Moving to One Service Sundays Year Round

The Board of Trustees of the First Unitarian Church of Oakland is considering recommendations from the Committee on Shared Ministry (CoSM) to move from two Sunday worship services to only one. This is what we do in the summer; the proposal is to have that schedule all year long. The CoSM proposes that this change take place in January of 2018 when the Parish Minister begins her sabbatical.

This recommendation results from the survey that the CoSM promulgated in March, 2017. You can access their report, Committee on Shared Ministry Report: First Unitarian Church of Oakland Worship Services, and all appendices, at:

CoSM Report:


The Board and CoSM are soliciting your questions and comments. There will be a Congregational Discussion on Sunday, September 17 at 1:00 PM in the Starr King room. You may also email your comments and questions to Board and CoSM members at . The Board will be deciding this at the September meeting (9/26),so please send contact us between now and 24 September 2017.



[If you would like your comments to appear here for all to read, let us know when you write to us]

“I like the idea of going to one service, but I’m concerned about the small but important group of people who dislike Joyful Noise. I think the solution to this is to make it very clear that although the music starts at 10:20, the rest of the service doesn’t start until 10:30 – and that it’s perfectly OK not to show up until 10:30.  It might even be possible to have silent meditation in a different room (Wendte?) from 10:20 to 10:30 for all those who prefer it to loud music.  It’s my understanding that the content of the current first and second services are very similar in all other respects; if this is true, it would be good to make that clear.” – Emily Stoper


Dear ones, I saw the announcement regarding possibly moving to one service.  As input, I’d like to send you the attached paper, by Rev. Lavanhar, about “aha” versus “awe” moments in a church service.  This was circulated among some of us church members before we went to the Mosaic Makers conference, back in 2013.  The point is that some people need to feel a moment of “aha”, intellectual insight, in a service.  Others need to feel “awe”, which has to do with embodied experience, music, on your feet, etc.  At our very best (in my mind), several years ago, in the days of two actually different church services, we really had both, and specifically, our second service felt full of energy and “awe”.  The first service never reached its fullest potential, but at its best was more of an “aha” service.  (I always had the feeling we needed a more radical approach to the first service, sitting in a more intimate circle, listening deeply to ministers and lay leaders, etc., to avoid the feeling of a low energy version of the second). I have missed the real “awe” services for a while now, and was hoping we might get back on track.

So, the point of all of this is that I fear that if we go back to one service, we’ll give up on our experiment to have a truly “awe” worship service, embodied, on your feet, limits on quiet old white man songs, etc. 

I fully appreciate that we may not have the resources to pull off two different services at this time.  This makes me sad, but I gather that might be where we are in the life of the congregation.  My hope and dream for us would be to get back to a place that might be possible. 

Thanks for ‘listening’!” – Ingrid Mittermaier

“Aha!” & “Awe”: Movements of the Spirit in All Souls Unitarian Church of Tulsa from May 2008 – September 2012 – Lavanhar Movements of the Spirit 2008-2012.


The first time I came to a service at FUCO and heard Joyful Noise–well, let me backtrack a bit. I was raised Episcopalian and my mother trained me to be a musical snob. Unlike most of her generation, she detested Frank Sinatra and pop music in general. She played the organ at church and the repertoire stayed pretty much with the Hymnal 1940, nothing later than Tchaikovsky for anthems. More recently, I’d visited other UU congregations and found the music congenial, rarely surprising. So when I heard Joyful Noise–drums, electric guitars, fully-miked singers, evangelical-style praise music that would have made my mother go wait in the car–it pushed me out of my comfort zone. I had a vision of a vase falling off a shelf–and it wasn’t a bad thing, it was good, that vase needed to go. If your church just tells you you’re right about everything, what good is it?

