Sunday worship services are the heart of our UUFCO congregational experience. They bring our multigenerational community together for fellowship, spiritual nourishment, exploration, and renewal and are the first step to welcoming new friends on the path to involvement and membership.
Before the Service
We aim to be radically welcoming. Approaching our church from the parking lots on Sunday morning, people are warmly welcomed by greeters at the entrance of the building who offer Fresh Sheets listing upcoming events for the week. Directly inside the front doors, an electronic screen displays our UU principles and general information. To the left is the Welcome Table, where volunteers invite newcomers to make a nametag, pick up informational brochures, and sign up to receive communications. New families with children are introduced to our Director of Religious Exploration, who shares information about our children’s programs and offers a tour of our light-filled, welcoming RE classrooms.
As people enter the spacious Pete Seeger Gathering Hall they can pick up information at the kiosk and ask questions about upcoming activities. They are invited to fill out a Joys & Sorrows card, which will be read aloud during the service. While volunteers set up hospitality tables and coffee brews in the kitchen, friends greet one another and welcome visitors. Our Minister and Congregational Life Facilitator are present to greet congregants. There is a dynamic hum of conversation. A chime is our signal to move through the great doors into a more contemplative atmosphere, into the sacred space of our sanctuary for the morning service.
DURING THE SERVICE
Our services begin at 10:30 a.m. with the ringing of our temple bell and a musical prelude. Services weave together words, music, and silence, combining familiar rituals and informal moments inspiring us to pursue our spiritual journey and challenging us to live out our UU principles. Most services have elements in common—short readings, hymns and songs, chalice lighting and extinguishing, reciting of our covenant, Joys & Sorrows, a time of meditation, a sermon, and an offering. After a story and the Children’s Covenant, we sing our children to their classrooms as they pass through an arch of sheltering arms. The welcoming of visitors, the Children’s Arch, reading of Joys and Sorrows cards, and lighting of candles are elements that have been modified to accommodate our growing congregation, but they remain beloved rituals, reminding us of our meaningful history together.
Our current minister preaches three times a month from September through June, with some sermons based on monthly Soul Matters themes. Other services are lay-led or feature guest speakers. A worship host welcomes visitors and helps guide the congregation through the service liturgy. On Sundays when the minister is not preaching, and especially during the summer months, we use a variety of alternative formats including panels, guest presentations, and programs featuring music and the arts. Sermons and presentations offer inspiration and spiritual nourishment, intellectual challenge, intergenerational connections, and exploration of the living traditions of Unitarian Universalism. We have several multigenerational services during the year, and our Ingathering Service and Water Ceremony in the fall, Solstice, Christmas Eve and Easter services, and Flower Ceremony in the late spring are highlights of our church year.
Music is a moving and inspirational part of our worship services. Our choir, led by Virlene Arnold, our music director, is a dedicated group of 20-25 singers who rehearse weekly and perform twice a month, with a break in July and August. There is special music on many other Sundays, provided by instrumentalists, small ensembles, soloists, or our house band, which performs less traditional music.
The Worship Committee collaborates with our minister on the worship calendar and the themes and ideas for services. They help fine-tune the service structure, train and schedule worship hosts, and plan services with guest speakers when the minister is not in the pulpit, including in the summer when the minister is away.
Sunday services are well-attended, averaging 181 congregants each Sunday. As the congregation grows, we are sensing the need for a second service. We welcome many visitors—UUs from other congregations, newcomers to Central Oregon, and people who have lived here for some time but are just now looking for a spiritual home. Some people come initially because they are curious about our new building. We hope they return because of the warmth of our community, the content of our services, the principles we embody, and the opportunities for connections and service that we offer.
SAMPLE ORDER OF SERVICE OUTLINES
AFTER THE SERVICE
Social time after the service is an integral part of the community experience on Sundays. We drink coffee, meet visitors, and connect with friends. People gather at the long farm table in our Gathering Hall or sit in the Fireside Room. Children congregate outside on the terrace or in the children’s play area when weather permits. People can view the most recent art exhibit in our Linus Pauling Hall, sign up at the kiosk for upcoming activities, check out a book from the library, or ask questions of volunteers wearing yellow “Ask Me” tags. Members, friends and visitors tend to linger, enjoying the environment and one another’s company.
By noon on most Sundays, meetings are beginning throughout the building. Member orientations, informational and planning meetings sponsored by Project GRACE and other social action projects, Soul Matters groups, and special programs are often scheduled after Sunday services. Once a month we gather to share a simple meal of soup and salad and enjoy some relaxed time together.
A large team of volunteers is needed each Sunday to make this worship experience happen smoothly—greeters, ushers, coffee makers, a cleanup crew. Our congregation is organized into six Sunday Volunteer Teams that cover responsibilities for the services in monthly cycles twice a year. Team members sign up for volunteer jobs online. Every member of the congregation is part of a team, including our newest members. Friends and newcomers are encouraged to volunteer. This is one of the ways all are invited to step up and play a needed role in our church community.