Ten Things You Will Find at Assembly
1. You will find banners and other visual displays. There is a recognition that authentic worship needs to engage all of our senses, our bodies as well as our minds and spirits. The stained glass windows, the table, and the “monolith” at the front are all designed to engage us in worship. Sometimes you will also find liturgical dance and embodied prayer practices.
2. You will find a rich and inclusive diet of language about God and about God’s people. Assembly has a strong commitment both to treasure the tradition and explore fresh language that deepens both our understanding of and acquaintance with our Maker.
3. You will find many people up front, leading in a variety of ways. Many individuals, and sometime small groups, are invited to participate in planning and leading worship, not just the people on our Worship Committee. Many people are encouraged to explore new gifts. Not all efforts turn out equally well. We still place a high value on participation.
4. You will find yourself hearing a lot about Israel and Palestine, Central America, Ireland, Tanzania, and many other places around the world. Assembly’s folks deeply value the connections with the global church and want to learn from others’ experiences and perspectives.
5. You will find many people with deep convictions about peace and justice issues. Many of us believe that salvation ‑ wholeness ‑ is spiritual, social, political.
6. You will find Assembly is a good place to ask questions. Doubts and questions do not need to be checked at the door before entering worship or small group. We are all on the journey of faith together, and we believe that each stage of growth brings opportunity for challenge, struggle, search, and deepening faith.
7. You will find people committed to prayer. Not all of us can articulate exactly how or why we pray, but we understand its significance to be very deep, and we know our efforts at peace and justice leave us burnt out and cynical when we don’t begin and end and encircle our work with prayer.
8. You will find a great number of Assembly Alumni scattered all over the globe. We have an extraordinary number of people who have journeyed with this congregation for some period of time. Many of them are serving in creative ministries and positions of leadership. Many of them are simply living their lives as followers of Jesus in whatever setting they find themselves. Many of them write us letters from time to time or come back to visit.
9. You will find a good number of vegetarian and gluten-free options at the potluck meals. We strive to be mindful of the dietary needs of all of us. And a number of us, for convictions of conscience or health, have reduced or eliminated the amount of meat we eat.
10. You will find what one of our MYFers (high school youth) once called “a lot of little statements” around Assembly. We have a lot of things we care about quite deeply, and we tend to write statements about them. She said those statements “make us feel like we’re doing something.” Perhaps that’s a fair observation. Actually, our recent statements are getting quite a lot shorter than the tomes we used to generate! Some examples of noteworthy statements include the Privileges of the Child at Assembly (which explains why children roam around during worship and why we try hard not to laugh during children’s time), the Welcome Statement (which the congregation adopted in 1999 to communicate that all people ‑ and gay and lesbian people in particular ‑ are welcome as part of us), the Reparations-Inspired Initiative (an expression of our commitment to acknowledge and repair harm inflicted on African Americans and Indigenous Peoples stemming from a culture of White Supremacy), and the Mission Statement (which helps us say as succinctly as possible what we are about). The Covenant and Practices are foundational in understanding how we do church together.
Ten Things You Won’t Find at Assembly
1. You won’t find a choir in robes singing a Palestrina motet. More often, the congregation is the choir. We enjoy a variety of musical styles–such as: four-part a capella singing, unison singing with instrumental accompaniment, and Taizé contemplative song–mostly from our hymnal Voices Together.
2. You won’t find lots of folks dressed in “Sunday best” clothes (although some of us like to dress up a bit).
3. You won’t find a pipe organ, making those heavenly sounds, though there is a wood sub‑floor on the platform, so that the dance group can easily move without ruining their joints.
4. You won’t find the pastors preaching or even leading worship each week.
5. You won’t find a bulletin, although regular reading of the weekly AssemblyLine announcements email will tell you quite a bit of what’s happening, and there’s an order of worship on Sunday morning.
6. You won’t find ushers. There are greeters at the door, but no one collects the offering. We get out of our seats ‑ usually to a high energy song ‑ and head up to the front table. (An increasing number of us give regularly online, but we still value coming forward to offer our whole selves as part of worship together).
7. You won’t find a pulpit. A modest lectern usually sits on the table, and the congregation gathers around the table both for preaching/teaching and the Lord’s supper.
8. You won’t find a lot of pies at potlucks. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have many of the truly expert pie‑baking generation at Assembly. Maybe more of us should be making the effort to learn.
9. You won’t find neat and tidy 60-minute services. Expect a minimum of 75 and maybe a little longer for the “first hour” before the “coffee break”. There’s just too much to do with praising and praying and preaching and sharing and children’s time and, of course, announcements. (Our sermons and storytellings are however, more often than not, shorter than 15-20 minutes).
10. You won’t find out what Assembly’s really like until you become part of a small group, because Assembly was originally formed in the 1970s as the assembly of small groups, and Sunday morning corporate worship is only one part of our life together.