One Family. One Worship. Ten Years Later.

Ten years ago this September, Eastminster was faced with a choice. On the one hand, there were two very different worship services: one ‘contemporary’ and the other ‘traditional.’ On the other, Eastminster had adopted the mission statement of being an ‘intentionally cross-cultural family.’ The leadership at the church was convicted to ask this question: Can we truly claim to be cross-cultural when we are divided in our worship? Are we truly a ‘family,’ of brothers and sisters in Christ, when we foster division by the very structure of our worship services?

It is no exaggeration to say that this was an existential crisis. Who are we? What do we stand for?

Eastminster took a risk—one that we were advised against taking—and combined the services. We were asking people to come to worship in the ‘other’ person’s style, though each group had created ‘descriptors’ for distancing themselves from the other: hollow versus decadent, rigid versus shapeless, pompous versus undignified. And so on. We had focused on what we as individuals wanted and forgot that we were a community of faith. We had become the proverbial house divided against itself, and this was its correction.

It should have been a disaster and caused rebellion. But it wasn’t and didn’t, because, by the Grace of God, our leadership implored us to be open to the Holy Spirit. Those in charge of the decision took pains to patiently educate, and, most importantly, to give the congregation room to fail and feel ‘strange’ in a safe way. And, in our mutual open-minded awkwardness, over time, we learned how to find meaningful prayerful expression in the ‘other’ style. The leadership and congregation submitted to the Truth of one body having many parts, and the need to reverence every difference in God’s creative spirit as it is given voice by the faithful. Renaissance music and contemporary Gospel now sit side by side, ancient canons and collects are intoned along with improvised open prayers. Solemn Processions followed by jazzy Spoken Word ministry. Mimes, incense, liturgical dance, sprinkling with baptismal water. String, cymbal, and organ! Silence, song, and speech! Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord! We are a community of many, different yet unified by the love of God in Christ Jesus.

It has been ten years, some of which was indeed a struggle, but all of which has enhanced our worship and deepened our relationship with God and broken walls that have historically divided congregations. Join us for a special celebration during the worship service on the 29th of September for a recognition of the journey we have trodden, for the difficulties we have overcome, and for our renewed commitment to furthering the diverse kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth for the next ten years, and many more to come. Deo gracias — thanks be to God!

—Nemesio Valle III, Organist & Choir Director