In September 2010, Washington Community Fellowship (WCF) embarked on a 40-week worship series entitled, Stories Alive! Narratives Around the Table, based on the six streams of faith Richard Foster describes in his book Streams of Living Water.
In February 2015, for his column in The Mennonite, Ervin Stutzman described these six streams:
- Contemplative—spending time with God in prayer and meditation;
- Holiness—having pure thoughts, words and actions, and overcoming temptation;
- Charismatic—welcoming the Holy Spirit while nurturing and exercising my spiritual gifts;
- Social justice—helping others less fortunate than I;
- Evangelical—sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and reading the Scriptures;
- Incarnational—unifying the sacred and the secular areas of my life while showing forth God’s presence.
WCF, a multi-denominational congregation affiliated with Mennonite Church USA, was able to explore these spiritual traditions more deeply with the support of a Worship Renewal grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.
In an interview with Hannah Heinzekehr, Pastor Del Glick talks about the impact of this worship series for WCF.
HH: What was the genesis of this idea?
DG: It’s based primarily on the fact that when WCF was birthed or conceived in the early 1980s there was an intentional commitment to be a multi-denominational congregation. This was an intentional wording choice. It was perceived as a congregation that would respect various faith traditions rather than using a common denominator of all faiths. In that context, Margot Eyring [the point person for the grant] thought it would be important to visit this earlier commitment about what it means to be a multidenominational church in this setting.
We have about 20 percent of members with Mennonite background, and the rest are Catholic, Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist, Quaker and quite a few who don’t come from any denominational background. We have around 100 members. That has varied over the years. At one point in the early 90s, there were probably 250 members.
HH: How did you plan for this worship series? Who was involved?
DG: We had a committee including members of worship committee, elders, myself as pastor. We decided to do a 40 week span. We started in September 2010 and concluded with Pentecost in June 2011. We took Richard Foster’s book and we tried to divide the 40 weeks between these streams. There was a fair amount of planning and projection at the front end of this. We tried to create an overall structure based on input or specific experiences of people in the congregation. We wanted to listen to the various denominational emphases. Each Sunday we had a particular element that we tried to make unique to the particular spiritual stream.
We decided on the title Stories alive! Narratives Around the Table. This was a way of identifying that the table really is a central worship element in each of these spiritual and denominational streams. Historically WCF has communion every other Sunday, so we didn’t increase the communion times, but we just did them differently within each of these streams to portray or develop more sensitivity about how many denominations observe the table.
We did a two-week kickoff, we devoted six weeks to each stream and then we had a two-week conclusion. We didn’t take the streams in the order that Richard Foster wrote about them, but tried to match them to lectionary seasons, etc. For example, we focused on the prayer-filled life during Lent and the word-centered life during advent.
HH: What were the different elements involved in each service? Did you have a template that you followed throughout the year? How did worship planning happen?
DG: The table was the one piece that stayed mostly consistent. Within each of these streams we tried to get an outside speaker. For the Pentecostal stream we brought someone in who was more enmeshed in that stream than I was; for the word-centered life we had an Episcopal priest come to share with us. We tried to bring outside persons in to better reflect and represent each particular stream. Our facility also used to be a Lutheran building and we still have stained glass windows. During the sacramental life focus, we had someone who was knowledgeable about stained glass come educate us about what was meaningful about the stained glass art. We tried to pull in resources to reflect each stream, although I as pastor still did the majority of the preaching. We did try to follow the lectionary scriptures throughout the year as well, which gave us a grounding in the liturgical year.
HH: I know when we plan convention, we always know that music is something people are passionate about and sometimes diverse music styles stretch people. How was music a part of the planning?
DG: For some of the streams, we did feature more contemporary songs, for some we tried to incorporate hymns, and we used some music from the Taize community in France. Our music wasn’t as diverse as it could have been, but we did try to pay attention to it. At WCF, folks are used to a wide variety of music, including very contemporary music, music from the 80s and 90s and hymns as well. That wasn’t stressful for us because people were used to having a variety of genres.
HH: How has this changed how you think about worship now?
DG: What it has done is that it really increased the sensitivity of the people who are still attending now. It has given us language and has given people within the congregation a voice. There were several people from Catholic or Episcopal backgrounds who felt so grateful when we used the communion liturgy that they knew and remembered.
I think we are just much more sensitive and conscious now as we craft each Sunday’s worship service to be as multi-denominational as possible without being so different that it cause a lot of ambiguity for people. There is a strong belief that we can work together and that we will make worship happen in a way that does respect the various perspectives that people bring. It has given the congregation as a whole a new set of lenses through which to view these six spiritual streams as significant. We are aware of course that no one stream captures the essence of the kingdom of God. We don’t want to pigeon-hole people from different backgrounds. The streams more often flow over into each other’s boundaries. It’s not a separate, straight line approach.
HH: Would you encourage other congregations to take on a worship series like this? Any advice for other churches who might want to do something similar?
DG: Yes! Do it. There needs to be a high degree of trust and flexibility. Forty weeks felt like a really long time, but we did want to do justice to each of the streams. We did try to mix it up so that it didn’t become boring and that it was sustainable. I don’t know if it would need to be 40 weeks, but at least some attempt to highlight each of these six streams, I would 100% recommend that.
I don’t have any magic outline, but I think that a series like this has to have a fair amount of ownership. We need to get the creative folks together who aren’t afraid to pull in diverse resources. Having the congregation prepared and committed to being accepting and sensitive would be things I think about as being pretty essential.