Common Threads: An Intergenerational Worship Series

by | Feb 6, 2023

Can worship be playful and prayerful? Rowdy but righteous? Full of faith and fun? 

Doubting Thomases, meet Common Threads: An Intergenerational Worship Series. Radically inclusive and highly participatory, Common Threads uses a stations model of worship and focus on storytelling to connect congregations across generations and abilities. Over four services – themed on joy, sorrow, hope, and change – participants engage in creativity, conversation, and worship, considering their own experience in light of Scripture. Each one-hour service culminates in Holy Communion. 

Common Threads uses a worship format known as traditioned innovation. Each service follows a traditional four-fold worship pattern of gather, read the Word, respond to the Word, and celebrate Eucharist together. But much of the action takes place at worship stations designed to promote accessibility, choice, and interconnectedness in what planners describe as “parallel worship/play.” Tables (“stations”) for art making, drumming, guided storytelling, and discussion of short reflections surround a Communion table set in the middle. Services open with song and liturgy, and close with communion and a song, but in between, in lieu of a sermon, worshipers engage the day’s Scripture and theme by rotating among the stations. 

During an evening devoted to the theme “Change,” a young man listens intently as an older man recounts his faith journey. In the drum circle, two young boys and two older men take turns changing up the beat. Drumming increasingly faster, they dissolve into peals of laughter. In the far corner, a table full of older women reflect on a passage from Frederick Buechner’s Listening to Your Life about the March on Washington in 1963–then share their own remembrances of attending that event. Pens, crayons, beads, and pencils are shared about the art station along with Scripture reflections and life stories.

The paperless music and paperless liturgy of Common Threads promote inclusive worship: Dispensing with the heavy hymnals and prayer books that can prove challenging for younger and older people alike, worshipers engage eye to eye. Stations allow younger and older participants to share their thoughts about the Scripture and theme, without any shame or trepidation about not being able to sit still through a long service The traditioned innovation extends to the Eucharist, too, with built-in moments for participant responses. 

Common Threads is available as an on-demand course through the School for Christian Faith and Leadership. It includes a downloadable Common Threads guidebook containing four original liturgies and original music, plus six short instructional videos. On March 16th, the creators of the series will demonstrate how to conduct Common Threads at a live Zoom workshop. Register here

Common Threads was developed by Seabury Resources for Aging®. Funding came from Vital Worship Grants from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan, with funds provided by Lilly Endowment, Inc. Seabury partnered with area Episcopal and United Church of Christ congregations in piloting the series at Seabury at Friendship Terrace and Seabury at Springvale Terrace, senior living communities in Metro DC.