FUMCFW “Big Tent” Worship — and Why!

By April 1, 2019

Read this story and more in CONNECT Magazine | 2019 Lent Edition

CONNECT Magazine is your source for the stories of our FUMCFW Faith Community — and how each fits in with our Healthy Plate Discipleship. Pick up your copy in the Main Office and Welcome Center or read it online.
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Most of us worship regularly and we know what worship means to us, but do we really know what worship is? There are more formal definitions, but at its heart, worship is our way of intentionally honoring God. It’s recognition of and devotion to God as the creator, sustainer, and redeemer of our lives. Worship can be done individually but is severely diminished when we miss its true essence; worship is intended to be an act of community. The shared experience of worshipping together — side by side — is a powerful connector, the “glue” of a faith community. Individually, of course, worship shapes us spiritually and allows us to align our lives to faithful living, honoring and praising God, giving thanks, and being transformed in a way that will enable us to truly “go out and be God’s people in the world.”

Because how we come together and experience that connection can take many different forms — and resonate with and meet different needs — our church has developed four distinctly different worship opportunities under the “big tent” of FUMCFW. “It’s important to remember that there is no one correct style of worship,” says Rev. Linda McDermott, FUMCFW Associate Pastor of Worship.

Linda adds that even the terms, “traditional” and “contemporary” can be misleading. Traditional worship can be whatever we’re used to; usually, what we grew up with. “For many Christians under the age of 40 today, ‘traditional worship’ might mean a praise service with a band, a casual atmosphere, colored lights, and very little liturgy,” she explains. “‘Traditional’ worship in some settings can be more than two hours long and include dancing and chanting!”

Linda says that although ‘contemporary’ worship is often thought of as a particular style, it really should be understood to be worship that is relevant in our current society. “Therefore, all worship should be ‘contemporary’ regardless of style,” she asserts. “We strive to offer different styles of worship to meet the needs of a variety of people while always seeking to be relevant to today’s life experience.”

With all this in mind, Linda says that Traditional Worship at FUMCFW leans on the historic United Methodist Order of Worship, an emphasis on prayer, liturgy, the wearing of vestments (robes and stoles) by clergy, the singing of hymns from the hymnal, a formal sermon, the use of acolytes, and the presentation of sacred music by choirs and ensembles.

At some point in our church history, church leaders began to realize that not everyone relates to or finds that particular worship style helpful in centering their lives in God. So other ideas began to surface. In the early 2000s, church leaders introduced an early service highly-centered on liturgy (including weekly Holy Communion), that would meet in the chapel. In tandem, a less formal, less liturgical service that would meet in Wesley Hall was introduced (initially called “Round Table Worship”). These two services evolved over the years to become DiscipleChurch and the eleven:eleven.

Early in its history, people who regularly attended DiscipleChurch decided to initiate an intentional outreach to those who were homeless in our community, offering coffee and donuts before the 8:30 am Chapel service. This practice — and the response to it — grew and evolved into our weekly Sunday morning breakfast, serving a hot breakfast, a short message and communion to between 60 and 100 people each Sunday at 7:30 am. Many of those who participate in the breakfast make up the congregation of Disciple Church.

The “Round Table” worship service also quickly grew and evolved to become our current eleven:eleven. This unique “narrative style” worship service went from a small group of non-traditional worshippers to a close-knit worshipping community that packed Wesley hall each Sunday for an “out of the box” worship service that includes storytelling, a thought-provoking message, laughter, community involvement, and live music from its own Revolution Band, considered to be one of the best cover bands in Fort Worth. Holding fast to its motto of “reconnecting your spirit without disconnecting your mind,” eleven:eleven offers a spiritual connection and life-giving community worship experience to many who may not otherwise attend church at all. Intentionally designed to reach the hearts of those who have “given up on the church” or who no longer feel church to be relevant to their lives (the “Dones”), eleven:eleven now meets just adjacent to campus at the Center for Transforming Lives (the historic 512 building) each Sunday morning at 11:11 am.

Over the past few years, FUMCFW decided to begin a satellite campus of FUMCFW on 7th Street designed to attract a new population of “unchurched,” primarily young adults who either did not grow up with religion at all or who didn’t currently have a church connection (the “Nones”). What began as “First7th,” moved twice, evolved, developed, and grew into what is today called The Gathering, a more casual worship experience that resonates very deeply with those who prefer a more relaxed worship style that focuses on making faith understandable and applicable to daily life in today’s world, with weekly open communion that emphasizes the love and grace of Christ. The Gathering now packs Wesley Hall in two services at 9:30 and 11:00 am each Sunday, with an overflow live stream venue in Room 350. Every service of The Gathering includes great coffee, singing and praying together, a time of teaching, and a heavy emphasis on community.

In addition to our other full services of worship, a simple yet complete experience of Holy Communion is available each Sunday in our beautiful Leonard Memorial Chapel between 10:35 and 10:55 am. Offering a quiet, more contemplative style, with special music provided by various musicians, the FUMCFW Chapel Communion service is considered by many to be a perfect interlude and complement to our other FUMCFW Sunday morning services, studies, classes, and activities.

“All of these FUMCFW worship experiences are in basic agreement with United Methodist doctrine and philosophy,” Linda McDermott says. “It’s the style of expression and content design that varies with each service and sets them apart, along with the particular way in which each reaches and engages its congregation in their own faith journey. As different as they are — by design — each plays an important role in engaging our diverse congregation in spiritual growth and a transformation

of personal lives. We are all part of the body of Christ that makes up FUMCFW, just as we are all part of the body of Christ in our world.”

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