Worship is the central shared experience of a congregation. I believe that worship is experienced with our body, mind, and spirit. Music and art help worship to come alive and serves to touch us beyond words, to help us express our emotions, and to inspire us to imagine new possibilities for ourselves and our communities. I believe that music and art is something we create together; it is not just reserved for the professional musicians, dancers, and sculptors. In worship, we sing hymns together, move our bodies to the special music, engage in ritual, and take in the colors, sounds, smells, and tastes of the worship experience.
As the South Bay Ministry Team Coordinator at First UU San Diego, I was part of the worship team for over five years, and served as a worship associate or worship leader two to three times per month. Through this experience I honed my presence in the pulpit and fell in love with crafting meaningful and engaging worship services. I am especially passionate about storytelling and multigenerational worship. I love the way that a good story can help a worship service to come alive, and can convey the central insight of the service to children and adults alike.
In my writing section, you can hear and see examples of some of my full length sermons. Below you can find examples of multigenerational worship services that I have crafted in collaboration with lay leaders, staff, and fellow ministers.
The Dead are not Under the Earth: Día de los Muertos, November 1, 2015
co-created with Rev. Kathleen Owens, Rev. Tania Marquez, and Megan Dowdell
Each year the South Bay Campus celebrates Day of the Dead by building an ofrenda in the worship space and leading a multi-generational worship service. This service is guided by those in our community who celebrate this day as part of their cultural tradition. This service featured Calaveras literarias (humorous poems), a chocolate communion, and the story El día de muertos by Ivar Da Coll weaved throughout the service. A highlight was the ritual of honoring, where members of the community were invited to bring pictures and mementos of their beloved dead up during the service to place them on the ofrenda. The special music during the service featured traditional Mexican songs.
Nurturing Life: A Mother’s Day Service, May 10, 2015
This was a service of poetry, music and ritual, featuring poems with concrete images about nurturing and caring for one another. The service honored all of the ways that we can choose to nurture life and encouraged us to reflect on how we would continue to offer care to ourselves and one another. The service included the voices of eight different worship associates, who also contributed poem suggestions for the service. The poems and music were weaved together with a short reflection, a ritual of writing love notes to someone who has nurtured you, and a heart centered meditation. Below are the poems that were featured in the service.
Lunchbox Love Note, by Kenn Nesbitt
After Work, by Richard Jones
What I Learned from my Mother by Julia Kasdorf
Mother, by Ted Kooser
Giving Back to the World, by Alicia Gaspar de Alba (in Spanish & English)
Answered Prayer, by Kathleen Norris
Peace, Paz, Salaam, Shalom, September 21, 2014
co-created with Adam Dyer & Dr. Melissa James
This International Day of Peace service was built around the story “The Cello or Mr. O” by Jane Cutler. The story is told from the perspective of a young girl living through a war. After her community is bombed, Mr. O plays his cello in the town square, until one day, his cello is also destroyed. What was once a tense relationship between the young girl and Mr. O, becomes one of inspiration, as they support one another to create acts of beauty in the midst of uncertainty and violence.
The service was built around the story, with reflections, ritual and music. After the first part of the story, I offered a short reflection, and invited the congregation into a ritual of coming forward, choosing a rock, and placing it in a vessel to name a challenge, fear or uncertainty in their lives. After the ritual, we sang “Spirit of Life/Fuente de Amor,” and then told the second part of the story. It was followed by a video of Yo-Yo Ma playing a Bach cello piece featured in the story, and then a spoken word poetry piece written and led by Adam. The service ended with the third part of the story, an inspiring five minute homily by Melissa, along with each person taking a paper bag and crayons out from underneath their seat to create a message for someone in their life who exemplifies courageous love. The service closed with “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” by Emma’s Revolution played as special music.
Rebirth of the Sun, December 22, 2013
Co-created with Rev. Elizabeth Bukey
This Winter Solstice service centered on the story “Rebirth of the Sun” by Starhawk, told in three parts and acted out with shimmering fabrics representing the dance between the sun and the moon, day and night. The service also included congregational participation about their gratitude for the sun, an eating meditation with small oranges, a candle lighting ritual to call back the sun, a moving meditation, and the singing of favorite holiday carols.
The worship leadership team for the Día de los Muertos/Day of the Day worship service, November 2015
Leading worship in Tijuana at the Border Wall during the UU Justice Ministry of CA Immersion
“As Intern Minister, I had the pleasure of being directly involved with Kristen’s work at the South Bay Campus of First UU. In that capacity, she exemplified a passionate commitment to inclusion through language, multi-cultural and multi-generational experiences. I learned from her impeccable facilitation skills and from her passion for ritual in worship and small group ministry. A natural leader, Kristen was always sure and steady in her command of situations with an infectious sense of humor and grace.”
-Adam Lawrence Dyer, Minister, First Parish Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist
“Kristen’s gifts are immense and many. She is an exquisite writer, a wonderful organizer, a ritual artist, a deep listener, and a woman of enormous creativity and compassion…Kristen has a gift for finding and drawing out beauty wherever she is.”
-Rev. Christine Fry, Visiting Assistant Professor of Spiritual Practice and Care, Starr King