Confirmation and an At-Table Service

Confirmation at Church of the Pilgrims comes every once in awhile. This year we had two confirmands.

Emma and Sam (my 13 yo) were confirmed into the Church the last Sunday in May. Emma and Sam had spent the past 6 months in a shared confirmation process with Western Presbyterian Church down in Foggy Bottom. Western had five kids. We had two. We joined forces.

Every 4th Sunday of the month, we'd gather at either Pilgrims or Western for a dinner liturgy. We shared a meal (upgrading from spaghetti to a taco bar as the year progressed) while we shared in liturgy---prayers, candle lighting, hearing a topic of the day like OT genre, Advent birth narratives, Jesus as subversive agent against Empire. We'd chug root beer and marshmallows, made s'mores.  We'd talk over each other and then we'd listen, then start talking over each other again. The youth would annoy the adults, the adults would annoy the  youth, adults would have to separate people....you know...it was like a family dinner table.

When it came time to plan Pilgrims confirmation liturgy, I knew I wanted to share this At-table experience with the rest of Pilgrims. So the tables and chairs were hauled into the sanctuary for the liturgy.

A glimpse of our confirmation liturgy!

Two of the confirmation mentors started off with this welcome:

We welcome you to this at table worship, a time to share in a meal and worship together.

We  gather in this particular way for a couple of reasons: this is how the early Church gathered for worship—at tables, in a home, sharing in a meal, sharing in communion, song and prayer.

 Today we do the same. And we celebrate two particular people—Sam Goff Glennon and Emma Oosterveld. Today we confirm Sam and Emma, we celebrate their confirmation into the christian church. We confirm Sam and Emma together, as a community, because this is how we live out our faith. We gather at table because this is how Sam and Emma gathered with youth from Western Presbyterian the 4th Sunday evening of each month in a shared confirmation process.

Sam and Emma had their confirmation process at table. being at table today gives a glimpse of confirmation process.  So welcome! We live in the ways of Jesus which means all are welcome at these tables to eat, drink, connect, and build community. Let us confirm Sam and Emma! Let us worship God.

We continued with candle lighting and singing. Then we broke the bread with 2 of the mentors and Sam and Emma. Emma said the words of institution while Sam broke the bread. 

Emma: But what Jesus did most of all was share meals with everyone who wanted to eat. he liked having dinner so much that some people even called him a glutton.

Sam: Jesus would eat with people who broke the law, he would eat with people who didn’t take many baths, he would eat with people nobody else liked.

Emma: At the end of his life, Jesus had one last meal with his friends. he took the bread, gave thanks to you, and said, “take and eat. this is by body. do this. remember me."

Then one of the mentors invited people to share in the bread and the cup around the tables. Then we shared in food on the tables: s'mores, cheese, fruit and such.

Emily Wilkes, our intern, told the story of friends busting through a roof for their paralyzed friend.

Folks then wrote hopes and dreams (after a 3 minute sermon) for Sam and Emma on sticky notes, symbolizing that's what Church does---busts open anything for all of us to get as close to the Presence as possible. Our hopes and dreams take us to that Presence.

Then came the confirmation.

Bettina Burgett, our Clerk, offered these opening words. Sam, Emma, Bettina, and I were around our small communion table amidst the tables.

Sam and Emma, you have completed a 6 month process of confirmation, an experience of community, liturgy, conversation, questioning, laughing, service and learning with your companions from Western Presbyterian Church.

You went on retreat at The Pilgrimage with the Western crew, making meals for Open Table, hearing Eric from the National Coalition for the Homeless speak about his experience of homelessness. 

You took bag lunches around Dupont Circle and McPherson Square. You fought of cockroaches in the Pilgrimage kitchen and Paul Reuther had to intervene on your middle school pranks.

You did improv with Andy, served at Open Table. You were cared for and loved by your mentors: Matt, Jeff, Lauren, and Carol

You went before Session, sharing your noticings and wonderings of this community.

Emma and Sam, in front of Pilgrims, with our support and love, do you wish to be confirmed into the Church?

Then people shared their hopes and dreams for Sam and Emma, people standing up one at a time where they were at their tables and reading their hopes and dreams. The 4 mentors went first. Most beautiful part---people affirming Sam and Emma as they are NOW as human beings. Total acceptance.

Then the questions were asked. Bettina started off with the question of trust. Then I asked a person at each table to stand and ask a scripted out question. As that person stood and asked the question, that person's entire table stood up, symbolizing solidarity with Sam and Emma.

