At The HUB, faith is expressed in many more ways than words and songs.
Participants in the new Sunday evening worship service, a joint venture between Myers Park United Methodist and First United Methodist churches, have spray-painted words of grief on cloth and written prayer requests on origami paper.
“The service is not like anything I’ve seen before,” said the Rev. Erin Beall, an associate pastor at Myers Park United Methodist who helped start The HUB.
She is working with Jonathan Coppedge-Henley and Ashley Anne Lloyd of First United Methodist and Ryan Blalock of Myers Park.
The alternative worship service first met April 7, and it draws around 40 people each week. The service is laid-back, and participants sit around coffee-shop style tables or on wing-backed chairs and couches scattered around the room.
Clergy from the two founding churches have taken turns preaching. The music is focused on songs that reflect people’s places in life, whether that is joyful or unsettled. Worship often includes a mix of sacred and secular songs.
“We want to do music that speaks to people’s position and situation,” Beall said.
She said young adults, toward whom the service is geared, can get tired of traditional church music.
“Sometimes it is not ‘well with my soul,’ ” she said, referring to the lyrics of a popular hymn. “Sometimes you need to say, ‘God, I just don’t understand what’s going on here.’
“(At The HUB), there’s space for someone to say, ‘It’s not well with my world, and I need some answers.’ ”
Beall started thinking about starting The HUB, which stands for “Honest, United, Broken,” when she started at Myers Park in July.
During an internship at a Methodist church in Lakeland, Fla., she had attended an alternative worship service that captured her attention and imagination.
“It was just incredible,” Beall said.
At the service, leaders changed up the traditional worship atmosphere by adding violins to worship music and lowering lights.
While The HUB was inspired by the Lakeland service, it has become a unique event, Beall said. Leaders encourage experiential worship, often asking the congregation to stand up and get involved in a hands-on activity that corresponds to the weekly music and preaching.
At a recent service, participants were asked to spray-paint the name of the “thing they grieved most in their life” on a white sheet.
“Their words covered up each other’s words, and it became a jumble of color and was beautiful,” Beall said.
Leaders then stretched the sheet behind a foam cutout that looked like the metal work of a stained-glass window and shined a light behind it.
“It looked like stained glass,” Beall said. “We said, ‘Look at the beautiful thing your grief can make when we come together.’ ”
In May, Beall is folding prayer requests written on origami paper into lanterns, which will be hung over the worship space to remind people that God sees them and their prayers.
The service mostly draws people in their 20s, but Beall said some older adults also are attending regularly. She hopes the service will grow and plans to add more Charlotte area Methodist churches to its partnership.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Email her with story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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