If I was planting . . . . III

I’ve been looking into the simple church/house church movement as an opportunity for Universalist Christian church growth (hi Derek!) but more about that later.

For now, the question of how a small church — “conventional” or house-based — would worship remains. I am not thrilled with the “anything is worship” (both from Unitarian Universalist and Christian postmodern sides) or the “charismatic meltdown” options that I seen. So let me start with resources, and the pleasing worship that came out of UNMC’s summer experience.

We worshipped in the parlor instead of the sanctuary, and didn’t have a pianist for the hymns. All of the parlor-based services were lay-led. It wasn’t what we usually do (though the liturgy was about the same) but it certainly did felt real and nourishing. It was well within the scope of a house church, and would be good, even if simplified a few notches.

So, what kind of resource would you want “in the pews” for a church that worships like that all the time, and, of course, has no pews.

Which hymns? Which psalms? Anything else? Since there is a Universalist worshipbook tradition that is finally getting some recognition, I need to ask: would a worshipbook be useful? And what would be in it?

I have ideas, but I’ll let you, the reader, add your comments first.


  1. Scott – I agree with your insights about the “anything is worship” and “charismatic meltdown” options. Neither is truely satisfying for the crafting of substantive Christian worship in a liberal/progressive context. I find myself leaning towards modifying Anglican home devotionals. They have a user friendly simplicity of prayer, meditation, and ritual.

  2. Could you provide examples of what you mean by “anything is worship” and “charismatic meltdown”. I get the sense that they might be extremes on a continuum. The former might be playing parlor games and calling it worship? The latter being a very rigid formality that wanes into sensational fits of religious ecstasy?

    The few experiences I have had with house-based worship have been a) interfaith where music, discussion and sharing of food were central, b) Pagan where most of their tradition is conducted in the home or in small groups, and most recently, c) with a home group of the local Vinyard Church. This last experience was a bit above and beyond some research I was doing for a Church Leadership/Church Growth class. I just wanted to find out what it was like, and I was impressed. First, their theology is very fundamental, and secondly, their worship is very moving. It consisted of some greeting/socializing, singing, (members brought instruments and song sheets,) prayer, (this involved closed eyes, spontaneous devotions, laying on of hands,) sharing a snack, and gender-segregated prayer circles. I liked the intimacy and fellowship, but the theology was off-putting.

    My experience has been that one or two musically inclined individuals can create a wonderful worship experience for a small group. By the same token, I think it’s safe to say that one or two theologically-minded people could create a moving prayer/meditation/discussion experience in a small group. This setting/format has temendous potential because it addresses a rampand bane in our society: loneliness.

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