WIDENING THE CIRCLERead Now
Years ago, when I was grad student in public policy attending First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, I participated in a six-week adult education program on sermon writing. About a dozen members of the church met weekly, in the grade school Sunday School room, and talked about what moves us in worship. Each of us wrote weekly, starting with the seed of an idea, questioning and deepening it, until it became what Emerson called “life passed through the fire of thought.” The summer after the program, each of us in turn preached what we had written to the congregation.
What is remarkable about that program, looking back at it, was how wildly diverse our sermons were. From reflections on childhood experiences, to calls for justice, to reflections of how a particular spiritual practice brought meaning to life, the stories that group told from the pulpit reflected the mosaic of the congregation itself.
Unitarians are descendants of the Protestant Reformation. Part of that tradition is the priest and prophethood of all believers - in more contemporary language, the idea that each person in the congregation has a piece of wisdom to share with the rest of us. That idea is what grounds our Worship Associate program, where lay members assist with worship and, about once a month, lead Sunday morning services.
Over the last two years, our worship has taken many different forms. By necessity (it is hard to ask a volunteer to do video editing), it has centered the church’s staff more than in the past. As we move into what we will be next, we are revisiting what it means to include a mosaic of voices and stories in worship.
In the coming months we’ll be recruiting new Worship Associates to participate in and lead worship on Sunday morning. If this is something you’ve considered before, please reach out! If you have never considered it before, but in reading this article an idea for a sermon tickled the back of your mind, please reach out! Just as preachers, lay and ordained, grow and deepen an idea into a sermon, our community is deepened by every new voice we hear.
Rev. Oscar Sinclair serves as the Settled Minister for The Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Nebraska.