Post Author: Katy Cuthill Steinberg
Can a person worship while doing gymnastics or talking about science? How about walking a labyrinth or making school kits for refugee kids? While many of my young clergy women sisters might easily nod affirmatively to these questions, it’s fair to say that most traditional worship services don’t include these activities. Two years ago, I began asking, “Why not?”
In both the Old and New Testaments, scripture repeatedly cries out to us to love God with heart, mind, and strength–and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. So, why not? Why not take the double love commandment at its word, and form a worshiping community around a rotation of spiritual, cerebral, physical, and service-oriented worship experiences? As I was discerning my call to the new kind of worshiping community that would become Missing Peace, my “why not?” was met with objections: Why not? Because “it would be hard,” and “where would you meet,” and “how will you come up with so many different activities,” and “aren’t you making it harder for people to connect with so much variation?”
Despite all the questions, I knew in my bones that God was calling me into ministry, and I knew that my ministry setting wasn’t going to look like my father’s before me (robe, pulpit, choir). I also realized that I was surrounded by a very secular group of unchurched and/or de-churched friends and neighbors. Through a process of discernment with my presbytery, a coach, and a trusted group of friends in my community, it became increasingly clear that I was being called to help people outside the church (some waaaay outside) engage with their maker in ways they never expected.
In August of 2015, Missing Peace was born. We are a 1001 New Worshiping Community – a movement of the PC(USA) focused on reaching the growing number of nones (people who, when surveyed, checked “none” under religious affiliation). Each of the four weeks of the month, Missing Peace features worship experiences that are either physical, cerebral, spiritual or service oriented. On a physical week, we might be talking about how Jesus invites us out of our comfort zones, and doing yoga; on a cerebral week we might be talking about the creation of the world and where biblical and scientific ideas intersect; on a spiritual week we might be coloring mandalas and talking about how God beckons to us through art; and on a serving week, we are often serving in a shelter and examining scripture’s call to care for the least of these. We follow a pretty standard order of worship: Welcome and Announcements, Prayer and Time for Children, Community Statement, Sermon, and Response to the Word – where we do our activities. In order to encompass so many different activities, we are nomadic, meeting in a different location each week to both accommodate our experiences and to keep us out in the community.
Readers might be asking, “What happens on the fifth Sunday?” Those are reserved for play! We still have a message, but we make sure that the fifth Sunday reminds us that God calls us into joy and fun–together. As of late, we have partnered with a neighboring alternative faith community to throw a community brunch at a local brewery. We draw a large swath of the community who are not otherwise engaged in church of any sort into a hospitable introduction to what God is up to in the world. We hire a great band, an amazing food truck, and sell tickets to the event dubbed, “Sunday Soul Brunch.” We invite participants to notice that God is at work in this beautiful and broken world and to be in relationship with one another as we explore our role in that work. To be honest, our fifth Sundays look more like a party than a worship service. They get a little messy, but I imagine that the incarnation was a little messy, too.
To date, Missing Peace has had over 200 people come and see what we are doing. Our brunches host about 60 of our local “nones,” and just a couple of weeks ago, we had our first three baptisms. We’ve also attracted a large online community where as many as 2000 viewers (though usually around 300) stream the weekly message. We do things a little differently – okay a lot differently – than your typical church or faith community; but our hope is that God is using us to cast seeds of faith far and wide. We won’t always get to see them burst forth and bear fruit, but that isn’t our work; that’s God’s work. Missing Peace is an imperfect and often daunting ministry, but I remain grateful to be called into this exciting new way of being the body of Christ in the world.
Katy Cuthill Steinberg was raised in Florida, the state she calls home. After a few stops and starts, many years and several life events, she realized she wanted to start a new kind of worshiping community. She founded Missing Peace in 2015 in Ormond Beach, Florida, where she and the church strive to practice radical hospitality and openness while studying the teaching of a radical Jew who did the same.
Image by: Missing Peace
Used with permission