Worship on Sunday, FAQ
Though we gather at many times during the week, Sunday is the main opportunity for our members to gather together, affirm our connections, and share the search for meaning and purpose.
During the pandemic we take seriously our covenantal promises to create a safe community. Currently we gather virtually each week, first for an adult Forum (a topical discussion group exploring many issues of the day), and then for worship. Generally we live-stream our services from our sanctuary (link here?) though we’ve occasionally tried Zoom gatherings, and as the Georgia weather cools in mid-September we’ll begin experimenting with in-person outdoor worship.
Once it’s safe to gather in person indoors again, opportunities for all ages abound every Sunday. The Forum meets (9:30) in a large classroom, and we’ll continue to provide ways to connect virtually for those who can’t come in person. Our lovely sanctuary welcomes everyone to worship at 10:30, and again we’ll still stream the service so that truly everyone can participate, from wherever they are.
Children come into the main worship service with their families and enjoy elements like singing, chalice lighting, and a story for all ages. They’re welcome to stay throughout the service, or to exit (accompanied by a blessing sung by the congregation) to their classrooms.
Our Religious Exploration space is ample, and it’s a safe place for kids and youth to explore their own spiritual journeys. Weather permitting, children often spend part of their class time outdoors on our beautiful grounds, in supervised play on the playground, or exploring nature and learning to honor the earth.
Our teenagers have their own space to gather (with supervision) and discuss topics, make music, or just be playful together in an accepting and joyous atmosphere. Unitarian Universalists affirm the whole spectrum of gender identity and sexuality, and we create a positive atmosphere for LGBTQIA kids and their families.
We don’t yet know what the scope of our kids’ programming will be on the early Sundays ba
ck in the building. We might experiment with several models and find out what works best. Whether kids stay in multigenerational worship or attend simplified classes, UUFA is committed to keeping them safe: All people in our building must wear masks for the foreseeable future, until vaccinations are available to all or the pandemic wanes. We require volunteers and staff who work with youth to be vaccinated and to pass a background check, and there are always two adults with every group of kids.
After worship and kids’ classes we love to linger over a cup of coffee or tea and some light snacks. There’s a fizzy energy to “Coffee Hour,” and even some quiet nooks where introverts can have conversations in groupings that suit them better. Once it’s safe to do so we’ll welcome everyone to a potluck lunch every fourth Sunday.
Here is a pass at a new description for the Sunday Service/Worship page, by LRS:
Life is a journey full of new experiences and new discoveries, and that means beliefs can change over time. As humans explore new beliefs or find deeper meaning in earlier ideas, our worship becomes a place for safe and open sharing and celebration.
UUFA Sunday worship follows many of the patterns of our Protestant roots (hymn singing, prayers or meditation, a sermon, a children’s story) and yet allows for many new ideas to break forth. The minister might quote Hebrew or Christian scripture, or read a poem by Mary Oliver or a passage by James Baldwin.
Our music is sometimes spirited, sometimes reflective, and almost always accompanied by our house band (featuring talented jazz pianist Neil Golden) and led by our Director of Music Amber Fetner.
We welcome children in worship. When in-person services resume, look for crayons and coloring sheets right inside the door where adults pick up the Order of Service. There’s a Time for All Ages (usually a story, told by the minister or Director of Religious Exploration), and children are welcome to stay for the whole service if they’re more comfortable, or to go to their classes after the story is told.
Whether they’re in during the multigenerational time or for the whole service, be assured that “wiggles are welcome!” https://www.uuathensga.org/education/religious-exploration/wiggles/
Assisted listening devices are always available from the ushers. ASL and a Braille hymnal can be made available with advanced notice. (office phone # and email here)
Casual clothes usually predominate, though some folks like to don their “Sunday best” and find just as warm a welcome. And whether we’re online or in person we like to linger for a time of Fellowship. Coffee or tea and a light snack are offered to help create an atmosphere of conviviality and conversation (and while the pandemic still constricts our meeting, we gather via Zoom after our live-streamed worship).
For information about upcoming services, click here. For information about upcoming Adult Forum topics, click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I expect on Sunday morning?
Worship begins at 10:30 a.m. with everyone in the sanctuary for the first 15-20 minutes. Typically we share a welcome, light our congregational chalice, sing a hymn, and experience a storytelling or brief conversation. Then children and teachers are recessed from the sanctuary by congregational singing.
Children and teachers go from the sanctuary to their classrooms or to a special children’s worship. Parents are welcome to accompany their children if they wish. Remaining adults hear a sermon, special music, sing, meditate or pray, and share brief personal joys and sorrows on most Sundays. Holidays may differ slightly from this routine and once a month all ages remain in the sanctuary for the entire worship hour.
What should I wear?
Casual attire is typical, but ‘Sunday best’ is welcome, too. You’ll see people wearing jackets and ties and others in jeans or shorts and sandals. Our building is air conditioned in summer, but with many windows, sunlight streaming in, and a desire to conserve energy, sometimes it may feel a little warm. Please dress comfortably.
How long is a typical service?
Sunday services last roughly an hour, though any service may be slightly shorter or longer. We aim to start on time, at 10:30 am. We recommend you arrive at least 10 minutes before the start time to park your car, get a nametag, and be seated. We have two parking lots, one entered from Rambling Road (this is where our handicap-accessible and mobility-challenged parking is) and another entered from Cheatham Drive.
Are there special holiday services?
Yes! As people who learn from and love many religious traditions, we celebrate many holidays and holy days throughout the year. Our ingathering service includes a Unitarian Universalist Water Communion in which we ritually reconstitute our community after summer travels. We have a century-long tradition of a Flower Communion in the spring, too. There’s always a deeply moving musical service on the night of the Winter Solstice, and a candlelight Christmas Eve service with some traditional carols (and a few new ones). On Easter we interpret the “old, old story” from a fresh point of view. And throughout the year we celebrate holidays from Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and other religious traditions, as well as cultural holidays such as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, Earth Day, Veteran’s Day, and so on.
What do Unitarian Universalists worship?
The word “worship” literally means “to hold up things of worth.” Because we don’t have a creed (a set of beliefs to which we all must ascribe) we lift up, or worship, what is most important to us—our shared values. Together we seek answers to life’s most difficult questions, learn how to be better people, remind ourselves of our highest aspirations, and learn from each other and from various faith traditions. We do not collectively worship God, though some Unitarian Universalists do. When we’re together we respect and incorporate a variety of ideas and names for The Holy Mystery.
Who should I contact with any other questions I may have?
If you have other questions or concerns about worship at UUFA, please contact Rev. Lisa Schwartz. We look forward to seeing you in worship and hearing from you, too.