More than 12 years ago, FUMCFW introduced eleven:eleven celebration as an alternative worship opportunity that was distinctive and nontraditional in style. While the content of the worship has changed some since Rev. Tom McDermott took charge as Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven celebration 18 months ago, the style and purpose of the celebration have remained the same as when Charles Gaby, MA, LPC, led it (and even before that, when Rev. Linda McDermott and Rev. Jim Conner launched its predecessor, Round Table Worship).
All the answers . . . questioned
According to Tom, the celebration is an inclusive and widely diverse community of people longing to reconnect with the mystery of God in ways they may have lost from previous church experiences — or have longed for in ways they haven’t been able to express until visiting eleven:eleven. He says he feels like many are finding this reconnection through the unique community and engaged approach this celebration offers with worshipping in the round, casual attire, secular rock and acoustic music blended with adapted hymns and gospel, storytelling, film, and comedy.
“The design is narrative in flow and theme, like any good film or book, to engage worshippers of all ages at different places and maintain a level of interest and curiosity throughout,” Tom describes. “Perhaps its most distinctive feature, however, is the community’s desire for openness, inclusiveness, and living with the profound mystery of God in the midst of its deep questions rather than seeking clear, definitive answers.”
This community experience has a little bit of everything nontraditional and unorthodox, and the momentum of the celebration continues to grow. As many as 30 new members — including young adults, couples, and families — have joined this community within the past year, and it draws in new visitors every week. Attendance has increased so much, in fact, that seating in Wesley Hall has continuously hovered near 85 percent capacity or more for over a year.
Expanding the celebration
According to research in church growth, when a space reaches 80 percent attendance capacity and remains there for most Sundays in a year, it is time to consider adding another service. That’s why starting on February 14, our existing eleven:eleven celebration will expand into a second service, the nine:thirty-nine celebration on Sunday mornings at 9:39 am in Wesley Hall, to target and connect with new people beyond our church family — and also offer another time option for those already here.
Tom says the two celebrations will be completely identical. He adds that while some people attending at the 11:11 hour will prefer to switch to the earlier hour, allowing more room for growth at 11:11, the primary focus for this new hour will be to reach people outside FUMCFW who are not attending worship anywhere or who feel disconnected with religion because of prior church experiences.
Something to talk about
The celebration is attended by people of all ages and walks of life, including as many as 10 active and retired clergy (chaplains, professors, etc., from the United Methodist Church and other denominations). In fact, churches of various denominations continue to send “research teams” to check out this unique approach to nontraditional worship. Several members of FUMCFW who attend eleven:eleven celebration recently reached out to Tom and others on the staff to share their appreciation and enjoyment of this worship community.
One first-time visitor newly settled in Fort Worth called the experience “a prolific lighthouse of hope — so much invitation to think about things throughout the whole service,” and added, “It was just what I needed today.”
Dr. Tommy Potter, recently retired Vice President of Development and Adjunct Professor at Brite Divinity School (Texas Christian University), first visited eleven:eleven celebration with his wife, Kathleen, almost a year ago. He has attended regularly ever since and is now joined by others in his family. Dr. Potter wrote, “Everything about the service had intentionality and quality. Oh, the stories I can tell you about the ‘poor examples’ of alternative and contemporary worship services in the churches I have visited in my work. Eleven:eleven is a great model! More importantly, the leadership, planning, and preparation are outstanding. Eleven:eleven is not a ‘performance’ worship experience. It is an experience for God and community to meet, celebrate, reflect deeply, and prepare to share Good News beyond the doors of the church.”
Todd Kirk, a longtime member of FUMCFW and the Aldersgate Sunday School class, says he comes to eleven:eleven because he always feels better when he leaves than when he came. “I feel an esprit de corps with others who believe that God is mystery and God is everywhere . . . that the universe is fundamentally good,” he explains. “I want to feel and experience that goodness and manifest it in my life, and I enjoy celebrating these experiential truths with my family.” Todd and his wife, Summer, who are both professors at local colleges in North Central Texas, are always joined by their three older teens who often participate in worship leadership. “The music, fellowship, and message work together to facilitate the continuing transformation called life,” Todd adds. “Tom McDermott is awesome and frequently surprises me. He is a trickster who exposes in-humility and rigidity.”
Join the celebration
Find out what all the talk is about. This engaging experience of laughter, storytelling, and message — infused with the music of Brad Thompson and the Revolution Band — offers a nontraditional, unorthodox, and transformative worship experience. Come visit us on Sunday mornings at 9:39 or 11:11 am in Wesley Hall. You are sure to discover new insights into radical community, the universal love of God, and living for the healing and transformation of our world.
Come casual, bring your family, and join the celebration! Follow Rev. Tom McDermott’s blog to learn more about the new nine:thirty-nine celebration. For more information, contact Tom (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 817/339-3881.