One benefit of being a member of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association is that every two or three years our leadership plans a week of continuing education + retreat + worship + playtime – always in the winter, always someplace warmer than Maryland.
Last week, the UUMA Institute for Excellence in Ministry was held at a charmingly aging golf resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, and I’m very fortunate to have had the resources to be able to attend. It wasn’t quite warm enough for me to enjoy the pool, but I did wear sandals some days, and I left my winter coat and gloves at home! Plus, I very much enjoyed reconnecting with friends and colleagues who serve in other parts of the country; hearing directly from the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray (UUA President) about the state of the Unitarian Universalist Association; and participating in a small focus group of senior ministers serving on multi-minister teams.
Over the course of the four days, I spent about 12 hours in a worship design workshop led by Marcia McFee. The driving theme was “Think Like a Filmmaker”, and her presentation was engaging and entertaining. You won’t see me implementing all of McFee’s worship design ideas, but she certainly offered a lot for our worship leaders to think about as we remain committed to offering meaningful services at UUCC.
One of her more valuable lessons was the reminder that there are multiple intelligences and a variety of “primal patterns” or “energetic homes” among us. Some of us are decisive do-ers. Others are interactive, playful, emotional. Others value structure and form above all else. Others like to hang back and go with the flow. Some of us absorb information best when it’s offered verbally, through language. Others are visual-spatial learners. Others are logical and mathematical, perceiving connections where some might not. Some learn best through music and rhythm, or kinesthetically, through the body. All of these needs and preferences affect how we experience worship – and, of course, they are not mutually exclusive of one another.
Our congregations, she advised, are (should be!) places where, even when an individual’s needs aren’t specifically met – through one worship element, or an entire service – that person is content in the knowledge that their turn will come, when something will strike just the right chord for them, as over time we touch on all the intelligences and energetic impulses among us.
May we truly celebrate the beauty of our diversity, in worship and in all of our congregational life.