That said, there are times when Joyful Noise is just too noisy and I need to sit in quiet. The early service was good for that. But from my slim experience with helping to organize services, I know that building two versions of the same service is maddening–maybe more than twice as much work as building two separate services. The natural consequence is that people build the second service, then subtract the noisy stuff and call it the first service. No wonder the first service seems a bit lacking.
Ingrid Mittermeier makes a good point on the need for both intellectual (“aha”) and intuitive (“awe”) moments. Unitarians historically tend to favor the first and neglect the second; the Universalists, vice versa. But neither is enough by itself. We need attention to the intellectual backbone of our faith–but an hour and a half of intellectual discourse would be intolerably arid. We need times when the frontal lobe takes a break and the rest of the brain comes into play–moments we call ecstasy–just to stay human, to remember the point of all that intellectual discourse and connect its truths to the truths of our emotional and spiritual selves. 
I think a single service that made sure both “aha” and “awe” were attended to would be marvelous, and leave more time for listening circles, drum circles, demonstration-preparation parties, etc., before and after. We often have what I’d call a two-humped service, with a reflection from a member delivered from the lectern and a sermon from a minister delivered from the pulpit; this design could easily accommodate an “aha” moment and an “awe” moment (it doesn’t matter which comes first, and it would probably be better if we didn’t know the order ahead of time!).
As for the suggestion I heard this morning of making Joyful Noise strictly acoustic one Sunday per month–it’s a great idea, if Joyful Noise is up to the challenge, and I would understand if they weren’t. I would also bear in mind that “acoustic” is a pretty elastic term–some instruments and some singers cannot be heard in the sanctuary without amplification, hopefully discrete; “acoustic” is more a description of the end product than of the technology employed. But if Joyful Noise or a subgroup thereof would like to assemble a quiet set list, that would be great. 
Also, performances from the front are not the only possible preludes: I remember the Sufi Zikr session from a month or so ago–following its example we could have quiet devotional music that involved the whole congregation without getting rowdy. And it’s perfectly possible for the congregation bring the ministers in with a hymn. Lots of churches do it that way. We could have done that with this morning’s opening hymn, “Hail the Glorious Golden City.”
I also like Emily Stoper’s suggestions for providing a space and a reliable schedule for people who really need to avoid Joyful Noise every time. Although I’m a fan, I respect their needs. — John Kelly

Thank you to the COSM and the Trustees for carefully examining and presenting many of the considerations around moving from two to one service.

And Thank you to Ingrid for sharing the piece about the difference when searching for “Ahh” or “Awe”.

The number one reason my family is committed to UU Oakland is for community: a diverse community of people with shared values. Having one single service seems to be the best way of actually being in community together. The COSM report itself points out who the two services has created two very different understandings/experiences of our church.

I would also like to add to this conversation the following guideline: You need to be uncomfortable with about 25% of the worship service for it to be welcoming to people unlike yourself. We see that clearly when the very things on some people’s “LIKE MOST” list show up on others “LIKE LEAST”. I get that a significant number of adults don’t like the Children’s Stories. AND to keep our community multi-generational we are going to continue to offer some programming during worship some of the time that is geared toward our young folk. Imagine what would show up on the youth’s Like Least list! 

When it comes to worship I desire both Awe and Ahh moments. I don’t want to give up one for the other.  I enjoy having 10 minutes of quiet meditation, and I also like jumping up and feeling the music of a rousing Joyful Noise song energizing me.  I can be quite moved with a worship associate’s or minister’s reflections/sermons (Ahh moments), and I do appreciate embodied worship (AWE moments). While I would ideally like a little of both every time, I think services would be most successful if each one is unique. Some weeks will be more quiet, some more energetic. Some weeks worshipers may be more active, some more passive. Ebbs. Flows. Cycles. 

I have faith in this community that we can worship together in lots of meaningful ways. I have faith that we are resourceful and creative enough to develop a single worship plan that truly does reflect our mission and vision, that provides “provocative insight and spirited challenge”, that “captivates” the individual worshiper and draws them into the shared journey of the congregation. [quotes from the COSM report as inspired by Robert Latham’s book, “Moving on from Church Folly Lane”. And may we all remember the 25% discomfort guideline and recognize that in the moments of our discomfort, our willingness to be uncomfortable is part of commitment to each other and our community. It is a gift we can give to each others. –Kris Wedding Crowell


Looking out at congregation at water communion, the church was close to full, certainly past the point where it was clearly welcoming to strangers.

A few years ago the UUA sponsored a program to welcome new people and we participated. I don’t remember all the details but one I note is also included in the COSM Appendix E article. Newcomers  won’t crawl past filled seats for an empty seat or two in middle of a row, we were urged and I learned to leave some empty seats at the end of row. As best I could see while singing in the choir, there were very few if any empty seats at or near the ends of rows last Sunday.  And, since it was also Oakland Pride Sunday and the parade, there may well have been some people absent who would otherwise have attended church.

I realize that giving one service is easier than doing two different services on one day and therefore it would probably be more attractive to visiting ministers during the sabbatical.  Attendance may generally be reduced during the sabbatical too. As I remember it, a major reason for going to two services was RE, not enough room for children at one service time; I gather that doesn’t apply now.

So, I am concerned that going to just one service during the whole sabbatical may discourage newcomers on days when attendance is high but I understand a desire to avoid regular two service Sundays.  You might consider one Sunday a month being a two service Sunday, .which could allow for the distinctions we now have between contemplative and celebratory.  Two service Sunday could generally be on a regular day, say 3rd Sunday, but moveable for major holidays or important visiting preachers.

I urge you to consider some mechanism to allow for occasional two service Sundays, particularly at times likely to draw newcomers. — Judith Hunt