What does a non-creedal church worship? We can’t all say we are worshipping God, because some of us don’t believe in God. In Unitarian Universalist congregations, we have even been suspicious of the word “worship” because it seems to imply bowing down to an all-powerful authority.
Actually, to understand how we worship, you need to go back to original roots meanings of the word “worship”. The old English roots of “worship” simply mean “considering things of worth”. That’s what we do in worship at West Shore.
Our worship services are the central spiritual practice our members hold in common. Our worship services need to speak to the variety of beliefs held among us. Our services need to touch both the heart and the head. They need to speak to how a liberal religious community can transform one’s life and give it greater meaning and purpose.
One way our ministers understand worship is that it is a weekly exercise reminding us of all the rich opportunities for spiritual practice, insight and appreciation throughout the week. On Sunday mornings, we hear great music and thoughtful reflection on life issues; we enjoy elegantly composed poetry and prose; we sit together in silence, engaging in prayer or in meditation; we are invited to be generous with our money, our time and our talents. These are all building blocks in any given week that can help create a liberal religious life.
Our worship services are rooted in Protestant traditions, which values excellence in sermonic presentations, but we also have the freedom to experiment with rituals, forms, and music from any tradition or culture. We take care to both educate and honor the cultural traditions not widely known or understood among our members, seeking to be conscious of and to avoid cultural misappropriation.
What happens in the service?
You’ll recognize many familiar elements from other church services you may have attended. Most of our services are led by our Senior Interim Minister.
We sing hymns as well as folk and popular songs. Click here for more information about our Music Program and Choir. We always light a “Flaming Chalice,” a commonly used symbol of the Unitarian Universalist faith, representing the light of truth and the warmth of community. We have a time for prayer and/or meditation. We have a digital projector in the sanctuary and use it often for photographs, videos, and song words that augment the services. We have stories accessible to the intergenerational community attending, and we have a sermon. At an early point in the service, we welcome visitors. Sometimes we invite people to greet those nearby they may not know. We do take up an offering every Sunday, and each month we give away the offering to organizations we wish to support. If you’re a first time guest, feel free to let the plate pass you by, or to make a contribution, whichever feels right for you.
The two main instruments in the sanctuary are a 3-manual Holtkamp organ and Steinway piano. Other instruments and instrumentalists are used throughout the course of the year. Half to three quarters of the services feature the organ and our thirty voice choir, directed by David Blazer. If you enjoy singing, then consider joining the choir!
So, what’s different about our services? You may notice immediately that the content of all our liturgical elements does not rely on the Bible, but draws from a wide variety of sacred and secular wisdom and liturgical sources. We have the freedom to use ancient and modern texts, which may include poetry, novels, stories, or scholarly or scientific writings. We encourage people to attend more than one service, as they do vary in style and approach.
What to Expect
The Covenant in English & Spanish.We say this covenant almost every Sunday:“Love is the Spirit of this church and service
is its law.This is our great covenant: To dwell together in peace, to speak the truth in love and to help one another.For an explanation
of why we also decided to speak it in Spanish, click here.
Lighting the Chalice has become an important part of Unitarian Univeralist
worship. We call it “symbol of our free faith.” For more information about the symbol of the chalice, click here.
Music is an essential part of the Sunday morning experience. The West Shore
Choir meets weekly through May, 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday; the Free Spirit band plays monthly. Mr. David Blazer is the choir director. For
more information, click here.
An order of service will be given to you when you come into church. For a sample
order of service, click here, noting that we often take great liberties with the “order” depending on the theme of the service. Included
in the order of service is the West Shore Weekly, a weekly update about the weekly news & events of the church.
For All that is Our Life is a time to light a candle in support or in memory
of; or write down the name of a person you wish to remember on a card.It’s a time of meditation, reflection and prayer.