Dear First Pres Family,
In May, we began a series of letters from the Session, Personnel Committee, and pastoral team about the new staffing structure at First Pres. As teams come together and are beginning their work, individual ministries are presenting their hopes and ideas for the way forward. We’ve had the opportunity to hear from Mark Stryker about Community Care, from Tom Elson about Missional Engagement, and from Michelle Vecchio-Lyzenga about Christian Formation. Today, I’d like to share about the next season in worship.
When California shut down last year due to COVID-19, our congregation was unable to do what we have done for more than 140 years: congregate. We gave up so many things that make our worship meaningful: hugs and handshakes, singing together, sharing communion, and gathering in the Sanctuary on Sundays. Everything changed—our world, our church, our lives—and it is clear that things are not going back to how they were before.
In this time of uncertainty, change, and loss, we have gained some things, too. We learned that our worship is not grounded in a building, but in relationships—to God and to each other. We found ways to connect, welcome new faces, hear each other’s stories, and care for each other using Zoom, YouTube, pre-recorded video, and livestream. We reaffirmed our identity and unifying mission as a diverse set of people called by God, transformed by grace, and sent by God to love and serve the world.
The Vision for Worship
As Charlene said in her June 27 sermon, “First Pres is going in the direction of Jesus and the Gospel, in the direction of revolutionary love and radical welcome.” In this new season of ministry, our vision for worship will be shaped by our values: our goal is to create sacred space where God’s love and welcome are experienced, taught, and shared, where all are invited to take a step in the direction of the Gospel.
Incorporating the diverse gifts of our community, we will continue our rich traditions of choirs, contemporary music, and lay engagement in worship. Our new department staffing structure also encourages collaboration and creativity among staff and ministry participants alike.
Worship at First Pres continues to be led by our pastoral team and worship leaders and supported by key staff in Engagement, Facilities, and Operations. I am privileged to be directing our team’s efforts as the Director for Worship and the Arts.
Director of Alternative Worship
John Yoo is our Director of Alternative Worship, a newly created role which includes—but is not limited to—contemporary music. I am so thankful for his years of ministry at First Pres and look forward to continuing our partnership. We are excited to explore alternative worship and, in particular, its characteristics that intersect with our vision: community-based, artistically inspired, culturally relevant, and radically welcoming.
Director of Music
We look forward to welcoming a Director of Music to our team soon. This newly created role will provide organ and keyboard leadership in worship and direct our choral music program, including adult and children’s choirs.
With the realization that many will continue to worship online, we are building infrastructure and volunteer teams to produce in-person and livestream worship. This effort will be supported by newly created coordinator roles for audio and livestream.
Worship and Communications
As worship is one of the primary ways we tell the story of who we are and what we are about, I am excited to partner with the Director for Communications, a newly created role that will lead our church’s communication efforts. The work of the Communications Coordinator, another newly created role, will be essential in supporting both Worship and Communications.
I am grateful to all who have helped to enliven and sustain worship since March 2020 despite pandemic challenges: choirs, worship teams, singers and instrumentalists, liturgists, hospitality and tech teams, the Worship Arts Committee, and more. Special thanks to our Coronavirus Task Force and Facilities and Operations staff, who have been instrumental in guiding our path to re-opening in-person worship.
Throughout history, the broader church has wrestled with and adapted to various changes in regards to worship; First Pres is no exception. When I look at all the changes in the last year and a half, I am deeply moved by how our community has continued to worship together, online and recently in-person, with creativity, flexibility, unity in Christ, and grace and appreciation for each other.
This summer, we are all working on what worship services and the Sunday schedule will look like in the fall, including thinking through the number of services, service times, musical styles, and the Sunday experience for all ages. I invite you to join us in discerning our way forward—in prayer and by participating in an Envisioning Sunday @ First Pres table conversation in July. Click here to sign up, or click here to complete the Sundays @ First Pres survey.
I look forward to seeing you in worship!
Grace and Peace,
Director for Worship and the Arts