What to Expect During a Service
Our church year runs from the Sunday following Labor Day to Closing Sunday, which is often Father’s Day. When you enter the church from the parking lot, please proceed upstairs to the landing, where one of our friendly greeters will welcome you to church, give you the order of service for that day, and invite you to sign our guest book. You are not required to do so, but visitors signing the guest book will receive more information about First Church, such as a newsletter and other mailings. Please feel free to sit where you please. Dress is casual and varied; some members dress more formally, others more informally. It’s up to you – we want you to be comfortable.
Prior to the start of the service, prelude music will be played as people are entering the sanctuary and getting comfortable. You will see many members walking around greeting one another, so feel free to introduce yourself if you choose. A greeter will offer some words of welcome and general announcements. These are also printed in the order of service, and offer a glimpse into the activities and opportunities offered by First Church. The worship leader (usually our minister) will offer opening words and the chalice will be lit. The chalice is the symbol of Unitarian Universalist faith, and is lit at the beginning of the service to call us together in community. It remains lit throughout the entire service, and is extinguished at the very end. The chalice lighting is most often followed by the opening hymn, led by our choir. Please feel free to sing! If you come from another faith background, particularly Protestant but perhaps not, our hymns may sound familiar. Many are traditional UU hymns and others come to us from other backgrounds. This is a symbol of how Unitarian Universalism uses sources from all traditions and faiths in our worship services.
The worship service is any combination of readings, hymns, poetry, sacred scripture, meditation, quiet reflection and prayer and perhaps a responsive reading or popular music which appropriately fits the theme of the service. Our minister is incredibly gifted at providing sermons that touch members’ lives individually and yet connect to a larger theme. The sermons are thought-provoking, and you are always welcome to speak with Rev. Susan following the service if you have particular questions or comments to share. Some popular sermon topics include brief histories of Unitarian Universalism, how to care for one another in times of crisis, celebrations of faith, and more. Because the UU faith encourages each individual to search for their own personal meaning in spirituality, the sermons do not preach one particular creed or dogma over another, but rather take components from all and connect them to our principles and purposes. Many of our members believe in a higher power (that some call God, but others do not), and this is acknowledged in our services.
A favorite time for many participants in the service is the lighting of Candles of Joy and Concern. Everyone is invited to come forward if they wish and light a candle for any joys or concerns that are present in their lives. Many speak and share what their candles are for, but others light them in silence. The candles are lit from the flame of our chalice, another symbol of how the community comes together in support of one another. Sometimes the candles are lit in silence during other parts of the service.
At some point, the choir sings an anthem while our greeters for the day pass the collection plates. You are not required to make a monetary donation when visiting First Church but your generosity is always appreciated.
At the conclusion of the service, the worship leader will lead the congregation in extinguishing the chalice and offer closing words. During the postlude music, most exit the pews and head for beverages and snacks in the fellowship hall (at the rear of the sanctuary). Occasionally members will remain in the pews and listen to the music, and you are certainly invited to do so. Rev. Susan will be at the rear of the sanctuary to greet you on your way by. Please stay for fellowship after the service and introduce yourself to someone at First Church – it’s a great way to get to know us and to have some of your questions answered.