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Looking Ahead to March 2018:

Lent - continues through March 31
Palm Sunday - March 25
Maundy Thursday - March 29
Good Friday - March 30
Easter - April 1

Holi - March 2

Passover - March 30-April 7

Notable Dates:
Disability Day of Mourning - March 1
International Women's Day - March 8
Vernal Equinox - March 20


STLT #62 When the Daffodils Arrive

This hymn has genuinely surprised me.

First, let’s talk tune: it’s set to an Hasidic melody that holds in its phrases a secret and unspoken longing – certainly an intriguing choice for a hymn called “When the Daffodils Arrive.”

I will also say that at first, I plunked it out fairly slowly – but then I took it at tempo, and learned its other secret: it is a dance.

Now there is something to make you go “hrm” here – it’s an Hasidic tune, talking about Easter. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that… it’s another juxtaposition that makes you wonder what the hymnal commission was thinking. But, here it is, Easter in an Hasidic tune.

And yet I love the lyrics. And I love the tune. I’m just not quite sure I would use this because of the jarring collision. But I’m not sure I wouldn’t either… it may require some care.

But still, I'm a fan. Consider using it in your Easter planning.

See full post and find more hymn commentary at my blog Notes from the Far Fringe.

Help us to hold the mystery

by Celie Katovitch

Spirit of life and death,
Thou who art as present to us in our suffering
As in our wellbeing,
Abide with us in this permeable time
Between dusk and dark.
Soothe the secret pains we carry.
Bless us with the courage to move toward our grief
And not away.

When all is hidden—
When we find ourselves moving among the shadows—
When we do not know the way—
Quiet our hearts; still our restlessness.
Help us to embrace the unknown:
To hold the mystery,
And to let ourselves be held by it.
For Thou art the great Hiddenness,
And yet we know that our breath is not so close to us
As thy presence.

Abide with us, O spirit of compassion,
As the power of healing,
The assurance of peace,
The Love that will not let us go.

This prayer was written for a Tenebrae service (Good Friday)

This reading and more can be found at the UUA's Worship Web.

Getting Set for Worship

You enter a sanctuary to attend worship. Your first concern is a bulletin and finding a seat. But almost immediately, your eye is caught by what you see on the chancel.

You expect to see orderly-placed chairs, tables, decorations, and a pulpit, but instead you see the sexton setting up chairs. There’s a stray pile of music left from Thursday’s choir rehearsal. The sound guy is arguing with the worship associate about how many mics are needed. The readers for the antiphonal piece are running through their parts for the first time. The soloist is getting in a last-minute rehearsal. And the minister is frantically trying to answer questions about next week’s board meeting, cookies for the newcomers’ class, why the copier keeps breaking down, and why we don’t sing Blue Boat Home every week, all while trying to center and prepare to lead worship.

Finally everyone seems to simmer down, and the minister says “okay, let’s start” while the worship associate, still fuming from the fight with the sound guy, realizes he forgot to light the candles and move the bottle of oil that refills the chalice from off the pulpit.

Then the service begins, but when the minister reaches for a hymnal to lead the opening song, she has to cross to the other side of the chancel to get one. The soloist’s music stand is in the way and the readers have to move it aside. The worship associate trips over a microphone cord.

Now I am exaggerating a little, but maybe not much. Where we never expect to see that chaos when we go to see a play, we often see some chaos before worship - because the leaders forgot to get set.

What does it mean to be set? It doesn’t mean being stodgy, as it ‘set in our ways’ – rather, it means that all the pieces are in place and all the needs throughout worship are coordinated so that things run smoothly. It means that we know what time most people start arriving and looking for a space that is worshipful, or at least calm.

Now I recognize that some congregations don’t have separate space for gathering and worship – my home congregation in Saratoga Springs has a very small vestibule, and thus most of the gathering, name badges, greetings, visitor welcomes, and coffee hour prep all happen in the same space as the worship service. However, even then, as people begin to find their seats in the sanctuary, it helps to not see chaos in the front even as there is chaos in the back.

How do we get there? It takes a bit of forethought and commitment.
  • Ask all participants to arrive earlier than you normally do, so that all of the rehearsing can be finished by 10-15 minutes before the service begins.
  • Set up all the chairs, tables, objects, music stands, and mics either the day before or even earlier. Yes, it might mean coming in at 9 for a 10am service instead of 9:30.
  • Create a checklist of the things that have to be done, and make sure you are responsible to it.
  • Be willing to put reminders in hidden places, like hanging off the back of the pulpit, or on bookmarks that live in the chancel hymnals, so that the candles really do get lit.
  • Change the culture by modeling and demanding it. Yes, you will get pushback. Yes, people do not want to sacrifice even one moment of sleep on a weekend that they don’t have to just because you want to rehearse early. (I find the people who normally leave their homes at 7am to make it to work are the most likely to groan when we suggest a 9am rehearsal.)
But imagine if, at 10 minutes before the start of worship, all the fuss was over, the candles are lit, the flowers are in place, the music for gathering can start, and the minister is at the door greeting people (for extroverts) or in a side room centering (for introverts).

It would be weird at first for old hands, but imagine what visitors would say.

And imagine that in the service, there wasn’t a sense that the worship was a camel – a horse put together by committee – but rather a fully planned, considered service.

Sure, the unexpected fumble may happen - tripping over a mic cord, fumbling a transition, etc., but there’s less likely to be a hassle over misplaced materials, unlit candles, and furniture in the way. Instead, the physical is set to make space for the spiritual.
Copyright © 2018 The Worship Whisperer, All rights reserved.

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