Best Practices at Original Blessing
Multigen and Mission Focused
“Original Blessing is like a study in best practices for a congregation that wants to appeal to younger people as well as older folks” remarked Carey McDonald after a recent visit there. Having stopped into Sunday evening worship at this new UU congregation in Greenpoint, Brooklyn a couple weeks ago myself, I had to agree.
The service followed traditional UU models: chalice lighting, singing, greeting one another, a sermon, a pastoral prayer where the community’s concerns were lifted up. And the service I attended did all of these elements in ways that felt engaging, authentic and spiritually alive. The musicians were excellent and the singing, done without having to look down or squint up at words, felt soulful. There was a high degree of lay participation and an informal vibe that worked well with the high level of intimacy I sensed among the worshipers. Children were welcomed in at the end of the service for the closing song and everyone was encouraged to move and dance to the music together. People were friendly and that openness continued during the social hour, upstairs in the coffee shop part of the building where they hold services, a space called Awakening NY.
While Original Blessing could be a study in how to do UU church in millenial-friendly ways, appealing to young adults isn’t their objective. Rather it’s a nice outcome of their focus on mission. Their goal is to “transform our world through creative worship, social justice and compassionate community,” and they intend to do this as “a spiritually ambitious movement seeking a relationship with God.” This statement of their identity and purpose is on their website, on their order of service and was spoken aloud during worship. It is clear and fairly concise: they are about spiritual transformation.
Part of working toward this mission is getting out into the community. The Sunday that I visited the congregation was planning a sound bath in nearby McCarren Park on an upcoming Saturday. What’s a sound bath, you ask? I had the same question. From what I heard they were planning to bring their music and singing to the community, to bathe them in soulful sound and invite them to come to their financial literacy adult religious education class. Spiritual singing in the park and the possibility for a better budget? Sounds like a win-win to me.
Original Blessing is a small congregation. There were no more than 20 folks attending the night I was there, and Rev. Ian White Maher, their lead minister, claims about 40 committed members who show up and give generously. However, with their clarity of purpose and their community presence I will not be surprised to see this blessing overflowing very soon, perhaps spilling out into other worshipping communities elsewhere in Brooklyn.
Want to learn more and see them in action? Check out this video
If you’re moved by what you see, please consider donating to their indiegogo campaign to get this congregation fully funded and going strong!