Experiencing Authentic Worship

Date Posted: 8/24/2017

As Minister of Music & Fine Arts at Strawbridge UMC-Humble, Laurie Purcell believes everything from the first hello until the benediction should be a part of the authentic worship experience. Laurie’s volunteer position as chair of the TAC’s Committee on Authentic Worship gives her the opportunity to link arms with her other team members to offer insight, training, suggested resources and a listening ear to local churches of all sizes. “We’re putting together a tool kit with helpful ideas, workshops and worship planning tips to help churches create an environment where authentic worship can be experienced,” notes Laurie.
Laurie’s team recently changed the name of the committee from Passionate Worship to the Committee on Authentic Worship, to better define their work. “Having interviewed millennials and others,” she said, “we know people are seeking to worship God in a spirit of honest, open, vulnerability.  This involves everything from music selection and style to the physical setting and the delivery and choices of liturgy and prayer.”  With team members from small and larger congregations in urban and suburban locations, the committee wants to consider ideas that will transfer to a variety of settings. “We know that all of our churches do not have orchestras, for example, and large choirs or praise teams.  Nor do they have the option to modify their worship spaces with such things as intricate altar designs and special lighting,” Laurie shares.
The definition of authentic worship can be personal. Team member Rev. Curtis Matthys, First UMC Sealy uses words such as alive and creative. “I believe authentic worship should involve all of our God-given senses, with excellence, to allow the Spirit o God to work through all we do,” Curtis says. Asbury seminary student Adrian Morgan sums it up saying, “It is all about encountering the presence of God.”
Rev. Roger Clayton Jr., associate pastor at FUMC Livingston sees the Authentic Worship team as a place to collectively discuss new ideas brainstorm new ways to unify God’s people. “Authentic worship does not have to be in a sanctuary, or even involve a lot of people,” Clayton shares, “it only requires the inclusion, infusion and surrender to the Holy Spirit.”
Coming Soon
The worship team is already prepping for a worship-themed workshop for the district trainings that will be held in early 2018. “We would love to hear about some ways our committee can be of help to churches across the conference,” says Laurie. “It would be helpful to get calls or emails with any questions or ideas we can incorporate in the training.”
As schedules allow, team members will make themselves available to provide one-on-one assistance for churches, and will also provide recommendations for specialists and consultants that could come alongside a local church and share ideas. The committee is also researching digital resources that might enrich the worship experience.
Other Ideas Being Discussed
Committee member Paula Harrison, the organist and children’s music director at Atascocita UMC-Humble hopes the committee can leverage the Vibrant Church Initiative process to find: 1) churches that are strong in the area of worship, to serve as best practice examples, and 2) those congregations that are focusing on worship as one of their VCI “prescriptions” that might benefit from available expertise. “Our committee represents congregations of most every size,” adds Laurie, “and someday I hope it will have a representative from each district.”
At the suggestion of Russell Martin, director of student ministries at Williams Memorial UMC- Texarkana, a youth worship class was offered for the first time in June at the Texas Conference Choir Clinic at Lakeview. “Maybe we can host virtual field trips to churches with innovative worship styles,” adds Rev. Cary Wilkins, FUMC Fulshear. The committee will also benefit from the input of Rev. Ben Bagley of St. Luke’s UMC- Kilgore and Rev. Kenneth Green of Mt. Vernon UMC, Houston.
Although the planning of worship for Annual Conference is performed by a separate committee, members of the Authentic Worship team have been involved in that process and they have a special appreciation for this dynamic worship gathering. “It was incredible to have this in an actual sanctuary this year,” Roger shares, “It is extra special to give clergy and laity the chance to simply be a participant for a change, and enjoy the time of unification and strengthening.”
To contribute ideas or make a request of this committee, contact Laurie laurie.purcell@strawbridge-umc.org or 281-360-4500, Ext. 111.