Starting Theme-based Ministry

First Parish will embark on theme-based ministry next year – a growing trend in UU churches. What is theme-based ministry, why is it being introduced , and what’s next? This approach weaves together worship, education, small group ministry, spiritual practices and other aspects of community life around common monthly themes. Themed church, we hope, will deepen our experience together and will illuminate the shared values in our faith tradition.

Rev. Faith-Love suggested a 2-year trial of themed church based partly on the recommendations from our church’s Multigenerational Task Force from a few years ago. This approach originated in one of the largest UU congregations, All Souls, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One reason for its success is, as All Souls Senior Minister Marlin Lavanhar, says, the themes “provide us with a set of common stories and ideas that become elements of an ongoing community conversation.” But, he adds, “Be warned: Seriously engaging these themes could transform your life!”

To be clear, the goal is not that every sermon, class, hymn and lyceum will revolve around the theme. The staff, committees and members of First Parish will simply approach each month with a common intention. We will use this trial period to explore the possibilities of themed church and find a balance that is right for our community. We hope it will encourage us to plan effectively, to connect across church life, and to provide new opportunities for meaningful conversations and creativity.

This spring, Rev. Faith-Love, Mark, and representatives from the Worship, Religious Exploration, Continuing Education, Music and Small Group Ministry committees discussed ideas for themes that would be relevant and meaningful to First Parish members and would align with the annual traditions of our church. Our themes for this first year will be:

September: Transformation
October: Web of Life / Climate Justice
November: Death and Grieving
December: Generosity
January: Authentic Self
February: Beloved Community
March: Courage
April: Beauty
May: Peace
June: Joy

You can learn more about themed-based ministry by watching the GA presentation on this topic and by checking out the great resources pulled together by All Souls Church. More resources on how this will work at First Parish are to come.

In the meantime, I look forward to the coming year with optimism for the opportunities we’ll have to explore our core values as part of the church with — as we tell the children in our RE program — an open mind, a loving heart and helping hands.