More than two years ago, we published a Spotlight article about the West Parish of Barnstable, UCC,church who offered a "differently creative, worship service" to bring in new families." (You can read that article here: Saturday, Sing-A-Long, Shorter Service.) The following is an update from The Rev. Ms. Christine Burns, associate pastor at the church.
When you walk into worship at Saturday services at West Parish in the 1717 Meetinghouse, something is very different. It's relaxed. Steve Gregory, our musician, plays guitar, ukulele and sings and is frequently joined by guest musicians from our church and the wider community. The worship team wears jeans and we invite people to come from wherever life has lead them during the day, so kids come in wearing sports uniforms, and casual clothing is common. We meet on Saturday afternoons at 4:30 for a 45-minute service filled with secular and traditional music, prayer candles that the entire community lights and weekly communion service by intinction.
Five years into this new church initiative, we believe it's working well because new folks are coming and joining, families have returned and there is a new sense of hopefulness in our faith life together. Each Saturday we have approximately 35-40 people in attendance, and this has not affected the attendance of our main service on Sundays. In fact, we have had 25 new adults that attend Saturday worship become members, and each one of those adults is part of a family system.
|Group of Saturday worship children singing in West Parish of Barnstable, UCC, church.
Photo by Alan Belanich
Many experts these days are talking about how younger generations aren't joiners and aren't particularly interested in formal membership. We too have found that the younger folk are not joiners, so we really soft-peddle it. At the close of each church year (we do not hold Saturday service in the summer as attendance drops significantly), two weeks before our June annual meeting, we invite our worshipers to join as members. We talk a bit about why they might want to join, but make sure that they know there is no pressure. If they turn us down twice, we are sure not to ask again.
All that said, attendance is our key gauge of success. Today's folks deem that they attend regularly if they come just once a month, which means that we need lots more folk to attend in order to get to that critical mass each Saturday -- which we have found is about 30 people. With 30, the place feels alive, and first-timers feel that this is real. Much less than that number in attendance and it just feels quite different.
This year we started a new Saturday School that happens during the Scripture and sermon time of the worship service. Thirty-seven children are enrolled in the program and it is led by our Senior Pastor, Reed Baer, with the help of parent volunteers. Many of our parents have had no experience teaching so this partnership with a Senior Pastor has been an excellent training opportunity for adults to learn more about the Bible, our faith and how to teach children.
We also began an informal Children's Choir that leads the congregation in singing the Lord's Prayer and a Communion Hymn. The children have no practice prior to worship but sing with delight and joy before the congregation with microphones and faith.
The children also act as ushers in collecting the weekly offering. One of the key elements of Saturday church is to weave the whole family system into the liturgy and life of the community of faith.
Saturday church at West Parish of Barnstable is a beautiful complement to our traditional Sunday worship service at 10:00 AM with organ, choir, bell choir and longer sermons. As we celebrate 400 years together as a church, our slogan is "400 years, a very good start!" Starting new worship services, leading with new kinds of music, preaching and teaching is a wonderful way to keep growing in faith for the years ahead.
You can reach both Christie and Reed at the church office at (508) 362-4445 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact them directly at: Christie Burns, email@example.com, or Reed Baer firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit their Instagram and Facebook pages.
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