Leading Prayer: A Rant

Hello darlings,
First, a general note: I have been concerned about the irresponsible and awkward leading of prayers I have seen over the past several years at worship and retreats online and in person. It is clear to me that those in the Low Church traditions have not had instruction in the leading of public prayer and are not sure what to do with themselves either before or during the act. They are not sure how to compose or deliver a prayer. They don’t know how to introduce it with confidence, they do not know where to look or how to stand, and they default to a popular “breathe in, breathe out” structure that is often led clumsily or with a sense of precious piety that distracts one from being able to focus on actual breathing. (In other words, “Thanks, I hate it.”)

Meditation is not, despite what Unitarian Universalists seem to think, synonymous with prayer; nor should we use “meditation” as a euphemism for prayer to assuage religion-phobes. You must know the difference and lead clearly. I am firmly of the belief that meditations should be led in meditation sessions where all have gathered with shared expectation and willingness to spend the necessary time dedicated to focusing the breath. Corporate worship is not this setting. In further bitchy observations, the vocal inflections of those leading “visualizations” are often so distracting and the content of the visualizations so fanciful and sentimental as to irritate as many participants as it engages.

I continue to lament the lack of liturgical training for Unitarian Universalist aspirants to the ministry. There is so much education needed beyond How To Write and Deliver A Sermon. We have fallen into very gooey indulgences.

ALL THAT SAID, the upsetting experience I had with someone teaching a prayer practice this morning was not in a Unitarian Universalist context. It was a Christian retreat. I have created a 20-minute video discussing the matter in general and the specific experience of today. Enjoy!

Editing Worship Segments: Transitions

Don’t do too much with the transitions between slides or segments, okay? It’s not an action movie or video game, it’s a meditation. Dissolve or fade should be fine for your needs. I save anything fancier for the very end of the segment.

Online Worship Tips: CoronaChurch

I just watched my 37-minute Facebook Live broadcast worship and ran on here to give myself feedback from which you might also benefit!

We talk Hair!
We talk camera angle!
We talk song leading!
We talk about my favorite illustrator, Kay Nielsen (whose name is pronounced “KIE,” not “Kay” but I was flustered).

One thing I forgot to mention that was also nice and interactive: I asked those watching to hold up their “blessing hands” when I gave the online Benediction.

I also like that I stayed on camera for a few seconds after the “service” concluded to mention that we would be moving to Zoom Social Hour soon (keep your fingers crossed for next week!).

Blessings, friends. You’re doing great.


Command Central

Stick the Landing!

Stick the landing! STICK THE LANDING!

Gang! When you are doing any element of a ritual or liturgy, think through how you will end it. Think it through and make decisions about what you will say and what you will do with your body and voice.

There is nothing worse than a Scripture reading that trails off and dies with a puny volume and skittering off the dais. There is nothing powerful about a ritual led by a clergyperson who doesn’t know what to do their feet after the big moment has passed.

REHEARSE.

Feel out where you will stand, and how, and how you will move, and where to, and then HOW YOU WILL END AND GET OFF THE STAGE (chancel, dais, wherever).

Shuffling, mumbling and uneasiness are dead giveaways that you’re not quite confident about what you’re doing, which drains the moment of intensity and impact.

STICK THE LANDING.