Last Sunday we tried something new at Peel Methodist Church. On a regular Sunday morning our kids go off to their own groups for the middle section of the service, while the adults remain for some more traditional hymn singing, prayer and a sermon.
We thought it would be good to try and change this pattern once a month. Partially so that the kids group leaders get a bit of a break, but mainly so that the different generations can enjoy being with each other and worshipping as one big family.
We were conscious that this change might be a little uncomfortable for some people, so we spend a lot of time planning it so that it was as smooth a transition as possible. We realised that the kids might struggle to stay connected through a service where there isn’t the normal opportunity to play games, chat and move about, which they can normally do in their break-off groups. And that the adults might be expected to give up some of the elements of worship that they value.
We wanted the church to feel different for these services. We first came up with the name – Cooidjagh, which is the Manx Gaelic word for ‘all together’. With the help of some friends, and the official Manx Translation Service, we learned how to pronounce it! It’s something like ‘cood’ + ‘jack’.
We then made some props for the front of church in our colour scheme, things that can be easily put out and put away: bunting, cushions, a painting, a rug, flowers…
We also bought some seagull puppets, and asked the older kids to write a sketch for them. We took the puppets out around Peel to get some photos that we used to make a little video to introduce them. The black pub cat nearly got violent, but the humans were up for joining in!
These were our priorities:
- Keep all of the elements of a traditional service
- Balance the musical styles
- Involve as many people as possible
- Add fun
We decided that each service would be made up of ten five-minute chunks. Allowing for a little overrun, we should keep to an hour. We decided on this general structure:
▲ Singing – led by band
▲ Thank you prayers
▲ Bible Story
▲ Here Come the Gulls – puppets
▲ Reflective space
▲ Prayers and collection
▲ Singing – led on organ
Then it was a case of finding volunteers to plan and front each chunk and setting them loose. The choice of songs/hymns was important; as we are hoping that visitors will come, we want ones that are very well known so that newcomers don’t feel excluded.
The first Cooidjagh service was last Sunday, and I was so pleased at how it went, and we received so much lovely feedback. We followed the lectionary passage: Matthew’s account of the calling of the first disciples.
We sang This little light of mine and Sing hosannah – very retro, but the band’s rhythm section made them sound funky. Later we has Guide me O thou great Jehovah and Love Divine – classics that speak of calling and movement, and the great love of Jesus Christ that compels us to follow and change.
Karen read the Bible story, which we re-wrote and illustrated in a story-book style, with the little kids gathered round at the front.
The gulls retold the story from their perspective – they seemed most interested in the fish.
A team of people acted out a little drama about what it might mean to ‘fish for people’.
And we finished by hearing Muriel’s story of following Jesus.
I loved that way that it all came together, and how so many people were able to participate. There was a beautiful feeling of being a diverse family, and it was wonderful to see some new faces too. Can’t wait until the next one.