Say you’re the lay worship associate for your congregation, you have a Coming of Age service approaching, and you’ve never led one before. What do you do?
One option is to go online to WorshipWeb where you’ll find more than 1,700 resources (and counting), everything from readings to hymn suggestions and even complete services.
WorshipWeb, at uua.org/worship, is a storehouse of resources for UU worship services and personal spiritual practices. While the online collection has been around since 2000, in the last year it has gone from what WorshipWeb curator the Rev. Erika Hewitt described as “a grainy, small, black-and-white television to a giant, LED, high-definition color screen.”
That’s because WorshipWeb saw massive improvements when the UUA website, where it is housed, went through its own transformation a year ago. That process had been preceded, four months earlier, by the assignment of Hewitt as the collection’s first-ever curator.
“I have made it my personal goal to serve as the magic worship-elf to make the job of worship associate or worship leader that much easier,” she said.
If you are introducing yourself to WorshipWeb for the first time, Hewitt suggests simply clicking on “Words for Worship” and spending 20 to 30 minutes examining some of the possibilities available to you. A sophisticated tagging system allows you to search, for instance, through hundreds of readings to accompany chalice lightings or pastoral prayers. You can even search for materials associated with each of the Seven UU Principles.
To find the resources you need for that Coming of Age service, click first on the “Words for Worship” button, which leads you to a page where you can search by worship service component, spiritual theme, or occasion. Click “Coming of Age” in the “Occasion” pull-down menu and you’ll find dozens of chalice lighting words, meditations, prayers, and even complete services.
There are resources for coming-out rituals as well, with affirmations, prayers, and readings. Likewise with other rites of passage such as life transitions, weddings, graduations, and building dedications. Click on some of those passages, such as leaving home or job loss, and you might find nothing. That’s because Hewitt is still waiting for somebody to send her the resources they have found or created for these occasions.
“I’m the curator, the connector,” she said. “If people have written something for a worship that they’ve used, I’d love to see it. I rely on people to say, ‘I made this.’”
Hewitt, who is also a half-time minister with the Midcoast UU Fellowship in Damariscotta, Maine, said she adds about 10 new resources a week. Her hope for 2016 is to get the chance to focus on the music section, getting permission to share MP3 files of hymns because, she said, “that’s the number one request we get.”
Another of her goals is to offer more education to lay leaders on worship.
“You can have the best content, but sometimes worship services are not as meaningful as they could be without knowing, for instance, how to arrange components and how to hold the space,” Hewitt said.