People--this makes me teary just writing about it. Oh, and I had pondered over how to do this for some time. Original idea came from Margee Iddings. Then I emailed trusty Andrew Wassenich, my improv guy and member at Pilgrims, about how to pull off what I wanted to do. Andrew solved this in, say 35 seconds. People are beautiful.

The questions:

  • Emma and Sam, Do you trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Sam and Emma:  I do.
  • Emma and Sam, will you seek to be a faithful member of this congregation, and be part of the building up of this community? Will you?
  • Sam and Emma, when the world acts in violent ways, when you see the meanness of others, when you walk past a homeless and hungry person on the street corner, will you choose the way of life and live with compassion and kindness? Will you?
  • To the congregation: Do you fully accept Sam and Emma as equal members of this congregation, embracing their honesty, truth-telling, and creativity? Do you?
  • Will you, Sam and Emma, and you the community gathered, commit yourselves to this life? Will you?
  • Will you, Sam and Emma, and you the community gathered, love neighbor as yourself and strive for peace and justice? Will you?

Then  Sam and Emma shared how they want to live out their faith in the upcoming year. Both want to take bag lunches out to Dupont Circle and share with hungry people. Amazing.

We laid hands on Sam and Emma and prayed.

Then....Pilgrims has a Registry Book---the book that has the names and dates of all the new members, baptisms, and weddings. It has the names of the very first church members going back to the early 1900's. Bettina, as Clerk, is keeper-of-the-book. After laying on of hands, Sam and Emma wrote their own names into our Book of Life and Bettina wrote down the date and "confirmation."

This was the most moving part for me----witnessing Sam and Emma be part of this great cloud of witnesses of Pilgrims, using their own hands to write their own names, having the congregation witness the act in a public way rather than the their names going into the book in a private, off-liturgy moment.

THEN.....we shared the cup with the mentors and Sam and Emma doing the words and actions. THEN we shared a toast to Sam and Emma with our little communion cups. The early Church did this while at dinner and liturgy--toasting to Jesus rather than Caesar and Empire. So....we toasted to Sam and Emma. Then we kept on toasting to life and people and love and stuff. We toasted to Beau Biden, who had died the day before. Joe--we love you.

We sang a song then ate cake.

It was a wonderful day.

Communion on the Streets for Pride

Capital Pride takes shape outside Pilgrims.  That's our intern, Kristin, in the front of this pix. Check out the bubbles in front of her...coming out of our bubble machine.
Capital Pride takes shape outside Pilgrims. That's our intern, Kristin, in the front of this pix. Check out the bubbles in front of her...coming out of our bubble machine.

Capital Pride was last weekend in Washington, D.C. and the Saturday afternoon parade starts at the footsteps of Pilgrims. And by starting out in front of Pilgrims I mean this the chaos you see the picture above.

Pilgrims opens its doors for Pride for bathrooms, water (with our water station handled by the Fairfax Hotel) and this year we added communion in the sanctuary. Our sanctuary had the AC going full blast and one of our Parish Associates, Charles Van Gorder, was present to share communion, talk, and be present. Our sanctuary became a meditative space for those seeking some quiet and stillness from the chaotic, sensory, rainbow scene out front.

This year we also decided to take communion to the More Light Presbyterian marchers while we waited for the parade to start. This meant taking communion to 22nd and N Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20037.

Our fabulous interns, Emily, Andrew, and Kristin took old communion trays and made them fabulous.

Emily cut up baguettes left over from lunch from Pride officials lunch and staging area at Pilgrims.

Jess Fisher, former intern, and I took the bread and the trays to the More Light Presbyterian waiting area. We shared in communion using the human microphone method--a method used by the Occupy movement to run meetings and liturgies. We used improv for the Prayer of Great Thanksgiving. The whole thing went something like this:

Me: We gather

Crowd: We gather

Me: To share a sacred meal on the streets

Crowd: To share a sacred meal on the streets....

Me: What acts of creation do we give thanks for? People called those out. What acts of the prophets do we need to remember? People called those out. What acts of Jesus do we need to remember? What acts of the Spirit? People called those out.

Then we used the human microphone for the Words of Institution.

We shared.

As Jess and I walked back to Pilgrims with what was left of the juice and bread, some folks stopped us to have their own communion moment. Before taking the bread and juice, one person said to Jess, "I have done some very bad things in my life. Very bad things." Jess shared with love and acceptance.

