• Dale Miller-Bouton

Forward Chats #17 - August 18, 2019

In the early part of this Chat, which was attended by 17 people, we caught up on church news about the pastoral search and plans for Sunday School. Then Nancy shared a web article about “reframing” that came from Mac D. It talked about freeing up your creative thinking by reversing your assumptions. Here is an excerpt from that article:


The idea is to challenge the perceived limitations or rules of your industry to find a breakthrough. The method? making a list of all of the assumptions, limits, and rules that people tend to follow, then doing the opposite. The example given was Cirque de Soleil which rejected the assumption that a circus is cheap entertainment for kids and looked at the possibilities in the opposite: a circus that is pricey entertainment for adults.


We decided to start by listing the things we assume “always” characterize worship:

  • Standard parts in a service: Lord’s Prayer, sermon, hymns, offering, anthem

  • Usually in a standardized order

  • Done in the sanctuary, in pews, everyone facing forward toward the pastor

  • On Sunday morning

  • Dress code (though less formal than earlier decades)

  • Congregation’s role is passive: to listen to the preacher, and to sing hymns and repeat prayers that are entirely scripted

If all the assumptions above were reversed, what would have to remain the same in order for it to still be worship? What is essential? This was not an easy question, as it turned out.


We knew we were talking about communal worship in which the presence of other people is important, but many of the answers focused on the interior experience:

  • Being silent and knowing that everyone is in the same spiritual place

  • Sit in a pew and extend a silver lifeline toward God

  • Knocking at the door, intentionally trying to be in the presence of God

  • Some people appreciated a worship time that was quieter, often in conjunction with a degree of formality and structure because formal elements can help us focus. Other people expressed a desire for more intimacy, openness and vulnerability, which may or may not be the same thing as people who sometimes wishes for worship that was more participatory and conversational.

  • What happens if we try to worship in a way that reverses all those assumptions? Alternative experiences:

  • By chance, Lauren S ran into a vesper service on the beach –the dress code was beachwear, informal mood, but seemed special and attractive

  • Star Island morning chapel outdoors, expression of a close community, more interaction between pastor and congregational

  • Star Island vesper services with reverent mood

  • We may also have mentioned Pizza and Prayer – both the original intention and how it turned out


If we do try an experimental service at this church:

  • It would be helpful to have a lot of preliminary communication, so people know what to expect

  • And can use Forward Chats as a place to gather feedback afterward

  • Need to do whatever it is long enough to give it a real chance to take hold

  • We recognized the challenge of pleasing people who have very different styles and expectation levels: some newcomers may enjoy standing up and introducing themselves, but others may cringe at the thought

We began to talk about what it means to love God, and what it actually means to “worship”:

· Wendy L says that to loving God IS to love your neighbor – that it’s the same thing

o What to do when confronted by hate?

o It’s important to remember that God is still there even when the heart is damaged. We need to try to connect.

· Loving God maybe requires connection with nature and other people:

o God is in everything

o When two or three gather together, God feels closer

o I got to Know God through knowing you.

· Loving God is trying deliberately not to harbor evil thoughts


Our time was over before we came to the end of this topic, so we decided to pick it up again next week.

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