Beginning Sunday, December 25, we have one Sunday service at 10:15, year-round. How wonderful it will be to be together!
Children will begin their Sunday mornings in the Main Hall with their parents. About once a month, the whole service will be geared toward people of all generations, and the children are encouraged to stay. Soon we will also have children’s chapel about once a month, and the children will go from the Main Hall to there. And on the other Sundays, after we light the chalice, sing together, and have a story, the children will go to their Religious Education program and be there for a full hour while their parents enjoy the service and coffee hour. (In all cases, childcare is available for those who prefer that.*)
This is a change for everyone. They say that no one likes change except a wet baby, but we are a pretty flexible lot, and this is a change that most of us eagerly wanted. Come and see what a difference it makes!
See you at the service, Amy & Cat
*Rare exceptions are December 25 and January 1, when there is no childcare because we want to give all of our staff the holiday to be with their families.
UUCPA Single Service FAQ
It’s official! UUCPA will have a single service every Sunday of the year beginning on December 25, 2022. The service will begin at 10:15. I’m thinking you have questions, so here are our FAQs.
Q: Why are we changing to one service?
A: The simplest answer is: because we can. The total in-person attendance of both services is less than the capacity of the Main Hall. We simply don’t need two services.
Q: Who wants this change?
A: Almost everyone. After talking it over with the staff, who all agreed it was a good idea, I solicited, and received, input from the congregation: at two Town Hall meetings, via e-mail, and via a Google Form. The vast majority of respondents gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to a single service, making this an easy decision.
Q: Why 10:15?
A. It’s exactly midway between 9:30 and 11. And the vast majority of respondents favored either 10 or 10:30, so this is a time that will work for most people.
Q: What about summer services?
A. There will also be one service at 10:15 all through the summer. No seasonal change necessary!
Q. This time doesn’t work with my Sunday schedule at all! Now what do I do?
A: I am so sorry. I hope you will be able to change things around to give it a go. If it is really difficult for you to make it in person every week, please try attending sometimes in person, sometimes online.
Q: Oh, so the service will still be online?
A: Yes! Every Sunday service will now be on Zoom and Facebook Live!
Q: What about Sunday School teachers? They have counted on being able to go to the service after teaching–now they won’t have that option.
A: This has been the biggest drawback from the start, so we gave it a lot of thought and effort. One service every month will be intergenerational. (We already had several intergen services per year.) On one other Sunday every month, the children will have Children’s Chapel, usually led by Rev. Cat. So that’s two Sundays a month that teachers will not be in the classroom.
Q. Speaking of Sunday School, how does this change affect the time of kids’ classes?
A. Except for Children’s Chapel Sundays, the children’s time will begin in the Main Hall at 10:15. For intergenerational services, they will stay through the service, of course. On days they go to Sunday School, they will leave the service after 15 minutes, which will include a story and a song every time.
Q. Is child care still available for kids who prefer that?
A. Yes. Children of any age who prefer to be in child care may take that option.
Q: I’m also concerned that not everyone will embrace having children in the service.
A: It’s not actually new–the 11 am service has never been adults-only, and children from newborns to teenagers are always welcome to all services–but it’s true that most attendance by children has been at 9:30. After this change, and with the accompanying return of the children starting their morning with 15 minutes in the Main Hall, everyone will be sharing space with children. For many adults, this is a benefit–it was specifically named by many commenters as a reason they support a single service. Nevertheless, it is a culture change. I’ll be preaching on it; teachers and parents and ministers will model positive cross-generational relationships; and we’ll all keep in mind: children are the future of our faith. If, and only if, adults make them welcome, there will still be Unitarian Universalists in 50 years–and maybe even more of us than there are now.
Q: I do like having children in the service, but I’m pretty hard of hearing, and as cute as toddler chatter is, I just can’t hear what’s happening in the pulpit if someone near me is talking. We already have some conversation from the tech table–I understand that they have to talk, but I’m worried about adding more noise.
A: This is so important. We want everyone to be able to hear the service, and we’re addressing that in a few ways: promoting, and training the ushers to promote, our assistive-listening devices. Promoting awareness of the Main Hall’s T-loop, and keeping up with new technology that works with today’s hearing aids. Adding a plexiglass barrier around the tech table. And, of course, making the children’s time in the service engaging so that they’re as focused as little ones can be.
Q: Won’t this depress numerical growth?
A: It depends. It’s true that it is a reversal of one key part of our growth plan of the past 20+ years, namely, to have two in-person services in order to make room to grow. (Conventional church leadership wisdom suggests that a hall that is at 80% of capacity feels full, both as a matter of perception and because it becomes difficult to find seats for more than two people together.) However, we rarely reach that capacity, and in any case, this plan has not actually resulted in growth, since our total attendance is not higher now than it was when we went to two services in the mid-1990s. It is time to try something different. And having one service can actually help us welcome more people to UUCPA.
Q: Say more about that! How can a single service help more people participate?
A: So many ways!
- Activities that were formerly held after the second service will now be easier for everyone to attend. Second Sunday Lunch, Adult Religious Education classes.
- In particular, activities geared to all ages that were formerly squeezed into the half-hour between services will now have a generous time slot. I have been wanting to lead such activities, and I’m jumping right on to this opportunity with an activity on January 1, Kindness Rocks. The next month will bring another: February 5, our Day of Books, as people of all ages celebrate books and reading.
- People who could not formerly participate in the choir or Forum because of time conflicts will now have those options open to them.
- And then there is the membership-growing power of meeting one another. As one commenter pointed out, parents of children in the CYRE program sometimes “age out” of UUCPA along with their kids. What helps them to remain after their children and their children’s peers have grown us is the connections that they, the adults, have made with other adults in the congregation.
- Finally, many people have observed that dividing our total attendance into two parts (three now, counting online attendance) might have been depressing growth. A typical 9:30 crowd of 40-50 people seems so small in the Main Hall that newcomers (and others) look around and conclude that the congregation is dwindling or low in energy. It isn’t!–but over the years numerous newcomers have made exactly that observation. Conversely, when there are 150 people in the Main Hall, the increased energy is palpable, and exciting. It makes us want to come back!
Q: What if attendance rises to the point that we need two services again?
A: We’ll go to two services again. But there are other options than the one we chose 20+ years ago.
Q: Such as?
A: Well, maybe we’d have a different kind of service that meets different kinds of needs, which could be at a different time altogether. Or we could go to two Sunday services in quick succession, the way we have done for the past 20 years, but split the attendance more evenly so that we don’t have 40 people rattling around in that big space.
Q: Now that the service isn’t starting until 10:15, could we maybe schedule some more activities before that time?
A: Absolutely! Some suggestions have already been shared with me: The occasional pancake breakfast. A return of the Sunday meditation session. One-hour meetings of affinity groups such as elders, young adults, etc. One-hour Adult Religious Education classes. Labyrinth walking. A nature walk through the neighborhood. What are your ideas?
Q: I have more questions. And yes, a few ideas.