Reflections from sharing communion on the streets:

1) You know all those rules and constructs that the Church  has around ordination and sacraments and whatever? Guess what?  The streets don't care. Thank you, Jesus! When Jess (non-ordained) shared communion, the person didn't ask if she was ordained. Jess didn't ask if the person had been baptized. Who has time for those questions on the streets? Jess carried the symbols of love, life, community, and new beginnings and the streets called her to share freely. For me, the streets expose the absurd nature of the Church. Can you imagine if Jess had said, "Oh, wait. I can only share this with you if you are baptized." Or I had said, "Jess, get out of the way, this is for me the ordained to serve." Seriously? #assholeclergy

2) God is there. We didn't take the Church to 22nd and N. Nor did we take God there. God and the Church and the Spirit are already on the streets. We were greeted by God on the streets. "Well hello there Pilgrim people and MLP's. Thanks for being here on the streets. I've been here all along. Says God every friggin' day."

3) Boundaries get blown up on the streets. See #1. But there wasn't a table to center us. Or walls of a church to show us we are Church. I had to call out "The Lord Be with You" in a loud, directive way and get folks to bunch up together. We had to create our own space within the space of 22nd and N. We also started on our own initiative. No time and space boundaries of liturgy that prompted me to start like "now it's communion because that comes after the hymn which comes after the sermon."

4) Sensory + the Sacred + the Profane:  The quiet nature of the sanctuary that people expect? The table manners of church respectability? Pigeons walking around? Garbage at our feet? There is no separation of the sacred and the profane on the streets. It's all sacred. The symbolic nature of the Eucharist gets infused all over the streets. And the sacred nature of the streets gets infused into us and the sacred meal. Again, boundaries are pushed, challenged, and blown-up when you have dueling piano players on a float behind you and Cher being blasted in front of you. The senses, our lives, our hopes, dreams, urban air, urban sky, urban asphalt, human brokenness and joy....it all gets knocked up together on the streets in a way, for me, that doesn't happen in a sanctuary.  The "this is how we are supposed to act with communion, at the table" gets re-configured on the streets. And maybe not re-configured but you are you on the streets and less of what is expected of you, constructed of you by the Church and Empire.

Why are we doing communion ONLY behind closed doors? And who decided that along the way? And why is that the way we follow?

Some of the photos in the gallery were taken by Marti Mefford.

The Art of Worship Planning

pilgrims

This article was published by Alban at Duke Divinity here. Below is a copy and paste of the article.

Worship planning is an art. It’s a discipline. It must be done over and over and over again in community order to get worship “under our skin.” How we plan worship reflects what we believe worship should be — a transformative, communal experience of observing, trusting, trying, reflecting, and taking chances for the sake of experiencing the Holy One. At Church of the Pilgrims (PCUSA) in Washington, DC where I am Minister for Spiritual Formation, we have created a process that has cultivated our skills for planning worship.

Worship at Pilgrims has been called a “wild mess” by Andy Wassenich, a church member at Pilgrims. While working well within the boundaries and framework of the Reformed Tradition, our worship changes liturgical season after season, with nuances each week. Walking meditations? Check. Pilgrims singing in three-part harmony? Check. Prayer stations, compost pile as communion table, Biblical storytelling, and bubble machine for Pride and Pentecost? Check, check, check. Over a decade, we’ve opened ourselves up to improvisation and spontaneity in worship allowing ourselves, at the same time, to be cracked open by the Holy Spirit and her empowering and prophetic ways. How did we get to this point? Of course, it wasn’t always like this.

I arrived on the Pilgrims scene in January 1999 after graduating from Union Theological Seminary in NYC where on a daily basis I experienced profoundly creative and ever-changing worship. Pilgrims’ was in dire straits in the late 1990’s: crumbling building, shaky finances, lack of identity and purpose, and existing without a called pastor. The congregation was small, getting smaller, and depressed.

Their worship reflected their existence—it was deathly, put-me-to-sleep boring.

A year and a half later, Pilgrims called Jeff Krehbiel who is still serving. Pilgrims re-grouped, started getting involved in community organizing, became a More Light congregation, and re-designed our administrative structure (good-bye standing committees!). While revitalizing worship incorporated many of the same principles of those endeavors, it was a different task altogether. Instead of consulting worship planning books or creating more rules on how to run an efficient worship meeting, we accessed ourselves, harnessed our own creativity, and started planning and creating worship together.

Over time, we developed an art of worship planning that has transformed our Sunday liturgical landscape and the entire eco-system at Pilgrims, the interconnected processes and structures that make up our life together.

