Worship renewal grant gives young church leg up

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Worship renewal grant gives young church leg up

By Larry Macke | Sept. 18, 2009 {1078}

NOTE: A headshot of Lamont Hogans is available at http://www.flumc.info/photo_gallery2.shtml.

With more than 25 years as a music minister under his belt, including the last dozen at New Life Community United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., Lamont Hogans knows plenty about creating an environment for passionate worship.

Lamont Hogans

But engage him in a conversation on the matter and you’re likely to hear his opinion on what he and his church have yet to learn.

“We want to look at the scriptural basis for worship. We want to look at the arts in worship, the sacraments in worship, prayer in worship, music and song in worship,” he says, “because the more we all understand the underpinnings of worship, the more we can worship because we have a sense of what we’re doing.”

Thanks to a $9,000 worship renewal grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW), New Life’s members are looking forward to exploring all of those areas and more. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based institute supports congregations that endeavor to engage in yearlong worship renewal projects, and the New Life grant is part of nearly $500,000 awarded to 43 churches and organizations across North America this year. Other Florida recipients include Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Miami and Arlington Congregational Church in Jacksonville.

The grant is a welcome boost to the New Life church, which was established just 12 years ago with seven members and now has approximately 150 active members in its congregation. Although the church has had some success in securing grants for its youth ministries, this award is the first to nourish worship activities. The grant was also a first for Hogans, a grant application novice who nevertheless found himself in charge of the process.

“One of our members came to me in October of 2008 and said, ‘Listen, I was searching the Web and found this grant offered by Calvin,’ so I looked into it but I’d never applied for a grant before,” he said. “I met with the pastor and the worship team, and everybody just got excited. They all took a part, and I put it together.”

Would he have done anything differently?

“It had to be submitted by January. The question was whether or not we’d be able to do this in time, and quite honestly I didn’t know because it was my first time,” Hogans said. “I think I know now you certainly want to start earlier.”

The Rev. Jeffrey Oglesby, the church’s senior pastor, sees the grant as a chance to look at worship through new eyes and begin appreciating the true significance of the discipline, versus resting on Sunday morning autopilot.

Tina Cannon, a liturgical dancer from New Life Community United Methodist Church, helps lead worship through dance, illustrating how people in all stages of their spiritual journey thirst for the word of God. The dance was part of a plenary session at the “Passionate Worship: Divine Inbreaking” event at Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville in 2008. Photo by Erik J. Alsgaard. File photo #08-0817. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #0836, 04/23/08.

“It means an opportunity to go deeper in our study and understanding and applications of worship. I’d even go so far as to say the implications of worship — the value and weight that we give to it,” he said. “This is something that is very significant, and it is very weighty. And so the opportunity to really take time and study it and grow in our appreciation of what it means will only broaden our perspective.”

The primary components of New Life’s worship renewal are a Bible study series and two worship workshops. The activities will be open to all New Life congregants and members of the surrounding community. The workshops will occur at the mid- and end-points of the process and serve as opportunities to consolidate learning and gain new insight. The Bible study, according to the grant application, will begin with a thorough examination of what God has to say about worship, with special emphasis on Psalms, followed by exploration of ways the church can incorporate lamentation into worship. Explorations of the roles of the arts, sacraments, prayer, and music and song in worship will follow the first workshop.

Interaction with the surrounding community is a priority for both CICW and New Life. “Worship renewal leads a congregation beyond itself, to give itself away to minister to the needs of the local community and the world,” the CICW Grants Guidebook notes. Meanwhile, New Life’s mission and vision statements make clear its commitment to community enrichment. Hogans also recognizes the practical benefits of community-wide collaboration.

“It’s always good to hear a voice that you’re not used to listening to,” he said. “And so if you can include someone from the outside, and they can talk about some aspect of worship that their expertise lies in, then that’s going to help us. And maybe we can do the same for them.”

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011, tparham@flumc.org, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Macke is a freelance writer based in Vero Beach, Fla.

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