Congregations 2013 Report

March 4, 2014

Hark the Glad Sound: Inviting New and Returning Christians to Worship


Dorothy Bass


Throughout Christian history, creativity in music and the arts has played a crucial role in opening Christian worship to new or returning participants. Though it be described different ways–evangelism, outreach, mission, church growth, hospitality–church leaders have sought to develop fresh liturgical and artistic forms that speak powerfully to their contemporaries in the midst of changing contexts. Doing so requires theological discernment, cultural sensitivity, strategic savvy, and confidence in the grace of God.


Last summer, the 2013 Congregations Project seminar gathered teams of leaders from strong congregations who are working to develop creative approaches to outreach. Throughout the week, we asked how contemporary congregations are reaching out to proclaim the Gospel in a society undergoing massive change in technology, religious belonging, generational division, and other aspects of social organization.  In plenary sessions, workshops, and daily worship, seminar participants also explored how they might reach out to groups who are underrepresented within congregations (young adults, non-English speakers, those with disabilities, for example), and discussed how they might they assess and negotiate the hold of tradition and the allure of the new in worship, music, and the arts.  The following reports showcase two congregations attempting to reach out to their specific communities in different, yet overlapping ways—by forming a spiritual arts collective in one instance, and a radical program of multicultural hospitality in the other.

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