Several weeks ago I began speaking of our plan to move, for a trial period, our primary Sunday service from 10:30 to 9:30am. The change will be from Feb. 22nd – May 24th (Lent and Easter Seasons) and be followed in the summertime by a return to our normal schedule and a process of discerning what worked and what didn’t.
I’ve received a good bit of feedback that I wish to share, along with reasons for trying this, in a place where all could offer their own perspectives.
Why are we trying this out? Quite simply, we hope to build a community time in which a much greater number of parishioners can participate in Sunday fellowship and study. I envision a time in which the whole community – folk of all ages – gathers together each week to break bread, reflect on the service, and teach the faith.
While some of our areas of ministry already thrive on Sunday mornings, others struggle to build momentum. This temporary change will help us to explore new models for:
- Formative, engaging and robust programs for children and youth outside of the worship service
- Adult sessions and classes that allow many more parishioners to encounter the ideas of Christian practice, ethics, history and liturgy
- Lively fellowship that continues to engage a great number of our parishioners each Sunday, and welcomes many who have not yet attended
In my years as a priest I’ve observed something of a standard lineup of Sunday morning services: early morning services that are attended mostly by older adults, midmorning services that draw a mix of young families and adults of all ages, and late services that cater largely to older adults while also seeing some participation by younger families.
St. Andrew’s more or less has the early and late services. Have we been missing out on participation through our current schedule? Might offering children’s programming after our primary service, rather than before, help build important momentum? I have seen this structure work with great success in other churches, and I think it is worth trying at St. Andrew’s.
I have received a great deal of valuable feedback in the past few weeks. As you might expect from a group of faithful Episcopalians, some are in favor, others oppose it, and many are willing to give it a try to see what might happen.
Here’s some of what I’ve heard from those who are opposed. Some feel that this disrupts a schedule that they feel is already working well. Some, noting that Fellowship (“coffee hour”) has grown in participation, are concerned that this will undo a success story. One person has suggested that this is just another attempt at building “Sunday School” according to an outdated model.
Just as some find the 9:30 start time an improvement, others do not. This calls on choir members to rehearse even earlier, a challenge for some. A few worry that their ability to make it to church at all would be compromised. They are also disappointed that this trial period was not the result of a parish-wide discernment process.
All of these are important points. So what’s the right answer? I don’t know, but I believe that we need to be willing to try new things – and indeed risk failing from time to time – in order to get where we need to go.
I hope you’ll offer your thoughts below. What possibilities could a trial change in the service times open up? What challenges does it present?
No anonymous comments please! In responding, please speak only for yourself – not “people are saying…,” etc. Let’s abide by the classic “I” language of group process. Please also be respectful of one another’s thoughts. This is not a forum for arguing with one another, but simply an invitation to offer your own perspective. Finally, if you have a thought but would prefer not to comment here, you may contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or our fabulous our senior wardens, Cathy Jordan (email@example.com) and Finley Middleton (firstname.lastname@example.org). Peace, BJ+