Bishop Colaw’s Thoughts on Worship @ 11

Bishop Emerson Colaw, who served as senior pastor here from
1961-1980, writes about Worship @ 11, a new expression of worship, which begins on Sunday, January 24:
I would like to speak to the place of a new and innovative approach to worship, different from any tried in the past, at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church. The Church faces challenges in the 21st century unlike any in recent generations. It is gratifying to see that our church leadership is interested in overcoming these challenges and willing to try new ways to do so.

It is well to remember that Hyde Park is following the long tradition of Methodism to be progressive. In the day of John Wesley, there were many churches. But many people remained unchurched. Wesley began preaching and teaching in the open air. It was called “field preaching.” In its day, this was a new and innovative approach that connected to the masses and attracted many to the “class meetings” which eventually became a new church movement.

Methodism was transferred to this country at a time when there were, similarly, many churches. There came into being a style of spreading the gospel called “circuit riders.” Many of our present day churches are a result of these circuit riders, who rode their horses from village to village, to meet these rural residents with the gospel. We must be as responsive and innovative today in reaching a younger constituency. Fifty per cent of Methodists today are over the age of 55. We must find ways of reaching a younger generation, just as Wesley and Asbury strove to meet and attract with a spirit that has long characterized our church.

If we hope to connect with people who are not part of the church, we must meet them in a way that starts where they are. In Wesley’s day, it was in the fields as coal miners came out of the mines, or on horseback into every little village. We should be doing so today.

If we look through our hymnals, we will see that Charles Wesley wrote many of the hymns we hold dear. In fact, he wrote thousands of hymns but often chose “tavern tunes,” songs known by most as common bar-room songs, for the music of the hymns. He sought ways to connect the sacred message with the common person and found such in these well-known songs.

I urge our members to be supportive, encouraging and responsive to this new approach to worship. We are not going to abandon what historically made our congregation one of the strongest in the city. There will be traditional worship at 8:00 and 9:30 am. We will continue with everything that has made HPCUMC a great church. But we do have a long tradition of trying new approaches such as the development of our singles ministry back in the 1960’s. We began to offer a Christmas Eve service for families earlier than the 11:00 pm service when we learned young families could not make the later service. The opportunity before us to carry on this long tradition of trying new approaches may not be easy or simple. It never has been. But it is nothing new. As a bishop, I visited many churches and I found that the thriving churches were those that were willing to try something different to reach a new constituency.

It is important to add that nothing will be taken from us, but much will be added. I urge church members to be on the cutting edge as we traditionally have been and continue to expand what we have to offer the community. I know of no other church in the area that has a worship service just like the one being planned. There is great possibility before us. Part of the new reality is this: We were once among the top 3 churches in the West Ohio conference. This is no longer true. We must embrace change to carry our share of the challenge to reach the unchurched for Christ. Your support of this new ministry will encourage our church leadership and energize this opportunity to offer something new to our neighbors. I hope you will join me in doing so.

Posted in Weekly.