The Process of Our Worship Planning

In worship planning we begin the process of sharing responsibility for worship as broadly as possible, shifting the dynamics of “worship leader” and “worship participant” in order to break down the barriers between “provider” and “receiver,” so that worship truly becomes “the work of the people.” –Jeff Krehbiel, pastor at Church of the Pilgrims

Four to six weeks prior to the upcoming liturgical season, Jeff, myself, Rob Passow, our music director and Lauren Dwyer, our Elder for Worship, along with interns, currently Jess Fisher and Dana Olson, brainstorm names of four to six Pilgrims to invite to worship planning. Invitees could be folks who have been at Pilgrims fifty years or five months.

We send an email that includes a link to the lectionary texts to the upcoming season and any other relevant links or an article. We are clear in the email we are asking them for a one-time commitment of brainstorming on a specific evening. We ask invitees to read the texts prior to the evening and choose one that stands out to them for any reason. We’ve realized that is all the prep work that’s needed. Less is more.

Before the meeting, Jeff, Rob, and I divide up the responsibilities of who is going to lead what part of the gathering. At the start of the meeting, we give an overview of the planning process, liturgical season and the texts. Then we move into liturgical storytelling, sharing stories of worship from the past season that have stuck with each person. This creates a shared, collective experience right from the get-go and lifts up experiences of worship that have hits our hearts for one reason or another. We’ve moved away from the “I like” and “I didn’t like” evaluative response of worship experience. In the storytelling, we are asking people to dig deeper into an experience that challenged their participation or disrupted their own thoughts and patterns of living.

After the storytelling, Rob teaches us a new song that he envisions could be used somewhere in the service based on the texts. We sing as a small group, a cappella, feeling the music more than performing it at that point.. From there we jump into the texts, offering people time to look over the texts again and identify something that stands out to them because of an image, word, phrase, or social context. Then it’s time to go deeper either through a short, exploratory Bible study having individual time to ponder some questions or break into groups of two to three to explore.

After the reflection time, the group shares thoughts on the texts, taking time to identify patterns, connections, and contradictions and scribbling it all down on newsprint. When we’ve exhausted our wonderings, we start another piece of newsprint and share about on what’s going on in the life of Pilgrims, in DC, in our culture, and the world-at-large. How do these texts speak to our life right now? Soon, all the papers are up around the room, surrounding us.

We stand back and take a look. We ask, “how can worship make these experiences come alive?” We consider if there are sparks from recent Sundays that we want to continue, and whether there are things we want to stop doing for now.

With the doors of creativity opened, the Holy Spirit starts to flurry around the room, and improv, the artistic methodology of saying “yes…and” comes front and center. Ideas get tossed into the air, each affirmed and clustered to form a foundation from which we work. During the recent planning for Lent our intern Jess Fisher created a map of the sanctuary, distinguishing its moveable and stationary parts. When it came to placement of the liturgical furniture, the map facilitated an explosion of ideas related to our chosen theme of “The Body.” I sat in awe, listening to people give critical analysis in the weaving together of liturgical space, Christian ethics, and theology.

We leave the gathering with a pretty good sense of where the upcoming season of worship is headed. We’ve primarily spent time sitting with the macro-image of worship; we haven’t struggled with the nitty-gritty details of the service that can bog down creativity and create power struggles. But the big picture is all that Jeff, Rob, and I need establish our own marching orders to give life to participants’ ideas. We take the ideas, cycle through a number of more detailed conversations about responsibilities and delegations, and then toss the whole enterprise up into the sky and let the Holy Spirit continue on with her work.

The Method of Our “Wild Mess” Madness

We collaborate. We think outside of the box. We touch. We listen. We share. We’re vulnerable.

Sometimes we cry. We incorporate our experiences, our lives and our personal work into worship planning. We brainstorm and then make it come alive. We’re interconnected. We taste, touch, smell, listen, feel. We do all of the above in worship planning and I think that this process makes it all happen in worship itself as well. –Lauren Dwyer, Elder for Worship at Church of the Pilgrims.

What does our worship planning create? What kind of culture has it created at Pilgrims? How does it impact worship?

Worship planning has let Pilgrims find its own unique voice not just in our expression of Sunday liturgy but also in Pilgrims eco-system at-large. How we brainstorm and “do” liturgy has impacted the web of life and interconnectedness at Pilgrims. Indeed, the intentionality of our worship planning method is not isolated to those evening planning sessions. Our methodology has now infused itself throughout the congregation, impacting how we run meetings, share meals at Open Table (our Sunday lunch for hungry neighbors), welcome first time worshippers, and plan our Capital GLBT Pride events.

