On Feb. 21, three churches in Tulsa combined efforts to launch a new evening worship experience called "Connexion."
Instead of competing for members, Southern Hills, Trinity, and Christ churches connected to create a fresh worship experience that they hope will attract people who are not drawn to traditional church services. The three pastors—Ashley Green-Young, Shelly Coulter, and Jeff Jaynes—already had connected as good friends, said Rev. Green-Young.
The connected ministries of The United Methodist Church are historic within the denomination but not always understood in current churches. Rev. Coulter said, "We all have different first names but the same last name: United Methodist Church. We simply want to make that connection more visible, and use our combined resources to make a difference in our world."
The name "Connexion" comes from the old British way of describing the Methodist movement, but Rev. Green-Young noted it has modern meaning, too. "We talk about Wi-Fi connections, Facebook connections, and other social networks. What we are forming is a new social network, a community of individuals coming together for a common purpose."
That first worship service drew 30 young people, which doubled the number from the group’s "launch team."
Rev. Jaynes reported, "Our goal was worship—there is nothing more important for Christians than worship—but secondarily we wanted to create momentum. This service succeeded on both fronts. Several people told me after the service they knew exactly who they would invite to the next service."
He described the liturgy, which offered a fresh way of looking at ancient forms of worship. It followed the pattern for Word and Table, in the UM Book of Worship. The group met in Trinity’s activity center, rather than sanctuary, and creative lighting and furniture arrangement was important.
"Some of my members didn’t even recognize their own activity center!" Coulter said. "It was amazing to see our building transformed for ‘Connexion’ worship. This is a great way for us to reach new people, more diverse people, and more young people living right here in our community."
The evening began with gathering time and food. Participants then moved to round tables, with a central altar table, for singing and prayer. Music was provided by leaders from Christ UMC. Lectio Divina, a centuries-old way of reading Scripture, was led by Becky Pierson. Each table discussed the Scriptures, and Jaynes concluded with his application of the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.
After further prayer, Holy Communion was offered at four prayer stations in the room: a tent for personal prayer time (alone in the wilderness), and table displays representing temptations in money, fame, and power.
Announcements for each church’s activities concluded the service.
"The worship leaders from my church sent out messages after the service about what great worship we had," Rev. Green-Young said.
"Connexion" now meets on a monthly basis at Trinity UMC, plus Wednesday night fellowship at a restaurant. A service component also is integral to the ministry.
"Anytime there are five Sundays in a month, we will use that fifth Sunday to serve our neighbors," Jaynes said. "Worship is not just getting together to sing songs or hear Scripture; it is also how we live each day. We want to worship through service in addition to our regular worship service."
For more information, contact Jaynes, 918-743-2013, firstname.lastname@example.org; or find "ConnexionTulsa" on Facebook.