The curious get a preview of Synod worship music and videos
What will General Synod worship be like online? A pair of United Church of Christ webinars, April 20 and 22, offered glimpses.
The two-part “Getting Ready, Getting Rooted” told how this summer’s worship services are coming together. It included sample clips of video and music — and thoughts on the joys and challenges of online worship design.
The series appeared on Zoom and is now available at the UCC’s YouTube channel. Two further webinars are set for June 8 and 10 to help people prepare for worship. Information on those, when ready, will appear in the events section of the UCC website.
Led by the Synod’s worship director, the Rev. Tracy Howe, the webinars focused on various aspects of worship. Among them were music, visual arts, Communion, and ways that viewers can take part, actively, from home.
The biennial national UCC meeting, to be held virtually for the first time ever, takes place July 11-18. Registration opens in May, including a free option to sign up only for worship. The three services will take place:
- Sunday, July 11, at 5 p.m. EDT
- Wednesday, July 14, at 8 p.m. EDT
- Sunday, July 18, at 6 p.m. EDT
Music, visuals, Communion
Howe said a unique theme for each service will connect with the overall “Rooted in Love” Synod theme. And each will reflect the context of the past year, from the global pandemic to uprisings against racism. She said core elements inform the three themes: soil and “groundedness”; water and resilience; and air and breath.
Brief video and audio clips interspersed through the two webinars hinted at the variety of music in store. Among them were original compositions offered in various formats:
- A virtual choir
- Vocalists accompanying themselves on guitar – one of them singing in both Spanish and English
- A vocal soloist, backed by the harmony of two other singers and a hand drum, interpreting the story of Jesus’ transfiguration
Other clips appeared, too. One was a piece of a music-and-image montage that will be part of opening worship. Another was from a video of a recent “lighting of teepees,” approved for Synod use by the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council. It explains traditions behind the ceremony, which honored those who have died, including victims of COVID-19.
Howe said these “sneak peeks” over Zoom could not quite do justice to what will be the final product. Worshipers can expect high-quality audio and video this summer, she said.
At-home ‘sacred time’ aids sought
The webinars also invited people to submit spiritual aids for home use throughout Synod. The Rev. Cheryl Lindsay, editor of the weekly UCC feature “Sermon Seeds,” is coordinating that “Sacred Time” project. Her task, she said, is to create “ways in which our dwelling places can become our sanctuaries.”
She said she is looking for variety: devotionals, guided meditations, brief spiritual exercises, songs, visuals, videos, prayers, prompts for journaling, theological reflections and more. People can submit them, no later than May 15, using this Google Docs link or by emailing her at email@example.com.
Special General Synod communion sets and altar cloths are also available from UCC Resources. Glass and fabric artists created them especially with home use and the Synod’s theme in mind, said the Rev. Sue Blain, minister for worship and gospel arts.
Synod rituals for local use, too
Lindsay, Blain and other members of the Synod worship planning team joined Howe in the webinars. They said creating worship for the small screen — in the tradition of Synod’s grand, multimedia, in-person experiences — is energizing, and a little scary. “We’re so used to that life-changing moment of, you know, being in a convention center and turning around and witnessing the church together,” Howe said.
In their own way, the three services “will be beautiful and special and compelling,” she said. And, they “will be nothing like you expect.”
The June 8 and 10 sessions “to prepare our hearts and minds for General Synod worship” are needed “partly because we know people have expectations,” Howe said. “And no matter what your expectation is, even if it’s a good expectation, it’s probably going to be something different.”
She said those June sessions will help people get the most out of the services — and, beyond Synod, adapt them locally in an ongoing way. “We will look at how ritual is woven into GS worship and what to expect.” The webinars, she said, will touch on the “theological foundations and artistry that went into the rituals and how we hope people will participate from home — as well as ideas as to how to incorporate these things into continuing virtual worship and hybrid worship.”
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