Improvisation: Improv is a state and being of creativity that involves saying “yes….and….” Improv involves structure (like the structure in our worship planning and order of worship) and that structure creates safety to say “yes” to new ideas. The “yes…and” results in the creation of new patterns, behaviors, actions, and structures. There are no mistakes in improv; only risk-taking. We say “yes” to new ideas in worship planning and beyond all the time at Pilgrims. This doesn’t mean that all ideas are used. It means all ideas are welcome, noodled around with, explored, and honored.

Improv has also taken us “off script” more often than not in liturgy. We use the “call and response” model a lot; use an improv communion liturgy when it fits the service; and if the liturgist “messes” up like sharing a prayer of dedication before the offering has been taken, it’s not a mess-up. It’s liturgy. It’s life. It’s human. We stop what we are doing, re-group, and move forward without judgment or evil looks from the pew.

Safe, Welcoming Space: Improv is almost impossible without safe space. Improv connects to creating a safe space whether in the sanctuary, coffee hour, or a planning meeting for the Capital Gay Pride parade. Cultivating a safe space where ideas, bodies, spirits, stories, life histories are valued is crucial to taking risks that take us beyond our edge as individuals and a community. A safe place lets us find our edge, that emotional, sensory place within us that tells us we are moving beyond our comfort zone. It isn’t a place of pain or suffering; it’s a place where we move beyond our own, personal norms and socially constructed ways when we can die to our old ways, and rise to the new. Caitlin Bousquet, a recent member at Pilgrims, “in the couple of planning meetings I’ve attended, the people leading and participating have been very open to listening to, validating, and considering all input, no matter how out there it has been.  This openness has led to some really creative practices and experiences in worship.”

We can say “yes…and’’’ because we’ve created a safe, permission-giving environment to plan worship. This doesn’t mean we are void of discomfort, tension, or anxiety in our planning process. But we learn to live with these feelings as we come face-to-face to express our trust in the stories of faith.

Power:This is huge. Power and liturgy go hand-in-hand. Our worship planning has deconstructed power and constructed power in new ways. First, as clergy and a music director, we see it as our job to get out of the way. Deconstructing power means dismantling constructed sources of power—clergy, in particular, are socially constructed sources of power in a congregation. We provide a certain type of leadership and guidance in worship planning and then make sure our egos and any power tripping are taking a nap. The center of worship planning isn’t us as clergy, it’s the Biblical narratives which exist to agitate and heal our lives. Worship planning lets the texts do the work needed on us.

Power in worship planning is then centered on the texts and community, as the Spirit moves, does her thing, and creates a “wild mess” of a liturgical season.   Liturgy can affirm hierarchical, dominating, and life-sucking-can’t-afford-rent-because-minimum-wage-is-so-low kind of power. Liturgy demands relational power–the kind that creates space for people to connect and feel their own capacity to create Holy change. This means having a worship planning process that reflects the kind of worship we want to experience.

Impermanence:Each Sunday, eighty impermanent beings sit in Pilgrims sanctuary. That’s eighty human beings. We are born. We die. We are impermanent. As the scriptures and those around us show us, we are soil, and to soil we shall return. If we are impermanent, then why do we try so damn hard to keep worship the same week after week? Why do we bolt down with all our might the pulpit, pews, organ and whatever else when we ourselves will be released into the great, swirling energy of the universe? Why do we hunker down with nostalgia, like it’s been guerrilla glued to our DNA? Why do we have liturgy that works against our human nature of transformation?

We are born. We die. Our worship planning and the ever changing nature of participants is an impermanent experience. We can’t get too tightly wedded to the group because within an hour, the group will cease to exist. People from the group might take on leadership in the liturgies they’ve helped plan but the group dies at the end of the night. The nature of our planning and liturgy mirrors our human impermanence.

Janet Walton, my Professor of Worship at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, has remarked if worship is the same week-after-week, if worship never changes, it reflects our view on the world. We don’t want the world to change. If we seek transformation, connection, fluidity, and social change for the world then our worship must be of that same nature. When people experience their own individual and collective power and grace in worship planning, worship is an ever-changing for the sake of the ever-present need for justice and liberation for the planet which is the body of God.

