Ekklesia (United Ministries in Higher Education)

Springfield, Missouri

To deepen worshipers' awareness of the beauty and character of God by engaging various art forms in an intergenerational and ecumenical context on campus and in partner churches.

Provide a brief summary of the purpose and goal of your grant.

To create innovative, sensory rich, young adult led worship, Ekklesia launched a new weeknight worship service. We offered opportunities to experiment with both ancient and new forms of worship. We included collaborative art, spoken word, and new uses of technology. We integrated important topics like LGBTQ+ Inclusion, Racial Justice, and Sexual Assault and talked theologically about them. Our students shared their learnings by leading two worship services for our local church partners.

What are two questions that have generated reflection on worship and helped shape your project?

Questions have been at the heart of our learning and creating spaces where young adults feel welcome to explore. Many of them have just been “told things” in church and never been asked questions and invited to share their input. Each week we ask two questions and invite our students to reflect after the message: How will I take what I’ve heard and experienced here and allow it to impact my daily life? And How is God calling me to share who I am and what I’ve learned with the world?

What impact has your project had on the worship life and habits of the congregation? 

At the beginning of the year, students who participated in worship did so as readers and musicians. After our leadership retreat near the end of the year, they are excited to start the fall semester as worship leaders, small group leaders, and peer ministers. They began coming to worship as consumers and have come to see it as a deeply impactful spiritual experience that they wish to share with others. The students can’t wait for fall and the launch of LIBERATE 2021-2022.

What have been your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)?

We put off some speaker events we had planned early in the year due to COVID-19, hoping more in-person events would be possible by the end. We were still able to get those events in, but our program would have benefitted from an ability to have more of our local church partners visit us and have us take young-adult led worship out to them. We are doing so with video and virtual options, but it lacks the spontaneous connections that our students might have had with church members otherwise.

What would you like to share with other Project Directors?

While we would have liked to have more in person contact with other projects and directors as a part of this experience, it was incredibly rich as it was. Young adults are so eager to be given some room to explore worship on their terms and to believe that they might have something to offer the wider church that will be received instead of criticized. Whatever your situation, and however it differs from your original plan, trust God and the process and beautiful things will happen.