By: Linda Buskirk
Like most Episcopal churches, Sunday morning services at St. Andrew in Kokomo begin with Rite I at 7:30 AM, and Rite II at 9:00 AM. And then, a small band sets up in the back of the sanctuary and, at 11:11 AM, Rite III begins.
St. Andrew created its 11:11 service as an entry point into the traditional church, one that is more informal to seekers who unfamiliar and perhaps uncomfortable with a traditional service and formal liturgy.
In October, I was among the attendees of the Diocesan Convention who had the opportunity to experience what the 11:11 service is like. It is a celebration! Annie Lightsey, Gabe Doucette and Damon Ashburn led the workshop. They explained that 11:11 provides younger worshippers opportunities to exercise their gifts and interests in music, art, technology and belonging. They can be creative in their expression and their worship.
Before you say, as I whispered under my breath when the band started and the screen came down, “This will never happen in my church,” consider that with its 11:11 service, the family of St. Andrew is growing, in part because of new communicants who found the church through the 11:11 service. They participate in the outreach ministries of the parish, many try the traditional services, they add to the depth and diversity of community, some are baptized, confirmed and pledge, and they have found a place to love and learn about Jesus Christ.
Including this alternative worship experience on Sunday morning sends a message that it is a priority ministry. It has allowed the culture and community of the 11:11 to affect the overall culture of the parish. Through the past twelve years of the evolving 11:11 service, the St. Andrew family “has developed a mutual appreciation for all three services.”
Annie explained that the people drawn to the non-traditional service have commented that they appreciate that it occurs in a very traditional setting. They enjoy worshiping with all their senses - seeing the rich beauty of the church building, hearing the bells and smelling the smells. That’s common ground for worshipping Episcopalians!
The leaders at St. Andrew Kokomo say that the 11:11 service is a work in progress. While it may be a bit much for many parishes to offer such a service, they do encourage us to consider alternatives to the way we’ve always done things (gasp!). One suggestion: explore alternative offerings of the daily offices that include opportunity for common prayer, study and community. Think of gatherings between five and twenty-five people.