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Worship on the beach

Evangelism conference attendees experience unique, self-guided outdoor worship

by Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service

ST. PETE BEACH, FLA – Following several days of severe thunderstorms and flooding, participants in the Go Disciple Live “Be the Light” Conference were more than ready on Aug. 10 to witness the sun come up and dry the rains to make way for a unique worship experience on the beach.

Worshipers walk a spiral path in the sand to the center at the Spiral Walk Station. Photo by Mari Graham.

Worshipers walk a spiral path in the sand to the center at the Spiral Walk Station. Photo by Mari Graham.

Seven “stations,” patterned after the Sunday school workshop rotation model and staffed by volunteer hosts, were available for worshipers to visit in any order at their own pace. The concept—originally designed for the evangelism conference two years ago by Dr. Marcia McFee, worship designer and leader, preacher, artist, and author of The Worship Workshop: Creative Ways to Design Worship Together—was adapted for this year’s conference by the Rev. Ann M. Philbrick, associate for Vital Congregations for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

“Marcia’s inspiration was for us to do something you can only do outside rather than taking the inside outside,” said Philbrick. “People are really enjoying letting nature be a part of their worship experience.”

Philbrick said that so often people think that worship has to be “everybody doing the same thing at the same time.” This model gives worshipers the opportunity to engage with others while also providing for an individual experience.

The seven different stations—spiral walk (labyrinth), baptismal waters, singing, letting go, building, kite, and heart—allowed for all of the worshipers’ senses to be fully engaged.

Angie Andriot of Research Services for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, creates a sand castle at the Building Station. Photo by Mari Graham.

Angie Andriot of Research Services for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, creates a sand castle at the Building Station. Photo by Mari Graham.

The Rev. Jim Dougans, interim pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Maysville, Kentucky, and his wife, Jennifer Smith, a costume designer, served as hosts at the welcome or “ushering” station, where worshipers were greeted and given printed instructions for their journey of worship on the beach.

Dougans chose to attend this year’s conference because it relates to the church planting and redevelopment work of the new Zoe Committee of the Presbytery of Transylvania, on which he serves.

“Since Ann [Philbrick] is my affinity group leader here,” said Dougans, referring to the 15 different conversation, prayer, and learning groups—including language specific groups for leaders of Korean, Brazilian, and Hispanic congregations—that have been meeting daily at the conference, “I was quick to volunteer to do the ushering. It’s the best.”

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The Go Disciple Live “Be the Light” Conference, formerly known as the Evangelism and Church Growth Conference, August 8-11, is a vibrant gathering of Presbyterians committed to disciple-making which leads to authentic evangelism, effective church transformation, justice, and church planting through 1001 new worshiping communities.

For information on the 2017 Disciple-Making Church Conference, to be held January 16-19, 2017, at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort, St. Petersburg Beach, email Eva Slayton or Ray Jones.

 


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