Our experiences at Music & Worship Arts Week can be transformative. For Ron Litten, a first-time attendee in 2017, it was an experience that not only changed him but his congregation as well.
Ron is the pastor of Fort Hill UMC in Lynchburg, VA. He came to Music & Worship Arts Week last year with Janet Hawkins, a Fellowship member and deacon, as well as seven other members of his church.
“I had never been and was wholly surprised and almost overwhelmed by what I experienced,” Ron said. “The worship services were exciting, engaging and spiritually transformative. But the workshops I attended gave emphasis to everything I was experiencing in worship.”
In particular, Ron said a workshop led by Mary Scifres sparked a huge change.
“From that workshop, I gleaned that I was on the right path (in planning worship) with Janet, but we had not been going far enough,” he said. “We had been planning worship together, but were basically still in ‘plug-and-play’ mode, which actually stifled creativity.”
From there, Ron said that other workshops he attended built on this realization and opened the door to a whole new approach to designing worship at the church.
“We began discussions with our group in attendance during meals and at the house about what meaningful worship was,” he said. “We were questioning our present approach. And we committed then and there never to do ‘plug-and-play’ worship again. We would make every worship service engaging, unique and special with the music and message coordinated to make the entire worship experience more exciting and relevant.”
Upon returning to Lynchburg, a new worship design team was formed at the church which now acts as a catalyst for creativity.
“It involves new perspectives and understandings of how individuals experience God and the Spirit and seeks to use creative, innovative ways that are outside the box of tradition, but makes the presence and Grace of God real for that moment,” Ron said.
Janet said the change has been incredibly transformative for the church.
“Worship in our congregation has not been the same since — in a good way,” she said.
And Ron gives credit to his team’s introduction to converging worship at Music & Worship Arts Week for the shift in perspective.
“When what transpires in the worship service is a convergence of life and spirituality — this united everything I had learned throughout the week,” Ron said. “Worship is not traditional or contemporary, but a holistic approach to meeting our congregation where they are, while bringing God into the space and time of worship that speaks to the whole person.”