as their anxieties & fears about this process and the new liturgy. You can download those answers in a document by clicking here.

Please feel free to come to me with any questions. I look forward to seeing you for the next forum at 9 am on Sunday, July 12!

Warmly, your friend,


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