Worship Innovation

When I first came to Temple Emanuel Sinai over seven years ago (yes, it’s been that long!), one of my long-term goals was related to worship. As a new congregation, I felt we needed to evaluate our current style of worship which was created through a combination of the integration committees, clergy influence, and habit; and then create a process that would lead us to a meaningful worship experience for Temple Emanuel Sinai.

This process would include conversations with each of you to discover when you are moved by prayer or worship services; what you find meaningful; how you relate to different styles of music, traditional liturgy, modern poetry, English, Hebrew, our space, tradition vs innovation, and so much more. Our process would also include opportunities for learning, since most of us don’t know a lot about Jewish prayer. And outreach to those who don’t attend worship to find out why not and whether they still have a personal prayer practice of some kind. With a dedicated group of volunteers, this could be an invigorating and impactful exercise, for us as individuals and of course for the congregation as a whole.

So, every year, I would write it on my list of priorities. And every year – as you might recall or can imagine – some other priority would force its way on the list, shoving worship down to the bottom or off completely. These were action items that could not be put off, and as a young congregation, we had many urgent priorities that landed at our doorstep, uninvited.

One of the goals of my Sabbatical was to experience other congregations and institutions in order to see what they were doing with worship. What I learned was so inspiring, and I was ready to bring back this new knowledge and creativity to our congregation. I returned on March 2, 2020. Needless to say, a process of worship investigation once again moved down the priority list. The situation demanded immediate changes in our worship, but there wasn’t time or processes in place to solicit input from a diverse cross-section of our congregation.

Almost two years later, we’re ready. We have a group of volunteers dedicated to our congregation’s worship experience. Thank you especially to Karen Kagan, who agreed to lead us in this process. We have a variety of musicians joining us to co-lead services and help us understand what Jewish liturgical music can look like today.

It’s an exciting time for Temple Emanuel Sinai, as we search for meaning, connection, and inspiration. I hope, through this process, we create many opportunities for comfort, growth, and awe.

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