So this last Sunday, I preached a Sermon on the topic of Radical Hospitality for the First Unitarian Church of Orlando. This is the Unitarian Universalist congregation that I am a sometimes member and ongoing friend of. I attend Church there when I can, and have been involved as an Usher and Greeter, as a member of the Membership/Fellowship team, and now as Worship Associate.
Worship Associates, after a period of training with the Minister, work with the Minister and Worship Team to create meaningful Church Services; and, when the Minister is absent, serve to create and lead meaningful Services.
This last Sunday was the first Sermon I preached and the first Service I led.
Now, I have planned and led a few rituals in the Pagan community before, both Wiccan style Circles and other ritual forms. In those efforts I was primarily working from a limited pool of resources… both having experienced a number of rituals, and years of personal study on the topic of creating and leading meaningful Pagan ritual.
As a Worship Associate, I have a much larger pool of personal experience to draw on because I have at this point attended more Services as 1U than I have been to Pagan Rituals. I also have had more hands on training in crafting a Service; as part of my Worship Associate training I spent a year going to classes once a month going over the many parts of our Congregations Order of Service with Reverend Kathy and a group of Worship Associates in training and one of our past Worship Associates who is pursuing the Ministry.
It’s been an interesting process of learning and growth. In writing the Sermon, I learned a lot about how I write and think. I tend to like to link ideas and thoughts and observations into long sentences. I stitch together thoughts and observations with comma and semi-colon… which is great for writing/reading but doesn’t always work so well for speech. As I was cutting some of those intricate sentences into simple ones as I prepared to give my Sermon… I realized that that stitching isn’t just a stylistic choice. It is how my mind works.
I wrote the Sermon and crafted the Service as best I could with the topic. In preaching the Service I had the interesting experience of improvised editing… there were points in the Sermon and Service where I cut out a sentence here or there. Where I rearranged some of the points I wanted to make at one point in the Service to another, and where I spoke as much from the heart as from the page.
Awen, inspiration, being moved by the Spirit; each is their own kind of Invocation really.
I find that I enjoyed and cherished both the similarities and differences in the processes of Crafting a Ritual and Crafting a Service. Although there are structural and Theological (or Polytheological) differences at work, the focus in both Ritual and Service creation remains the same…. for whom am I doing this? Indeed in both cases I find that it is a combination of the occasion being observed and the relationship between the worshipers and the Holy Powers (however They are conceived of by the worshipers, and often there are many different conceptions at play…).
I think that the best of religious worship is at heart a celebration of relationships. The relationships between the assembled worshipers. The relationship between the worshipers and the Divine. The relationships that both worshipers and the Divine have to the occasion being celebrated. Then too, there is the complexity of honoring the many ways that the assembled worshipers can related to the Divine, as beings on another level of existence, or as inspiring ideas and personifications, or in some other category of thought.