Creativity:

People who are not “professional” worship planners frequently approach the planning with a more open mind—or at least with fewer pre-conceived ideas. Their response to worship is usually more visceral (and less intellectual/analytical) than those of us with formal seminary and/or conservatory backgrounds; and they often ask better (or at least more straightforward) questions.—Rob Passow, Music Director at Pilgrims

The questions we ask near the end of worship planning: “how do we make these experiences come alive in worship?” followed by “what have we experienced lately in worship that we want to keep, what do we want to stop doing for now?” are crucial to our creativity. The questions focus on keeping actions in worship that are meaningful to us right now, breaking through unquestioned habits done in the name of nostalgia rather than connection and relevancy.

Our worship planning has evolved in participant’s confidence and questioning. Both confidence and questioning involve risk-taking. Do the Advent candles have to be purple? Can we build a wailing wall for the sanctuary? Can we worship without the lights? Can “non-ordained” people be at the communion table? Do we need a communion table? Can we have a compost pile as a communion table?

David Gauntlett, in his book, Making Is Connecting: The Social Meaning of Creativity, from DIY and knitting to Youtube and Web 2.0 writes that creativity “helps us to build resilience….and the creative capacity to deal with significant challenges.” The discipline of worship planning, and the experience of Pilgrims liturgy, builds layers upon layers of creative experiences. Not only is creativity part of resiliency, “creativity is an act of defiance,” says dancer Twyla Tharp, as creativity breaks through the status quo and pushes our imaginations to explore, dream, and imagine a world made new.

Congregants-as-Liturgical Artists

The connection I see between our worship planning and our worship services is the inclusiveness and participatory nature of it. Through our many open and collaborative parts of our services the entire congregation is given the opportunity to add to the experience and the service.” Andy Wassenich, member at Pilgrims

With Pilgrims “liturgical ecology” or the connections, relationships and systems that reflect our methodology of liturgy, we’ve created congregants-as-liturgists. News flash! Liturgy isn’t about the clergy. It really isn’t about those participating either. It’s about taking the Biblical narratives and the Reformed Tradition that’s been passed down to us and, as a community, seek to interact with it in order to recognize the Holy One in life and the organizing of justice.

The ownership and participation in planning and liturgy that’s been cultivated through our process means we have particularized our liturgy, found our unique voice to enable us to deepen and nourish the continued wrestling of faith. Congregants-as-liturgists means those participating substantially infuse themselves into the liturgical experience. Pilgrims have learned to design the liturgical experience and greatly impact the content of the liturgy.

When we improve our Prayer for Great Thanksgiving, those at the table offer prompts that create space for thanksgivings. “What aspects of creation do we need to give thanks for? “What acts of Jesus do we live with gratitude?” Those gathered around the table call out their responses, moved by their own experiences and the Spirit at work.

Recently we’ve been using two questions to reflect on worship: “What did you notice in worship” and “what do you wonder about?” Both get away from the “it’s all about me” attitude about worship, and pushes us to reflect critically within an artistic framework. In this type of reflection process, Pilgrims are thinking critically and imaginatively about their experience. We also get insights into how to nuance upcoming services.

Liturgy as a “Wild Mess”

When we create a “wild mess” in worship, we experience what change feels like, looks like, smells like, and tastes like. We learn to take risks for the sake of justice. We push through age-old, conventional, status quo driven boundaries of worship. We sing new songs, we engage the Biblical stories in multi-sensory ways, and the sacraments are authentic, ancient expressions of grace within. “Wild mess” of a worship service breaks through social and ecclesiastical norms so we can embrace the hope and possibilities of the Commonwealth of God. We learn what it looks and feels like to take a stand.

Liturgy as a “wild mess” means critiquing Empire, the powers-that-be, and the social structures that oppress, defile, and disfigure who we are as created in the image of God. It means offering a liberating way of being together, practicing in-the-moment ways of being equal, compassionate, vulnerable, and powerful. When we started this type of worship planning at Pilgrims, we had no idea what kind of liturgical journey we were embarking on, that it would impact our congregational eco-system like it has. We are inherently experimenting with our life stories and the story of the movement of God. With this type of planning, you can’t expect what will come at the end, you can’t predict. One of our long time members, Gerry Hendershot, puts it, “Every time something is added to our already symbol-laden worship, I think, ‘That’s it, we can’t add anything else.’  Then we do.” As in the process of creating social change, we engage in a process of creativity and critique with an outcome yet-to-be seen or experienced. It’s wild, messy worship full of integrity, intentionality, and experiences of change. It’s also a hell of a lot of work. And we love it.