For the past eight years, Plymouth has offered an evening service that we called an “alternative to alternative worship,” and it has had some real successes: introducing to Plymouth contemporary chant and shorter songs for worship from composers like John Bell, a responsive Lord’s Prayer by John Philip Newell, weekly communion, and flexibility in the order of worship. Working together, our plan is to keep all those things that really coalesced, even as we discontinue our regular 6:00 p.m. service. And we plan to continue special evening services during the year, including Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Longest Night, and when the pandemic recedes, monthly Dinner Church.
There were some notable challenges at 6:00 p.m. as well, including waning attendance, not having greeters, finding volunteers for post-service hospitality, the lack of Sunday School, and the time and expense of providing musicians, childcare, deacons, sound engineers, and clergy for a comparatively small group of worshippers. It seems as if the style of worship and theological congruence of our services are appealing, but for many people, the 6:00 hour is less so.
One of the reasons we initiated a third service was the lack of seating in our early services. (Before the pandemic, we had an average of 330 people in worship each week.) And one of the benefits of our new livestreaming system is that it takes a bit of pressure off our seating capacity by allowing our folks to attend remotely, especially less-mobile elders, those who are out-of-town, and people who simply prefer to worship in their bathrobes with a cup of coffee.
At our Deacons meeting in July, we discussed ways we could improve our worship offerings as we head into the program year later this month. What could we keep from our experiences with our innovative evening service while offering it to a larger gathering of worshippers? Many at Plymouth have enjoyed our outdoor services (another is coming on August 15!) and jazz and Celtic services, so why not bring those experiences, along with our evening worship style to our 9:00 service?
So, we’re giving it a try: having our more eclectic style of worship at 9:00, including a wide array of musical styles, weekly communion, chanted Lord’s Prayer, brief Prayers of the People, and scripture, sermon, and children’s time…all in 50 minutes! And at 11:00 our worship will continue to feature our chancel choir, traditional hymnody, monthly communion, and the warmth of traditional worship at Plymouth. The new schedule starts on Jubilee Sunday, August 29!
Whichever service you choose to attend, we hope that it is a service that helps you to connect with the sacred, worship God with authenticity, enjoy the company of your fellow members, and extend an extravagant welcome to folks who are just discovering Plymouth.
Thank you for allowing us to serve you and to serve God together!
Grace and peace,
Judy Lane (co-chair of Deacons),
Nancy Sturtevant (co-chair of Deacons)
Rev. Hal Chorpenning,
Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson
Rev. Ron Patterson,