Since 1992 I can name on one hand the number of times, prior to 2020, that I changed the standing worship schedule for a congregation. At one appointment we changed only the time for a new service that we added to the existing schedule. At another appointment we merely tinkered with the existing schedule by nudging things 15 minutes this way or that way. Here at Skyland UMC we have made more changes in the worship schedule in a year and a half than I have in almost 30 years. We have 1) cancelled all in-person worship to move all worship online by means of pre-recorded worship elements, 2) moved worship to livestreaming, 3) moved all Holy Communion to virtual 4) moved back in the building with one hybrid service, 5) added a second service outdoors, 6) moved Holy Communion back to in-person, and now 7) we are planning to hold two services indoors for the Fall.
We have sustained these moves with faith, hope, and love. Thanks to all of you who have sustained us in prayer, sustained us with your financial gifts, sustained us with encouragement, sustained us with your presence both online and in-person, sustained us with your work as an usher, as an a/v tech, as a member of the Safety Team, as a musician, as a leader in worship, as a nursery worker, as a Trustee who maintained the building, or as a roadie for the band. I am both very grateful and a little out of breath after writing these two paragraphs.
Cut to the Chase
More now about item #7 from above, holding two services indoors for the Fall. Skyland UMC is planning to move to the following schedule in October: 9am—Contemporary Worship in the Fellowship Hall; 11am—Traditional and livestreamed worship in the sanctuary. We are likely to hold this schedule through the end of the year.
Honestly, I’m just making this up as I go along. But if it makes you feel better here are some of the variables I’ve taken into consideration. This isn’t a list of answers or a proper defense. Rather, this is more like a list of ingredients in a Twinkie where, once you get past flour and sugar, one isn’t sure which ingredients are more dominant in the outcome and which ingredients play a lesser part.
Ingredients include: a history of service times over the past 25 years; consultation with church leaders, choir members, attendees of each of our services prior to the pandemic, youth parents, parents of young children, musicians, older adults, and WNC Conference guidelines; current worship attendance and habits; available personnel; the mission and focus of the church; online worship attendance and YouTube viewership; the pre-pandemic 8:25 service; the possibility of flipping the times for contemporary and traditional worship; the possibility of worship at other times during the week; our three areas of focus, youth, personal connections, communication; current staff responsibilities and demands; pending hiring of additional staff; physical space and available equipment; COVID-19; and other natural and artificial flavors.
I believe this schedule is the best and most faithful step for the next few months. This schedule is not permanent; it’s simply our next best iteration. Like everything else over the past year and a half, this schedule will evolve, regress, and re-evolve based on changing conditions. Stay tuned for any changes. I plan on giving the worship schedule another thorough reconsideration for 2022. I’m interested in any thoughtful feedback. May God continue to provide every needed blessing during these days for you, your family, and for Skyland UMC.